Text — Exodus 19:4, 20:22-26, 34:17, Lev. 26:1-2, Dt. 4:15-24, 11:16-17, 27:15
Subject — Images
Theme — Prohibition of Images
Proposition — The consideration of why God prohibits images should once again awaken within us the grandeur of the God we serve.
The Necessity to preach on God’s Law,
As we continue to consider God’s law we are mindful of the fact that we consider this law as His children. Because of Christ’s complete sacrifice for us, we are no longer strangers and aliens to God, under His personal wrath because of our violation of His just law. Because of Christ we could and did successfully sue for peace and because of God’s benevolence we have we have been delivered from the sting of the law’s eternal condemnation and have been delivered to the soothing comfort of the law as a a guide to life.
Outside of Christ, or as we are in Adam, we hate God’s law and find it burdensome since it forbids us to be our own gods and puts us in the service of another God. Outside of Christ we desire to be a law unto ourselves. United to Christ we love God’s law and on it we meditate both day and night. Belonging to Christ we find God’s law, “Holy, Just, and Good.” We do not convince ourselves that in and of ourselves we are law keepers but having been freely given Christ’s law keeping righteousness we now live in terms of ever increasing obedience to God’s law as we “with earnest purpose do begin to live not only according to some but to all the commandments of God.” (Q. 114 — HC)
And so we understand that our motivation in attending to God’s law is one of love to God for delivering us by our Mediator, the Lord Christ, who came to glorify the Father with His obedience to the Father’s law and so was rewarded with the Church as an inheritance. And we understand that the work of the Spirit is to work within us so that we put off the old man with his penchant for lawlessness and put on the new man who walks in good works according to God’s law. (Q. 91 — HC)
We boldly affirm that there is a need to return to God’s law in sanctification as there is in the Reformed Church a lawless spirit and a despising of God’s law as a guide to all of life.
This Lawless antinomian spirit can be seen by the way well known Reformed ministers are denigrating the role of the law in the life of the Christian by suggesting that an awareness of God’s law is somehow in opposition to an awareness of God’s grace.
“A taste of wild grace is the best catalyst for real work in our lives: not guilt, not fear, not another list of rules.” Tullian Tchividjian
“So the key to living the Christian life — the key to bearing fruit for God — the key to a Christ exalting life of love and sacrifice — is to die to the law and be joined not to a list of rules, but to a Person, the the risen Christ. The pathway to love is the path of a personal, Spirit-dependent, all satisfying relationship with the risen Christ, not to resolve to keep the commandments.” John Piper
Note in these quotes how the Reformed ministers suggest that God’s rules (Law) is somehow in opposition to Christ for the Christian as if the Christian doesn’t understand that he has been delivered from the law’s condemnation and having been swept up in the finished work of Christ for sinners he now identifies Himself with the one who identified with God’s law (Heb. 10:7). You can not drive a wedge between those who have had a taste of wild grace and their delight in God’s law both day and night. And when people have a all satisfying relationship with the risen Christ the result is that they do resolve to keep the commandments precisely because they have a all satisfying relationship with the risen Christ.
All that is by way of Introduction. This morning we continue to consider God’s law, specifically the Second commandment.
Background On The Ten Words
As we approach God’s law we remember that when God gave His law to His people, He gave it as one who had already revealed Himself as gracious to His people. God had brought His people out of the House of Bondage and had born them on Eagle’s wings away from Pharaoh’s persecution. And so the giving of the law to God’s people follows a Gospel (God doing all the saving) Law (God’s requirement’s upon His people) Gospel (the proleptic forgiveness found in the Sacrificial system that pronounced Christ).
This Gospel – Law – Gospel motif is very important to note for it reinforces that the Law has a place in the Gospel presentation to God’s people. God has graciously done all the rescuing. Having been freely and fully rescued God continues to pour out His grace to His people by giving them a standard to live by so as to glorify Him, and His grace is poured out even more as God provides a means of Sacrifice for the ongoing forgiveness of sins.
Previously we looked at the first commandment and we noted that we are not to serve false gods. We tried to note the dangers of false gods and how we always end up projecting ourselves into our false gods and then ironically enough we reflect what we have projected. We noted how Idolatry was involved in the sin of our first parents. The second week we considered the idea of magic and how moderns still employ magic. Last week we saw that in the 2nd word we have prohibition concerning how the cultic worship is to be shaped. The Second word informs us we can only approach God on God’s terms, there are to be no Talismans between God and man — no mediation between God and man — except that which is ordained by God.
This week we start by noting the Unique Place of the Second Commandment. Roman Catholics and Lutherans wrongly lump the first two commandments together and count them together as the first commandment.
However, these two commandments deal with different subjects:
The 1st commandment deals with who we worship — We worship no God but God and so we oppose the worship of other gods.
The 2nd deals with the form of worship — no images of God. The second opposes designer worship.
The 1st deals w/ the true God. The second deals w/ true worship.
Last week we saw how necessary those distinctions are. More than once Israel wanted to worship the true god through idols. (see Deut.4: 15-18; the golden calf, Exod.32: 4; Jeoboam’s Gold Calves 1 Kings 12:28, etc.) Last week we considered that God’s prohibition against Images is a prohibition against constraining god. In an Image God is controlled but of course it is God who is the one who control us. You can not manipulate God
Illustration — (I Sam. 4:3-8 — Philistines ark of the covenant)
What other reasons might we give for God’s opposition to Images as a means to worship him besides the fact that he who controls the image controls not only god but the people who serve god. Remember in any culture or social order whoever is in charge of the god(s) is in charge of the people. If the state is god and the politician class is in charge of the state then the politician class controls the people. The second commandment teaches that God is in control of Himself.
2.) image worship is forbidden because it reduces God
a.) reduces his incomprehensibility to comprehensibility
Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? — Is. 40:13
And yet that is exactly what image worship allows for. God is reduced to a image that is comprehensively known and man’s knowledge reigns over God’s knowledge.
b.) reduces God’s majesty and transcendence
To capture Yahweh in an image is to misunderstand His majesty.
When the Lord spoke to the Israelites on Mt. Sinai, he spoke while the mountain burned with fire ‘to the midst of heaven’ (Deut.4: 11-12). Images, by contrast, do not hear, eat nor smell (Deut.4: 28). Image worship evokes ridicule and sarcasm. “To whom will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to him? Do you have to nail him down so he doesn’t fall over (Isa.40: 18; 41:7). The majesty of God is indicated in Scripture by the metaphor of darkness, by which he is covered (Deut.4: 11; 5:23) or unapproachable light, in which He dwells (1 Tim.6: 16). Darkness and light are opposites but they communicate this much, God is so majestic, so transcendent that he cannot be brought within man’s reach. Both darkness and light are impenetrable and a image denies that reality.
Perhaps the fact that God’s majesty and transcendence lies on believers so lightly indicates that images impinge upon their lives?
c.) Not only does the image reduces God’s majesty and transcendence but it also reduces God’s nearness and covenantal intimacy.
Unless you carry the image w/ you God is always located someplace else but God is a God that is near to His people where ever they are (Psalm 139).
Next week we will consider the blessing and cursings attached to the second commandment upon obedience and disobedience and spend some time chatting on the relation of blessing to obedience and we will consider what God’s expectations were among His people for the violation of the 2nd commandment.
Obedience is motivated by gratitude that we are constituted a new people by God because our disobedience to God’s law has been paid by Christ. Christ has reconciled the Father to us so that we are the people of God’s favor. Being the people of God’s favor we walk in terms of His Law-Word.