How could the people of Israel, having just heard God speak the second word, demand that Aaron make an image, a golden calf to worship. We may not cast idols from gold, but as John Calvin wrote, “The human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.” (Institutes, Book 1.11.8).
“The heart of the objection to pictures and images is that they inevitably conceal most, if not all of the truth about the personal nature and character of the divine Being whom they represent. . . . Whatever we may think of religious art from a cultural standpoint, we should not look to pictures of God to show us His glory and move us to worship, for His glory is precisely what such pictures can never show us. . . . To the extent to which the image fails to tell the truth about God, to that extent you will fail to worship God in truth.” (J. I Packer, Knowing God, pp. 40-41).
We may not think of ourselves as using idols. But when we ourselves decide what God is like, we remake him in our image. Tim Challies, pastor, author, and blogger explains why he will not be viewing the movie, The Shack:
“Everyone who watches the film will see a human actor portraying the divine Holy Spirit and in that way have their understanding of the Spirit diminished. To portray the Spirit is to vastly misrepresent the Spirit; to portray the Spirit is to blaspheme the Spirit. The same is true, of course, of the Father.” (http://www.challies.com/articles/why-i-wont-be-seeing-or-reviewing-the-shack).
The Second Commandment has a positive purpose.
“If you stand with your back to idols, then you must still learn to kneel properly before the God of Israel. . . . You may serve no other gods; but the Lord in turn wants to be served in no other way than He has commanded.” (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, pp. 35-36).
“Positively, it [the Second Commandment] is a summons to us to recognize that God the Creator is transcendent, mysterious, and inscrutable beyond the range of any imagining or philosophical guesswork of which we are capable; and hence a summons to us to humble ourselves, to listen and learn of Him, and to let Him teach us what He is like and how we should think of Him.” (J. I Packer, Knowing God, p. 42).
The space between the cherubim on the cover of the ark, the mercy seat, was vacant, not just because you cannot image God, but also because it was a space reserved for the One who is the exact image of God, Heb. 1:3; Col. 2:9. God calls you to worship in Christ, rather than through anything or anyone else in all creation. And that worship he receives. With it he is pleased.
Quotes used in the reflection on Sunday’s sermon.