This is not my article, rather it is part of a sermon by Rev. Andrew Giffen of Kirkintilloch Baptist
Church. It is based on the story of the
Golden Calf in Exodus 32.
The people of Israel created a
golden calf because they wanted an image that their minds could grasp.
They bowed down to the calf and worshipped it as if it were God. They
knew that it was man-made and breakable. But that was exactly the sort
of God they wanted –one they could control. The vast God reduced to
something that could be imprisoned in a few ounces of gold. A shrunken
powerless God who will do their bidding, protect them alone, and destroy
But God instead commands his people to
worship him as he is, not as they (or we) would like him to be. God
forbids idolatrous imagination. For you see that is the fundamental
problem,that the second commandment addresses. We don’t want God to
create us – we want to create God. God in my image – not man in God’s
image. We want a God we can control, manipulate, regulate. The default
position for you and me today is to imagine God the way we want him to
be, not the way he has revealed himself to be. For instance you might
want a God who saves all people, who sends no-one to hell – so you
create in your mind a loving God who is never angry.
the Bible is clear that God is both a God of love and a God of wrath
and judgement. He is justly angry with sin and wickedness. You can do it
the other way as well – emphasise God’s wrath and judgement to the
extent that you ignore God’s love. Again some people decide that
miracles are impossible for modern people to believe, so they imagine a
God who walks on a sand-bar rather than on water, who becomes incarnate
but without a virgin birth. In so doing they diminish the almighty,all
powerful God, into someone who must obey man made rules. Or you and I
might look at the world and find it unpredictable, so we turn to a God
who is not really in control, or a God who cannot be relied upon to act
consistently. We ignore the fact that the Bible teaches that God is
sovereign, that he is intimately involved in his creation, that he is
always at work for our good,that he is in control.
But the Bible
says that man is responsible for his sin. The true God calls us to
holiness. In a similar way we distort the image of God when we proclaim
that God only allows good things to happen to us. We want a God who
makes our life comfortable, who gives us what we want when we want it.
So we create such a God. But we have forgotten what the Bible says about
the importance of suffering and hardship. We want a God we can bargain
with and bribe – a God we can manipulate and control.
of all we want a God who is safe – who doesn’t make demands on us. But
God the Son calls us to lay down our life and to take up our cross. All
those ideas, all those things we try to do to God, are distortions. They
are idolatrous imagination. You and I can proclaim all we like that we
worship the true God, but when we distort God in any of these ways, and
ignore what God reveals of himself in the Bible and in the person of
Jesus, then you and I are idolaters, haters of the true God,and the
consequences for us are serious.
We invoke God’s
jealousy and anger. Even if we sincerely believe that the distorted
image we create is a true representation of God, there is no way that it
can be, and in God’s eyes it is not worship of him – it is giving to
others what is due only to him –hence his jealousy. Take a look at
verses 5, (reading from verse 4).
4 “You shall not make for
yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth
beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or
worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God,punishing the
children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation
of those who hate me . . .” (Ex20:4-5, NIV).
we make an idolatrous image, physically or in our imagination, we are
God haters. Such indifference to the true God, as he has revealed
himself to us, is contagious, it affects future generations – the
distortion is perpetuated.
Jewish homes would often
have contained three or even four generations in a household. Idolatrous
worship, distortion of the true image of God, would naturally have
affected the whole family, the whole household. God punishes idolatry,
in whatever form, to the third and fourth generation. He deals with it
according to its seriousness.The language is a covenantal type
judgement. But the striking contrast is verse6. Limited judgement is
contrasted with unlimited blessing. Have a look, verse6,
6 “but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Ex 20:6, NIV).
thousand generations is much longer than biblical history. God is
saying in effect that he will show his steadfast love to innumerable
descendants who love him. There is no limit to God’s blessing. God wants
you and me today to know him as he really is – as he has revealed
himself though the pages of the Bible.
He wants us to
worship him in truth as well as in spirit. God loves us so much that he
cannot bear it when our desires and loyalties go elsewhere. He wants to
give us himself so that we can glorify him and enjoy him forever. If you
or I worship and serve anything less than who God really is we have
completely failed to worship him. We are missing out – you are missing
out on the blessing of relationship with the true and living God. The
illustration is made of being the friend of someone famous.If we rely on
TV news reports we are unlikely to genuinely know the person.Their
image is usually distorted. We would need to get to know the real
person.In a similar way you and I need to talk directly to God. We need
to read and study his word the Bible. As he speaks to us from its pages
he will reveal himself as he truly is. An idolatrous imagination is
never in our best interest because it is so much less than knowing the
true God. The second commandment prohibits idolatrous images and
For more sermon, please go to http://printandaudio.org.uk/app/explore/resources/type/sermons/series/63
Image1 courtesy: http://biblestudyoutlines.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/jeroboams-idolatry.jpg