Idolatry and Graven Images

There is a verse that has been persistently impressed in my heart of late.

Exodus 20

2 I am the LORD Thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

The Good News translation has it as, worship no god but Me. 

Graven Images

So what is a graven image?

Google simple answer—a carved idol or representation of a god used as an object of worship.

Graven images were a big problem in the Old Testament days, and they were an abomination in the eyes of God.

God gave the Israelites statutes and judgements which they were to observe and  forbade any crafting and worship of graven images. When the Israelites sojourned in foreign lands, God instructed them to get rid of all the altars, break all pillars, burn the groves with fire; smash and chop off and bring down all graven images of the gods in that land, and destroy the names of them out of that place.

Now, being raised Catholic, I never had an issue with the statues or sculptures that are erected in the churches, most of them symbolising Jesus or Mary. My reasons were;

Firstly, I knew I was never supposed to worship the images, they were only symbolic to the message of salvation.

Secondly, I believed they were a form of representation of godliness.

And thirdly, I believed by nature, what I saw and was taught, from a young age.

However, reading through scripture, we find God affirmatively disapproving crafting of any image or sculptoring to represent any form of worship.

Exodus 20

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me;

God unlike man changes not, and whatsoever He has forbidden and warned against from the ancient of days, has not changed with the times.

23 You shall not make anything to be with Me—gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.
24 An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you.
25 And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.

God instructed that the altar for the sacrifices be made of earth; and there was to be no use of any tool on it, for this would profane it. However, we find modern places of worship have taken the divine descriptions of God and created sculptures and monuments representing and I quote, the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath .But if God changes not, why is there this  deception and how has it come to be widely accepted?

graven images

Image Credit: Ahayah Yashiya’s Blog

Isaiah 44

9 They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.
10 Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?
11 Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.
12 The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.
13 The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.
14 He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.
15 Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.
16 He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:
17 And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.
18 They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
19 And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?
20 He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?

Now, the human being was created by God to worship God. Within him is the desire to worship and many times he is searching and yearning to worship God but has little knowledge or no knowledge of God. Without the knowledge of God, this desire to worship may be influenced by the world and become perverted.

The heartbreaking thing is that most people honestly do not know the true Word of God and those who know it and go against it, fail to reverence it with much fear and trembling, misleading the flock of God. Those who do not know the Word of God are also not spared, for scripture alludes that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. Leviticus 5:17

So how can we know the true Word of God? How can we escape deception by man?

By reading and studying the Word of God and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us and reveal to us the truth. Paul said, hath not God made the wisdom of this world foolishness? If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

So, how ought we to worship God?

We find the Samaritan woman at the well debated Jesus on this question. Jesus said unto her,

John 4

23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

If we go so far as, to the first church, we find out how they reverenced God and worshipped Him.

In Spirit and in Truth

Acts 2

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Graven images whether innocent or deliberate are against the law of God.

Idolatry of the Heart.

This is the one that has ensnared man today more than anything. Any object, person, thought or desire that is exalted in a man’s heart above the love and desire for God is idolatry.

All we have to do is examine if this is really true in our lives. Are our possessions, our children, the desire for financial stability, desire for basic needs (food, shelter, clothing) greater than the love for God?

Are we vain in our hearts, always glorifying our bodies, boasting and taking pleasure in  the flesh? Lifting beauty and self above God? Are we so enthralled by social media that we do not have time for God? Do we glory in the praise and acceptance of men?

Have talents, skills and hobbies dominated our lives that we forget God? Does health and desire for body fitness come before God?

Paul talked about the falling away from God in the last days.

Timothy 2

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

What is that which hath the first place in your heart? For that which is in the heart, is revealed in speech and through actions.

Jesus while speaking to the multitude of his day said,

 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Matthew 12:34

For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

But, how gracious our God is, that He is willing to suffer long, so that we may turn away from iniquity and the idolatry of our hearts, and hold on to Him for the salvation of our souls. Inviting us to present our bodies, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God which is our reasonable service. Denouncing the ways of this world and rejecting any conformity to this world; and being transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove that which is good, and acceptable, and the perfect will of God.

For Jesus cares not about the condition of our hearts when we come to Him. He just invites us to come, so that He may give us a new heart and put a new spirit within us; as He takes the heart of stone out of our flesh and gives us a heart of flesh.

John 6:37 All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Let us pray, each one man, that we may desire to know the mind of God in all things, that we may be able to discern that which He has forbidden so that we may keep ourselves holy and pure in the love of Jesus Christ.

The Lord bless you, keep you and be  gracious unto you. May His face always shine upon you.

 

 

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