“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6).
No Carved Images. The previous command gave attention to the object of worship, now this one with how one is to not approach the Lord. Those who worship the Lord do not need a visual reminder, an aid to facilitate worship in the proper way. It was Jesus who said that each person who comes to come must come to Him in spirit and truth. To create an object for appearance sake is to limit the Almighty to that created object. In other words, the object becomes holy and more than just a representation. The condemnation is not against art or sculpture, per se, but against that which would be used in worship (cf. Deut. 4:15-19). One of the reasons for the popularity of religious relics, purchased nearly anywhere, is that an image helps one reflect and think on that which is divine. The Lord said this is not necessary, in fact, He forbids it.
No created object is to represent the Lord or that which is of and by Him, and since this is so, it is even more the case no one is to bow down before a created object used in worship. Genuinely motivated as they are, the Catholic Church clearly understands what is being said, so they seek for an explicitly forbidden command from the Lord, but those faithful to the Lord understand the spirit of the prohibition. In Churches of Christ, we are not immune to similar approaches. A practical application of this forbiddance is not in worship, but in how a church building is used. Their resistance notwithstanding, some people consider a church building sacred. Somehow, it is acceptable to use the restroom inside a church but not eat in it?
The basis of idolatry is self-will. To have an idol of any sort is to rebel against God in the way He commands. The Scripture speaks of God as a jealous God. He goes to great lengths to redeem – and this is the thanks He gets! This self-will approach is also known as spiritual adultery. Spiritual adultery has long tentacles, limbs the reach out and sink roots of destruction in following generations. People who do not obey, whether out of ignorance or rebellion, are people who hate the Lord; there is no interest in obeying His commands. It does not matter that a person rejects the use of the word hate in this context, for there are, really, only two options from which to choose. First, if one loves the Lord obedience follows; if one does not obey the Lord then it is necessarily the case one hates the Lord’s way.
APPLICATION. Those who love the Lord will worship Him in spirit and truth. Worship is a matter of genuine interest in pleasing the Lord (not one’s self) and in accordance with His revealed word. Those who love the Lord are not ignorant of His word, they choose to obey Him who is the giver of life. RT