is not always the best form of flattery.

Exodus 20:4-6 (NKJV)

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—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 upon 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.”

At first glance, this commandment seems to ban all religious art. But that can’t be it because God will soon specify art objects for the tabernacle.

The key to understanding this passage is to recognize the distinctions between this commandment and the first. This one isn’t about worshipping other gods; it’s about how to worship the real one. Of course, it’s possible to break both commandments at the same time, but this one is principally about not misrepresenting the true God.

We don’t know what God looks like but we want to and can’t seem to resist the temptation to experiment. Images make us complacent and too “buddy-buddy” with God. Consider these descriptions of actually being in the presence of God.

And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”

Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you.” … But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” And the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.” – Exodus 33:18-23 (NKJV)

So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” – Isaiah 6:5 (NKJV)

The closest thing in modern medicine to this is radiation sickness. Looking upon God is a bit like looking at a nuclear bomb. Remember, people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki literally had their faces fall off.

But that’s not what God looks like either; I just said that to shake things up. Turning the bomb idea into a mental image of God would be the exact error we must avoid.

You can’t visualize God.

Christians are often insufficiently intimidated by the LORD. We get bumper stickers that say things like, “God is my co-pilot.”

Seriously? Is God in training to be a pilot? Be awed by His majesty and holiness in your meditations.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.