In Him All Things Hold Together
Exodus 20: 2 – 6; Colossians 1:15
The framing of the Ten Commandments with its particular prescriptive linguistic nuances centres us within the most important relationships in our existence. We will focus on the first two. The first informs the Israelites that they are to have no other gods beside Yahweh. The second, an explication of the first, states that they are not to make any image to represent and worship as God, and certainly, no conceivable image could serve to embody Him. This was perhaps the more difficult command for them to obey, coming from a cultic background. The implications of these two issues, the imagery of God and the ultimate purpose of imaging, are enormous, and they still continue to challenge us today in more ways than one.
If God is represented by an idol, either physically or in Israelites’ minds, there would be an element of control in the practice of the ‘give-and-take’ theology that were prevalent in most religious practices; as they bargain, make offerings and sacrifices, in order to gain some benefit from worshipping Him. But Yahweh is not One Whom they can manipulate, nor does He possess a weakness that can be bought, or Whose hands can be twisted to answer their prayers the way they want it. Humans naturally thrive on imaging, with our corrupted imagination forming a significant creative world of its own, but to constrain it would be to cripple the very representation of the imago Dei. Contrary to a widely perceived notion that ‘image’ is restricted only to physical idols, the Israelites were instructed to worship Him as He is, not as they envisioned Him or would like Him to be (Deut 4:11-20). Thus, as a concession to man’s need for an image, the revelation of Jesus Christ as the image or representation of the invisible God was Yahweh’s gracious way of acceding to us, since any other notion we might construct would absolutely pale in its demonstration of the full personhood of the invisible I AM, the Creator in all His glory (Col 1:15-20). Imaging or imagining what God is like has been humanity’s perennial curiosity, but as believers, His self-disclosures in Scripture remain our only authoritative guide.
Furthermore, the distinctiveness of human social habits chart our inclination to only relate with those who are like us, with less enthusiasm in interacting with the unfamiliar. So, when we are unable to bridge understanding with our fellow beings, whom we can see and touch, how can we relate to someone like God, whose invisibility and status defy any human point of reference? Thus, it becomes critical that in letting God be God, the mental image we possess of Him is acquired directly from our daily interactive experience with Him through the Bible and within our community. To neglect it would most certainly lead to idolatry and jeopardize His intent to make us like Christ.
A second significant point is that as eternal beings (Eccl 3:11), created with a desire for reciprocal personal intimacy with the Infinite God (Ex 20:5; Deut 5:4-10), we are worshipping beings. If the object of worship were not God, it would be something else – just as God had warned (Ex 20:3-5), and in today’s environment, that duplicate idol can take many more subtle forms. Hence, worship involves a profound cognitive and emotive realization of the absolute worth of our God, compounded with our desire to forsake all others, animate or inanimate, that we might give back to Him what costs Him everything to redeem – our life! (Luke 9:23). The prerequisites to such a mutually exclusive relationship are our vulnerability and truthfulness with God, as we allow Him to purify us at the deepest personal level. Pure selflessness is at the heart of true and spiritual worship.