No Images – Identity and the Second Commandment

The Hebrews Adore the Golden Calf - Marc Chagall, 1931

The Hebrews Adore the Golden Calf – Marc Chagall, 1931

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 or 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 the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. – Exodus 20:4 – 6

In the first post of this series No Other Gods, the point was made that God wants exclusivity. He will not compete for our attention with idols.

Within the second commandment, the Lord takes this idea a step further and commands that we not even make an image or likeness of what we assume him to be like.

God, the One true God, is our source of significance and wholeness. His truth becomes our truth and the definition of who we are and our purpose in this world.

And God is bigger than we are.

With regard to our identity – our sense of self and our worth – there are a couple of good reasons not to make for our self an image…

1. When we construct an image of God, we create a caricature of God with which we are comfortable. {click here to tweet that!}

This image that we create will not challenge our false sense of self. We settle for something lesser that, by comparison, makes us feel more righteous.

God is then created in our image. Like the ancient mythologies, with gods that have the foibles and temptations of humans, simply on a grander scale.

There is one image of the invisible God, that is the person of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15). Revealed to us. We are to conform to this image, not conform the image to our self.

There is yet another implication of creating an image of God…

2. People are reflectors of the image that they are pursuing.

From the beginning mankind has been created in the image of God. (see Created in the Image of God)

We were created to bear God’s image. Part of that is being God’s representative in his creation, reflecting who He is for all the creation to bear witness to.

All of us reflect something, that is the way we were created.

We’ll either reflect our Creator or the image of wholeness that we have created.

What are you reflecting?

If your image of wholeness, of a valuable self, has to do with body image, then you will reflect such. Pictures of abs, yoga positions, or swimwear shots. Doubt me? Just check the popular images feed on Instagram.

If your image of rightness is having a good marital relationship, your actions and words will reflect that to those around you – and you will cover up actions that do not reflect the image you want.

Fill in the blank with any of a multitude of images we strive to attain.

Problem is we become enslaved by the images we create, and that we then reflect. Bowing down and serving these images.

We will do what it takes to maintain the image. Hours in the gym, yet never satisfied. Wearing a relational mask, yet feeling lonely because no one knows the truth about us. Working long hours, but never having as much as we would like to be secure.

Ultimately, this false self – the false source of wholeness – will let us down as our identity expects more than the created thing was ever intended to provide.

God says in the Exodus passage that these sins of image extend for generations.

Moms, the anxiety of your body image issues will be passed on to your daughters, and then to their daughters.

Dads, your striving to satisfy your worth by working will create a relational system of perfectionism or inadequacy for your sons.

The anxiety, dissatisfaction and anger injected into relational systems creates systemic sins that continue to flower for generations.

Yet the good news prevails. God’s grace will overcome these systemic issues. Not just for three or four generations, but for thousands. Think about that.

The steps you take to connect with God and place your identity in Christ will affect your family for more generations that your sins.

That is grace. Available to all of us in Jesus, and inexhaustible in its riches.

Consider that the next time you mess up in Christ, God’s grace is bigger than your sin. As long as it is his image you are striving after, not your own.

What image are you reflecting to those in your circle of influence?

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