You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars -- all the heavenly array -- do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. But as for you, the LORD took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are,” [Deuteronomy 4:5-9, 15-20]
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” [Isaiah 55:8-9]
What a Mighty God we serve! As we study the Word, we learn just how Amazing and Wise God really is! His ways and thoughts are really so amazing, it’s hard to put into words –He’s so exciting! One of those thoughts is the idea of God’s image. You know, the Scripture is very, very clear that His people are never, ever supposed to make an image of God. There is a very corrupted, human tendency to try and make God somehow tangible –as though we could somehow control Him or worship a thing in place of God. But here’s an amazing thought: There’s another reason why God condemns imagery or idolatry: There is only one image in all of creation that is meant to reflect the glory, wisdom, understanding, love and mercy of God; there is only one image that God really permits to reflect His glory –people, and not just any people, but the people of God.
Think about it: The Israelites tried to worship the One, True God at Mt. Sinai. While Moses was up on the mountain, talking to God, the Israelites were down below, pressuring Aaron, Moses’ brother, to make a golden idol. Keep in mind that the Israelites wanted to worship Yahweh (Jehovah) God. But God specifically condemned the creation of any image to take His place –even if that image was meant to represent Him.
Some will argue that the Ark of the Covenant was an “image” of God but God never said this. The Ark is a representation of God’s throne and Jesus Christ, but no one was permitted to see this gold-covered box. Even the high priest of Israel could only go before the Ark once a year, and even then, the room had to be filled with incense, clouding the ark. But the Ark, though it was consecrated to God, was never meant to be understood as being God. God specifically said that He would hover over the Ark; His Presence would rest there. But no one was allowed to see the Ark clearly.
Later, when Solomon dedicated the Temple to God, the same statement that was spoken by Moses in Deuteronomy 4 was reiterated by Solomon (1 Kings 8:51). And again, later, Jeremiah the prophet spoke the same words (Jeremiah 11:1-5) to remind the Israelites of the same very important point. What is the phrase that is mentioned in all three of these places?: “Iron-smelting furnace.”
In Deuteronomy 4, Moses warns the Israelites to resist the temptation to follow idolatry. Romans chapter 1 does a wonderful job of explaining why people are so tempted to create idols: They want to exchange God and His ways for a different way –which always leads to the same conclusion: Death (in so many different ways). God is Life, and to follow His ways brings life, peace, contentment and fulfillment. This is an important point, because God created us IN HIS IMAGE (Genesis 1:26-27). Because this world is fallen and under a curse, the Image of God in men and women is often distorted by our fallen nature. But remember the words of God concerning the Israelites when He brought them out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery: “But as for you, the LORD took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are.” God used this wording to contrast His Ways with the ways of the world. While men will pull iron out of a smelting furnace to produce an idol –a counterfeit, replacement, false god that they can manipulate however they choose- God brings HIS IMAGE out of His people, that the world might see HIS IMAGE and wonder at the greatness of God! God’s Image is the people of God, the Living Temple that contains the Presence of God –it’s the reflection of His Glory. Jesus is (literally) the “Radiance of God’s Glory, the Exact Image of His Substance (Hebrews 1:3),” and the “Image of the Invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). In the form of man, Jesus blazed the trail for all of us by restoring the image of man into the Image of God again. And now, all who are united with Christ (Romans 6:5ff) are united with that Image again. This is why the Church is so important: It is the Body of Christ, the only access to the Living One by means of Jesus, the ONLY Perfect Reflection of God’s glory –and to be united with Jesus… is to be united with God.
Why is this so important? Why am I making this point? Because the only possibility that people on earth have of seeing God’s glory, His Image… is found only in us. God’s Image is not found in a museum, not on a mountaintop, not in a work of art or a painting, not in a temple, shrine, building or sanctuary, not in any valley or under any spreading tree, dead wood, stone or relic; the Perfect Image of God can only be seen on earth when the Living Temple, the Body of Christ, the Redeemed, Glorified, Loving, Merciful, and Gracious Bride of Christ reflects the Awesome Image of God. It is up to us to represent that Living Image for the sake of those who don’t know Him.
Church, don’t reject hardship. Don’t look down when things get tough. Don’t spurn the discipline of God when it comes –Your Father loves you and only wants the best for you. You can no longer see hardship as an insurmountable problem –you now have the OBLIGATION of seeing God at work –both in good times and hardship. We learn to rejoice in our sufferings because suffering produces a purer Image when we allow the Potter to form us into worthy vessels of His immeasurable grace! He brings us from the furnace to shape us into His Image –that His love might reach more people. Let Him do His mighty work in you today that His glory might be all that others see!
Amazed by grace!