Images Dishonor God

“A true image of God is not to be found in all the world; and hence… His glory is defiled, and His truth corrupted by the lie, whenever He is set before our eyes in a visible form. . . Therefore, to devise any image of God is itself impious; because by this corruption His majesty is adulterated, and. He is figured to be other than He is.”

John Calvin

Lesson: Images are dangerous and dishonoring to God because they obscure His glory.

We learned in our last lesson that images are dangerous. Today, we’ll learn more about the danger that representing or illustrating God through images makes, namely, they obscure God’s glory. The second commandment clearly stipulates the prohibition to create anything that would represent God. J.I. Packer expounds this saying, “The likeness of things in heaven (sun, moon, stars), and in earth (people, animals, birds, insects), and in the sea (fish, mammals, crustaceans), is precisely not a likeness of their Creator.”

Packer further notes, “The heart of the objection to pictures and images is that they inevitably conceal most, if not all, of the truth about the personal nature and character of the divine Being whom they represent.” Images conceal, obscure, and even corrupt God’s glory. To attempt to capture God’s glory through images is to insult and court God’s holy wrath upon one’s head.

William Shakespeare wrote a line in Sonnet 18 which captures an expression of God’s incomparableness when he writes, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate…? Though this is about someone in his eyes, the Scripture is filled with similar but infallible lines that preclude any thought of comparing or illustrating God with anything in this world.

J.I. Packer in his book reminded us of a golden calf that Aaron (Exodus 32) made which brought God’s and Moses’ anger upon them. But in reading the story carefully we would notice that “it was meant as a visible symbol of Jehovah, the mighty God who had brought Israel out of Egypt” and to honor God “as being a fitting symbol of his great strength.”

The intention is right, but the use of images obscures God’s glory. In doing so, the nation of Israel faced the consequence of her action. Packer writes, “in a similar way, the pathos of the crucifix obscures the glory of Christ… and so are all other visible representations of deity.”

God’s Jealousy: His Zeal to Maintain His Glory

The Scripture is clear that God is a jealous God. Any attempt to illustrate God through any image is an affront to His perfect, immutable, and pure intrinsic glory. “…we should not look to pictures of God to show us his glory and move us to worship; for his glory is precisely what such pictures can never show us.”

God will “avenge himself on those who disobey him” for His glory “is jeopardized when images are used in worship.”

God can be compared to neither the holiest seraphim nor the dirtiest worm, for He is not only quantitatively different from His creation but qualitatively different. There is none like Him (Isaiah 48:10)! None but Jesus Christ alone, who is God Himself in the flesh, can sufficiently reflect the image of the invisible God (John 14:9, Col 1:15, Heb 1:3)!

Be satisfied in Christ alone! If Christ, the very Son of God, the exact imprint of God’s glory is not enough for you, then nothing else will do. If you ask the Father what He is like, His answer would undoubtedly be, “Behold, my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

“And what fairer things than Christ! O fair sun, and fair moon, and fair stars, and fair flowers, and fair roses, and fair lilies, and fair creatures! But, O ten thousand, thousand times fairer Lord Jesus! Alas, I wronged Him in making the comparison this way. O black sun and moon; but O fair Lord Jesus! O black flowers, and black lilies and roses; but O fair fair, ever fair Lord Jesus! O all fair things, black, deformed, and without beauty, when ye are set beside the fairest Lord Jesus! O black heaven, but O fair Christ! O black angels, but O surpassingly fair Lord Jesus.”

John Flavel, The Fountain of Life

Questions for meditation:

  • How do images dishonor God?
  • Is there anything or anyone that can be compared to the image of God the Father?

Note: This is from our Youth Bible Study. Citations are from Packer, J. I. (1993). Knowing God. Intervarsity Press.

Published by Jeff Chavez

Sinner saved by grace

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