Image-Dreamers are Abominations to God

Lesson: “To think of God according to our own imagination is to violate the command that forbids us to make carved images.”

Its Further Implication

Imagining God in our heads can be just as real a breach of the second commandment as imagining him by the work of our hands." ~ J.I. Packer

We learned that illustrating God through images obscures God’s glory and also misleads us. The second commandment does not only prohibit image-making but also image-dreaming. It goes beyond the physical images. J.I. Packer points us that there are those who imagine God as they freely think of Him. I like to think of God as… That is not the God that I worship… My God is this… and this… Instead of saying, “This is what the Bible says about God.” and “This is how God revealed Himself according to His word.”

J.I. Packer strongly exhorts us, “We were made in his image, but we must not think of him as existing in ours. To think of God in such terms is to be ignorant of him, not to know him.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom…

1 Cor 1:21a

Its Positive Assertion

"To follow the imagination of one’s heart in the realm of theology is the way to remain ignorant of God, and to become an idol-worshipper-the idol in this case being a false mental image of God, made by one’s own speculation and imagination."

Negatively, the second commandment warns against God-dishonoring, truth-corrupting, and misleading forms of worship and religious practices.

Positively, the second commandment tells us that the God that we worship is not like us and is far beyond our imagination who “…is transcendent, mysterious and inscrutable…” This demands humility, obedience, and dependence on Him alone.

The following verses remind us of God’s transcendent otherness.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For 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 ESV
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
Romans 11:33-34 ESV

Furthermore, it tells us that the God that we worship has spoken and revealed Himself clearly in His Word through the prophets, apostles, and ultimately, His Son (Hebrews 1:1-3).

We cannot know Him unless He speaks and tells us about Himselfit appears that the positive force of the second commandment is that it compels us to take our thoughts of God from his own holy Word, and from no other source whatsoever.

J.I. Packer

Its Specific Threat

The mind that takes up with images is a mind that has not yet learned to love and attend to God’s Word. Those who look to manmade images, material or mental, to lead them to God are not likely to take any part of his revelation as seriously as they should.

The Scripture is clear that God declares Himself jealous, a consuming fire. He will not withhold His punishment not image worshipers as such but all who “hate him,” in the sense of disregarding his commandments as a whole.

God staunchly set Himself against the image-makers and image-dreamer because they neglect God’s revealed will at every point and oppose the heeding of God’s word. This is God’s apparent language in Deuteronomy 4. After reiterating, expounding, and reminding them of His commands, You shall not add to the word… v.2, Your eyes have seen… v.3, 9; The LORD spoke… you saw no form… only voice v. 12;  Therefore watch yourselves… He spilled threats against them.

  • They will be destroyed – If you act corruptly by making carved image v. 25; I call heaven and earth to witness against you… you will be utterly destroyed. V. 26
  • They will be scattered  v. 27
  • They will be slaves v. 28

The threats that will certainly fall upon their heads are indicative of the seriousness of violating God’s command. “God did not show them a visible symbol of himself, but spoke to them; therefore they are not now to seek visible symbols of God, but simply to obey his Word. …all manmade images of God, whether molten or mental, are really borrowings from the stock-in-trade of a sinful and ungodly world, and are bound therefore to be out of accord with God’s own holy Word.

To make an image of God is to take one’s thoughts of him from a human source, rather than from God himself; and this is precisely what is wrong with image-making.

Questions for meditation:

  • Why are we not free to think of God as we wish He is?
  • Why are image-making and image-dreaming hateful in God’s sight?

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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