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Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure. (Deuteronomy 4:15-16)

For all of their lives, the Hebrews that had been enslaved to the Pharaohs had observed their Egyptian neighbors serve every type of god imaginable, always represented by some type of image — a bird, a jackal, a bull etc. Furthermore, it is evident in the Scripture that the Hebrews allowed this influence to infiltrate their thinking. All one has to do is read Ezekiel 20 to know that many Israelites adopted the ways of the Egyptians including the worship of idols. So then it is reasonable to think that when they came out of Egypt and assembled at Sinai this influence was still there, and thus, the instruction:

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—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 nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” (Exodus 20:4-5)

Moses reminded the subsequent generation that when God spoke those words, they “heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; only a voice” (Deuteronomy 4:12). Because they saw no form or similitude, they were not to represent God with any type of image. In other words, don’t attempt to define in temporal ways the One who is eternal. It is impossible (and insulting for that matter) to think that something He created, something finite and limited, e.g. a bull, could properly represent the One who is without beginning and end. However, this is exactly what they attempted to do with the Golden Calf. They took what they were familiar with, something they could touch and understand, and said, “This is your god, O Israel.”

So what can we learn from this? While I know that none of us would ever fashion some kind of image and say it was a faithful representation of our God, I do believe that, at times, we try to put Him in a box. By that I mean, because we want to better understand Him, we try to define Him in ways that makes sense to us. We attempt to describe the Eternal One in temporal terms so as to accommodate our way of thinking and satisfy our intellect. However, we are told that God is Spirit, and so, it seems futile to try and put Him in our box seeing that “heaven and the heaven of heavens can not contain Him” (2 Chronicles 2:6). And so the point is today, let God be God and when His ways do not conform to our way of thinking, remember the words of Solomon:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Blessings and Shalom,  




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