A couple Sundays ago, I preached a sermon on the ten commandments. When I got to the second commandment, I asked, “Anybody tempted to carve an image of God and worship it?” No one was, so I moved on.
But as I was driving to church the next week, I was wrestling with doubt, as I often do, and this commandment popped into my head again.
What if the god I don’t believe in is a graven image? Something I made a long time ago in my heart and in my head so when I visited it or prayed to it, I felt better, but now I’ve grown out of it?
That’s the problem with graven images: They’re static. They don’t change.
We think God looks like a bull, but then Moses comes down with the ten commandments…
God doesn’t change either, of course, but our understanding of God changes.
We think God wants sacrifices, but God lets us know better.
We think God is obsessed with rules, but Jesus comes and reveals God to us.
We think God loves us and hates them, but God turns out to care for everyone.
We think God looks like a bull, or a white dude with a beard, or an angry man in the sky. We make our pictures of God, but God keeps breaking them, smashing them to pieces. That’s what happens when you try to lay down metal on top of something that’s alive.
It’s like that poem about the blind men and the elephant. Imagine if they had each carved an image of the elephant and announced that THIS was what the elephant REALLY looked like.
But the elephant moves. The elephant is alive. And they haven’t seen all there is to see of it.
God is alive. God moves. And we have not seen all there is to see of God.
Maybe that’s why the second commandment said not to make images. Maybe it was about not locking God down, because when you lock God down in one image, what happens when you hit a spiritual growth spurt and all of a sudden you outgrow that god?
The name of the Israelite God in Hebrew, of course, is “I AM,” or “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE,” which is a really great way of saying, “Your image is invalid.”
Which isn’t to say we can’t know anything about God.
It isn’t to say when God found us and we felt God with us, that wasn’t actually God.
It’s just to say that when we felt God’s presence with us back then, the image we carved of God based on what we thought we knew might turn out to be a little… off.
Or a lot off.
So break your graven images,
crush them into powder.
Fall in love with God
Realize what you don’t know
Hold tight to what you do.
And follow along with this
one who loves you
Who will be