Saturday, June 11, 2016

Idolatry, Images, and the Second Commandment

In Exodus 32:1-10, Moses tells us of a time when he was on Mount Sinai, receiving the revelation of the Law, including the Ten Commandments, written on tablets by God's own finger. While he was there, acting
The Golden Calf
as covenant mediator for the people of Israel, those same people were on the plain below, impatiently waiting for his return. They demanded of Aaron, Moses's brother and lieutenant, that he make a new god for them. So, Aaron gathered their gold jewelry, melted it down, and made             ,, a statue of a calf, traditionally called the Golden Calf.

Most of us have heard that story in Sunday School, as we were growing up. However, while our story-telling stops at that point, Moses's account does not. After referring to the calf in verse 4, "These are your gods [sic], O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!"  Then note what Aaron says in verse 5: "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord [i. e., Yahweh]." That is key, because it shows that the calf wasn't presented as a new god, but rather as a representation of the God they claimed already to know!

This passage is an application of the Second Commandment. One might note that the people hadn't seen the Second Commandment, yet, because Moses hadn't yet brought it down to them. That objection is true. But let us continue with consideration of God's reaction to this event.

Look at what God says to Moses in verse 8: "They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it." Thus, while He has yet to give them the commandment, He is holding them accountable for earlier revelation, such as Exodus 18:11. And what does He do? Verse 35: "Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made."

The Church of Rome sets up its images, but claims that they do not conflict with the Scriptures because they aren't directing the people to worship false gods. Zeus or Thor, for example. However,  in this passage, God actually consigns some of the Israelites to capital punishment, not for worshiping Osiris, but rather for putting the name of God on an image. In the same way, Catholics are claiming to serve that same jealous God with statues of Mary, etc. If God was inspired to wrath by having His name worshiped in an idol, how much more His judgment must be against prayers to an image of lesser beings!

The claims of Rome are a subterfuge, just as the creation of the calf was. And she must be judged as idolatrous, just as Israel was.

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