“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above.” Exodus 20:4 (NIV)
God is invisible, so it is instinctive for us to us to want some kind of image to remind us of Him or to point us to Him. This commandment is telling us that we are not to make any images to represent God.
The problem with our images of God is that they are all less than He is. Many people find icons, beads, or pictures of Jesus to be helpful. But the second commandment reminds us of the danger. An image or an icon may reflect part of the truth about Him, but it always obscures as much as it reveals.
Take the famous picture of the finger of God in the Sistine Chapel. It communicates God’s power, but it completely obscures His love. Nobody who looks at that picture could ever conclude that this is the God of infinite patience and compassion.
Pictures of Jesus in children’s books tend to have the same problem. They often leave us with the impression of someone who is weak and anemic. A crucifix with an image of Jesus on the cross reminds us that Jesus died for us, but it obscures the truth that He is no longer on the cross, that He has triumphed over death, and that He is seated at the right hand of the Father in glory.
Art and sculpture can be used to capture the beauty and wonder of created things, but they cannot capture the glory of the Creator.
Have you ever experienced using an image or an icon in worship? What truth about God did it reflect? What about God was obscured by using it?