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Images and Idolatry

A Bible Lesson about Images and Idols

By Ken Raggio

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, His very first demand was:

"Thou shalt have NO OTHER GODS before ME!"
(Exodus 20:3).

Think about it. Here were 600,000 men, plus women and children, who had just been delivered from slavery in Egypt. Almighty God had opened the waters of the Red Sea and led them across on dry ground. Then He swallowed up their enemies right behind them.

This Great God had poured out terrifying plagues on Egypt for holding them in bondage. Then, in the course of delivering them, He promised them a land which flowed with milk and honey. En route, He gave them bread (manna) and water out of a rock. He guided them with a pillar of a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. The Angel of the Lord was with them perpetually.

Never, ever, in the history of mankind, had a god of ANY kind ever done for a people what this God did for Israel.

"Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, is one LORD," Moses taught them, (Deuteronomy 6:4).

In recognition of His sovereignty, He made this first and most important commandment:

"Thou shalt have NO OTHER GODS before ME!"
(Exodus 20:3).

Then, to make His intentions perfectly clear, He gave them the Second Commandment.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,
or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above,
or that is in the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth:
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:
for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.

Almighty God demands of His people:
* No graven images
* No likeness of anything in heaven, on earth, or in the waters
* No bowing down to them
* No serving them
Ask yourself this question. "If I had created the universe, all things living, and mankind, would I tolerate my creation worshiping anyone else as their Creator?"

No, you would not.

It is obvious that the purpose and intent of these commandments was to force the people to recognize who their Creator and Savior really was. God notified them that He would not allow the people to give any credit or any glory to anybody but Himself. There is nothing illogical about God requiring us to sanctify HIM in our hearts and minds. Jehovah is unashamed to require that we MUST NOT give HIS glory to any other god.

And why? Because there are no other gods! HE ALONE IS WORTHY OF ALL GLORY.

Almighty God rightfully demands all the glory, all the worship and all the recognition that He deserves. He will not tolerate our worshiping any other god.

But take note. These verses furthermore require that we make NO IMAGES - no carved images, no molten images, no graven images, no images like men, no images like animals, no images like birds, no images like sea creatures, no LIKENESSES of any kind - that might receive any worship, glory or honor that belongs to God alone.

Now, I ask you to bear with me in my folly for a moment, because at first glance, it looks like we are all in trouble.

Do you realize that we all have images in our homes?

Do you have pictures hanging on your walls, or pictures framed and sitting on a table? Do you have decorative what-nots sitting around your home on shelves and tables? How about the image of the bluebird on the living room sofa table? Or the little boy with his fishing pole, made out of ceramic, sitting in the book case?

Images? Do you have plaster statues of Mozart or Beethoven sitting on the piano? Or a painting of Jesus hanging on the wall?

Forbidden Images!

What on earth should we do? Destroy all our photos and what-nots? Unless you have NO photos, no portraits, no ceramics or any other what-nots among your personal possessions, (including today's newspaper with its photographs, OR the images - pictures - on your computer screen), then you will be forced to defend yourself. How can anyone insinuate that we would make gods of these images?

Are these the images that God forbids in the Second Commandment?


Consider that the religion of Islam also forbids images. Look at their mosques and their architectural styles. They have lavish designs, but no images of any definable object. Yet they have photographs and printed images in their homes! And they are computer users, television watchers and theater-goers! These people who forbid images nevertheless have lives that are FILLED with images. How can all these things be reconciled?

The difference is in the way an image is observed.

If I place a statue of the Virgin Mary or of St. Jude on the dash of my car, then I have created an entirely different situation. Such images become objects of prayer, religious devotion, and even superstition. They are figures to which people pray, and which are venerated, held holy or sacred. People have spiritual expectations of such images. And sometimes, they are actually worshiped or honored with celebrations, festivals, prayer vigils and more. At the very least, people actually believe they are worth something as a "good-luck" charm, or to drive evil spirits away. But that is not so.

Now, I do not pray to Mary. Mary is dead and in Heaven. There is not one single verse in the entire Bible that even remotely suggests that I should pray to or worship Mary (or any other saint). It would be both sinful and supremely unwise for me to do so. We are to make our prayers and devotions to Jesus Christ alone. He will not share His glory with any other.

When any image becomes an object of religious devotion, it becomes an abomination and sore offense to God. No God-fearing person should ever think of setting up an image that receives any veneration, worship, devotion, or prayers, because that would absolutely constitute idolatry. Cursed idolatry. Damnable idolatry.

Any such image SHOULD be removed and destroyed.

There is a vast ideological difference between images of art and images of religious devotion. We do not suspect that God is particularly jealous of ordinary artwork, such as photographs, paintings, sculptures, or engravings, (unless there is some evil in our interest, or if they represent some other evils). We have no reason to believe that God objects to a child's toy horse, little birds on baby-bed mobiles, or a family portrait on the wall.

God is not categorically against images, but He is vehemently against any and all images that acquire any religious devotion.

Any image that compromises or competes with God's sovereign glory is anathema - cursed, damned. Any image that robs God of ANY of the glory that is due only to Him is utterly taboo. Well over 100 Bible references to idolatry attest to that fact.

Such images must NEVER be found among us.

It IS idolatry to venerate or pray at the statue or image of any figure – Mary, Augustine, (any so-called saint is merely a dead person who cannot hear prayer). The religious icons of the Roman Catholic Church or any other religion - Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, or any other - comprise the objects of purely pagan idolatry, (whether human, animal or inanimate object).

In the sight of God, all such figures are absolutely an abomination. God HATES them, and the record shows that He judges and punishes those who keep them.

No Bible-believing Christian would dare keep these kinds of images. In the eyes of God, a so-called "Christian" icon like Mary or St. Jude is just as abominable as the amulets and fetishes of voodoo and witchcraft cults. We must not set up images, burn candles or incense to them, pray to them, bow to them, venerate them, or honor them. We must refuse to possess them. God says absolutely "NO!"

If you have any kind of religious images in your possession which are the object of any kind of devotion, I urge you to get rid of them. God is jealous. That, we cannot deny.

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