In the Old Testament, there exists a strident prohibition against making images of our God. It’s something that He doesn’t really play around about. In the familiar story where Aaron makes a golden calf for Israel when Moses is up on the mountain, the text indicates that they were using the calf to worship YHWH, the one true God. It wasn’t that they were using an idol to worship another god, it was that they were using an image to worship the one true God. The consequences were severe.
For a long time I’ve wondered why this is: why is God so opposed to us making images to represent him? Partially I suppose that it may have to do with the fact that virtually all pagan gods were worshiped with images and this served as a distinction. But, I think it goes much deeper than that. In the beginning, God created man in His image. This is not just to say that “we look like Him”, or as a theologian I recently read suggested, that things like our “logic” are a reflection of the mind of God, but rather is an indication of our primary vocation. As the people of God, we are called to bear and “be” his Image to the world. We are not to craft images to represent God simply because that is our role…to be the images that represent God. If we were to create representative external images, we would lose the sense of our own calling. We gather together in worship, partly because, in community, we are imaging the Living God to each other. Right now, in the wake of the hurricane, in places where hope is gone and God seems absent, our role is to be there…to be present…to bear the image of the Living God. This does not necessarily mean that each of us needs to individually go and be geographically present. As a community…as the people of God, we need to figure out ways to bear God’s image into those places…the image of God the Provider…the image of God the Protector…the image of God, the Giver of Hope and Life and Everything Good. If we are content to let anything other than the people of God bear these images for us, simply put, we are guilty of idolatry in it’s most insidious form.