The Second Commandment has everything to do with the image of God. What does God look like? What does it mean for God to have a likeness, an image, a face? The First Commandment prohibits any other gods before the face of God, and the Second Commandment restricts how we conceive of that face.
Honoring God’s Image
After the flood, God commanded Noah to protect human life, and that those who shed the blood of man should likewise be put to death (Gen. 9:6). The reason given for this is that God made man in His image. If people bear the image of God, as God says they do, then their lives belong to Him and they may not be taken apart from His express warrant. It may seem strange to talk about protecting and honoring human life in conjunction with the Second Commandment. You might have thought this commandment is just talking about not making idols. Don’t make golden calves, people. But Jesus came to fulfill the law, He came to fill it up with glory, to fill it up with love for God, to show all the love of God in the law.
For God to speak of carving images ought to remind us immediately of God’s own image and likeness and that immediately turns us back to creation. God was the first one to carve an image: “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion of the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth…” Gen. 1:26-28) This means that when God created man and woman, He impressed His image on them. He impressed His likeness on them. Their bodies and souls, their language and work, their joy and thankfulness and creativity would all reflect the glory of God their Father. They would be the face of the God in the world, revealing Him, acting for Him and with Him to glorify the world, make it beautiful, and to fill it with more life, more glory.
The Fall: Idols & Icons
Of course sin enters the world and this mars the image. But this hasn’t eradicated the need for God to reveal Himself in the world. God created the world to be filled with living pictures of Him. In the early days after the Fall, God promised to send a son, a descendent of Eve who would kill the serpent and break the power of the curse of death. In those early days, the division between men was evident in the first sons of Adam and Eve: Cain and Abel worshipped differently and God accepted the worship of Abel and not Cain. And Cain grew angry and killed his brother and was cursed and driven from the land.
Conclusions & Applications
Jesus came to be the perfect image of God, to reveal God’s glory to us and to renew that glorious image in us. The promise of God is that as we worship Jesus, the perfect image of God, we are transformed from glory to glory by the working of the Spirit into that perfect image. And this necessarily means that we become more and more like what we worship. Man-made images, carved by sinful, fallen man will necessarily result in more marred images. Worship of God in Christ must mean ruling, creating, healing, blessing, feeding, teaching, and sacrificing for the lost and hurting. This is what God looks like.