We said last week that the Second Commandment has everything to do with the image of God. You become like what/who you worship, and idolatry always results in deformities. When broken images carve images to worship, there is always a downgrade. At the same time, God has not left this world image-less; He is not faceless.
Worship Replicates Images
The question is not whether but which kind of images. Images are inevitable: there will be children, children who bear an image and likeness. There will be children who bear the iniquities of their fathers to the third and fourth generations or there will be children who bear the mercy of God to thousands of generations. Within the Second Commandment one kind of carving is prohibited because it results in images marred by sin and the iniquities of their fathers. But another kind of carving is implicitly commanded which results in images of mercy. And the difference is grounded in worship.
What We Do
Theologians refer to God’s regulation of worship as the Regulative Principle. In its simplest form, it merely means that God is the one who regulates His worship. Our worship should not be something we dream up or make up as we go along. During the Reformation in particular, the refrain was that worship should be according to Scripture. But God speaks through His Word and Spirit in His Church, through the mouths and faces of His living, images. This gives us both a foundational insistence on the authority of Scripture for all that we do and a deep respect for the tradition of the Church. In that dialogue, there is a clear pattern of worship which we seek to imitate here at Trinity.
How We Do It
But it is not merely what we do in worship that matters, but how we do it. The writer of Hebrews says that our God is a consuming fire, and that means that when God’s people gather before Him, they are gathering in the presence of that Fire-Spirit. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord, and the fire of the Lord came out and consumed them (Lev. 10:1-2). King Uzziah attempted to offer incense on the altar in the temple, and he was struck with leprosy (2 Chron. 26:19). Throughout the Psalms there is this mixture of mercy and fear, joy and fear, praise and fear, beauty and trembling (Ps. 2:11, 5:7, 22:23, 96:9, cf. Eccl. 5:1-2, 6-7). And this pattern continues in the New Covenant (1 Cor. 11:30, Acts 5).
Conclusions & Applications
The only safe way to enter the Presence of God is under His mercy, standing on His grace. But this means that you cannot come here week after week to check off the box and hope that your children will somehow pick up the holy mojo. You cannot come presuming upon His grace. The Second Commandment says that there are only two kinds of children in the world, only two kinds of images, those marred by their fathers’ iniquities and those covered in another Father’s mercy. And that is what worship is all about. We are here hungry for mercy, starving for grace.