Sermon by K.Peters, May 11, 2019 [To watch the video, click here]
You look like your mother! You act like your mother! You laugh just like your mother! You did that just like your mother! Have you heard this before? Or maybe you have heard these statements about another relative in your life. This weekend, there is a great emphasis and appreciation on mothers and motherhood, and it is important to honor and praise the women in our lives who have done and sacrificed so much for us, but we are going to go deeper; we don’t just want to focus on how we were made in our mothers’ image and with her mannerisms. We want to revisit our identities and focus on being made in God’s image and likeness.
From the beginning, God had a high calling for humanity. Let’s turn to Genesis 1: 26-27:
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
We were made in His image, after His likeness to have dominion or to rule over the animal kingdom and all living things on earth, and to tend and to take care of the earth. Let’s look at those two defining words in verse 26.
The word “image” in this verse in Hebrew is ‘tselem.’ It means resemblance, likeness and representative figure. The root word means ‘to shade.’ So we can put this all together and say image is a resemblance and shade of an original. Have you heard someone say that someone is a ‘splitting image’ of someone else? Perhaps you might have said that about a child after you have seen his or her parent. If you have said or have heard this saying, this is a great use of the word ‘image.’ This word ‘tselem‘ appears 17 times in the King James Version Bible. Interestingly, this very word is also sometimes used to describe ‘idol’ in a few Old Testament books.
Here are 7 other verses I found that translate the word ‘image’ as an idol:
- Numbers 33:52
- 1 Samuel 6:5 and 1 Samuel 6:11
- 2 Kings 11:18
- 2 Chronicles 23:17
- Ezekiel 7:20
- Amos 5:26
Let’s park the word ‘image’ to the side for now, and let’s go on to our next word.
The word likeness in Genesis 1:26 in Hebrew in ‘demuth.‘ It means manner, fashion, model, shape or similitude (similitude just means the state of being similar to something). It occurs 25 times in the King James Version Bible. We hear a lot about being made in the image of God, but not much about being made in His likeness. God formed mankind to be like Him in form and in character. It’s not enough for our children to just look like us; mothers, parents on the whole, hope that their children will acquire the noble character traits that they have and received from God. We love it when our little ones look like us, but we are more delighted when our little ones act like us (and of course I am speaking about when they do honorable things and copy our good habits/mannerisms).
Now that we have looked at the definitions of words ‘image’ and ‘likeness,’ let’s see if we are living up to our Godly identity that appeared in Genesis 1. So many individuals are having identity issues; the world is constantly trying to rewrite and erase the creation story, and also many Christians get caught up in the images of this world and the idols of this present age, but before we can look more in-depth at our present, we need to study our past. Let’s head back to the Bible.
THE FIRST 2 COMMANDMENTS
Let’s turn to the Ten Commandments. As we saw earlier, the word ‘image’ means resemblance and a shade of an original. This word was also used to describe the figurines and objects men made and worshiped. In Exodus 20, God starts the commandments in regards to worship. The first commandment (Exodus 20:3) says:
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
The second commandment (Exodus 20:4-6) says:
4 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.
5 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;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
(These two commandments says that there should be no other gods before Jehovah, and forbids the creation of images to bow down to and to worship/serve).
The Bible is replete with examples of man’s growing idol obsession. Instead of worshiping and honoring God, the children of Israel started to create and worship the gods they saw worshiped by other nations and kingdoms. One of the earliest example of this is found just a few chapters after the Israelites heard the Ten Commandments spoken by God’s voice in chapter 20 (and more clearly seen in Deuteronomy 5:22-26). Let’s go to Exodus 32:1-6:
1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the Lord.
6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
We can spend days, weeks, or months on these 6 verses, but we can’t. We will just mention them briefly. Have you ever thought about why a calf was created? Apis was one of the most important and highly regarded bull deities of Egypt. Some believe he was one of the first animals associated with divinity. Another bovine god in Egypt that was worshiped was Hathor, the cow goddess. [Taken from www.ancient.eu/Apis/ and www.ancient.eu/Hathor]. So the Israelites were exposed to these and many other gods of Egypt while they were enslaved there. In the book Patriarchs And Prophets, the chapter ‘Idolatry At Sinai,’ this is said:
“The people desired some image to represent God and to go before them in the place of Moses. God had given no manner of similitude of Himself and He prohibited any material representation for such a purpose. The mighty miracles in Egypt and at the Red Sea were designed to established faith in Him as The Invisible, All Powerful Helper of Israel, the only True God.” page 315
The children of Israel lost focus when Moses was gone. They revered Moses and saw him as the one who rescued them from Egyptian enslavement. They idolized Moses and when he was away from them, they created a replacement to worship.
OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES
What are some other Old Testament examples we see of image or idol worship?
- Judges 2:11-13 — The children of Israel forget God and start worshiping the gods Baal (supreme male divinity of the Phoenicians and Canaanites) and Ashtaroth (female goddess of the Canaanites).
- 1 Kings 15:11-13 — King Asa of Judah removed idols that his fathers had set up and also removed his mother Maachah from being queen because she made an idol in a grove as well.
- 1 King 12:28-30 — King Jeroboam of Israel had 2 calves of gold made (in Bethel and Dan) for the people to worship.
- 1 Kings 11:6-7 — King Solomon built a place of worship for the gods Chemosh and Molech.
- 2 Kings 18:4 — Hezekiah destroyed the brazen serpent that Moses had built (back in Numbers 21:6-9) because the people started to worship it. He called it Nehushtan.
NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLES
How about New Testament examples of idol worship?
- Matt 23:1-15 — The idol of Status and Works: Jesus spoke about the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, who sought the adoration of other men and taught others to do, but they themselves never did what they taught.
- Mark 10:17-23 and Matt 19:16-26 — The rich young ruler of these two Books told Jesus he wanted eternal life, but not at the expense of his riches.
Why do you think The LORD started the Ten Commandments with those two that we read? It is because He knows that by beholding the things we adore, we become changed into that thing (and start to look like that thing). By creating us in His image and likeness, God wanted man to look to Him to how we should live, act, worship and love; but once man sinned in the garden of Eden, he took his eyes off of His Creator and spent more time looking at the created.
IDOL WORSHIP IN THE 21st CENTURY
So now, we fast-forward to our time. Do we have an idol problem? Are we suffering from identity issues? We are bombarded by both.
We have two forces vying for our attention in this world: Good and Evil. Satan has many doctrines, distractions and devices to keep us busy and preoccupied with the things of this world. Even the wonderful blessings God has given to us, the enemy takes them and perverts them. If you think about it, it can be an idol: our careers, families, material possessions, social status, celebrities, athletes, social media personalities, business execs, political and military leaders, even our positions in church and preachers/evangelists (that we follow and go wherever they are preaching!) can be idolized too! The list is endless – but God sent His Son to remind us of our identity and of our high calling and where our focus should be.
Jesus lived Romans 12 so we would know how to do so. Let’s read our scripture reading again:
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
We are not our own, we are Christ’s by creation and redemption. We are twice His and He commands that we present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto God. You remember the sacrificial system? Clean animals were only accepted if they were free from disease and free from spots and blemishes. You couldn’t bring a sickly lamb to be sacrificed and think it would be accepted by God! It had to be the best of the best, that’s why it was a sacrifice. Jesus was our Lamb who came and took away the sins of the world. He is asking is to be living sacrifices, not conforming to the world’s standards, but be transformed by renewing mind. And verse 3 focuses on humility: not thinking too highly of oneself, but thinking soberly (and that word in Greek is ‘sophroneo,’ which means to be in one’s right mind or to be of a sound mind).
Media, marketing, billboards and social platforms are painting images and idols of every shape and size. If we spend our time glued to the entertainments and trappings of the world, we will start looking, acting, speaking and eating like the world. Mothers, parents and guardians: you are your children’s first teachers. They behold you and look up to you in every way. You invest time, money and resources in them because you want them to thrive and to be Godly leaders in the church, their schools and in society in general. How heart-wrenching it is when we have done all of this but they choose to go contrary to our leadings. How it must break Christ’s heart when we do the same.
THE SOLUTION: JESUS
How do we break free from the time-stealers and the idols in our lives? How do we help those who have changed the image of God into 4-legged beasts or deleted God and replaced Him with Mother Nature? How can be tackle the ever-changing identities in society? Jesus showed us how and we must spend more time studying His life and His ministry so that we can relearn ours.
Let’s look at Jesus’ life (as the solution for our idol issue):
- Jesus was subject or submitted to Godly parents – Luke 2:51.
- He spent quality and quantity time in prayer before He ministered to others – Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Luke 18:1, Luke 6:12 (Jesus spent all night in a prayer before choosing the 12 apostles). The more involved you are in ministry, the more time you should spend with Jesus.
- He memorized scripture to fight the enemy – Matt 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13.
- He always pointed back to His Father and always gave Him the glory – Matt 10:40, Mark 9:37, Luke 9:48, John 5:24.
- He knew some spiritual battles are only won through prayer and fasting – Matt 17:21 and Mark 9:29.
- He loved to mingle with others and sought to heal, cure and alleviate their conditions – Matt 4:23, Mark 5:22-43, Luke 7:11-14, John 11, John 8.
- He stayed focused – John 4:34 says “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work”.
When we look at ourselves, who or what do we see? Do you see Jesus or another god? Do you see Our Redeemer or your favorite musician or band? Do the Holy Words take up space in your mind, or have you filled your mind with your favorite athlete’s stats, scores and batting average?
Let’s remember who’s image and likeness we were made after. Study the life of Jesus more and follow Him fully. May our prayer be ‘take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee.’