When speaking with some of my brothers and sisters in Christ the subject of Crucifixes, pictures of Jesus, a dove representing the Holy Spirit, etc. presents itself. This is even said to those of us who believe Christ's Real Presence in the Supper of his Body and Blood. This statement in the Decalogue springs to mind:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
(Exodus 20:4-6 ESV)
What happens here happens in many cases when it comes to Scripture. People will stop at the first part of it then formulate the idea from it. But that is not the entire story is it. One should always read at least the rest of the statement before reaching a conclusion. It is referring to the worship of an image rather then forbidden all art and such in congregation houses and homes.
“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.
(Exodus 25:17-22 ESV)
In the design of the furnishing to be included in the Temple the above item was to be included. Very intricate in detail. And he promised to locate himself there to speak with those serving him in the Temple. If Our Lord prohibited any images or artwork in worship places he would never have included this in the Temple.
Even more important in Holy Communion Jesus has promised his Presence in the bread and wine. So the charge of idolatry is wrong in this belief as well. Of the bread he said "this is my Body. Of the cup he said "this is my Blood of the new covenant. Firm statements that are to be believed not just shunted aside because we cannot comprehend them.
So how are we to understand this command about images if not the total prohibition? It is to have God describe himself to us. Rather than forever mulling over who God is and how he goes on being God he describes himself in all the detail we can ever hope to fathom. We would imagine a Holy God as One who would look upon a sinner as disgusting and would destroy him. If we were God we would take care of that sinner in short order. And of course God must be like we are.
Rather than that horrible image he loves the sinner, had himself pinned to a Cross bearing the sinner's sin and Resurrected for the sinner thereby Justifying him. In a word he has balanced the books for us. And this is done for each and every sinner that has been on earth, Every sinner on the earth today. And every sinner who will ever be on earth.
How are we to comprehend such a God as this? We will never comprehend him. Rather trust in his work. And live in the peace it gives. †