Friday, April 12, 2013

Your God is too small

Lev 26:1-13  You shall make for yourselves no idols and erect no carved images or pillars, and you shall not place figured stones in your land, to worship at them; for I am the LORD your God.  You shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.  If you follow my statutes and keep my commandments and observe them faithfully,  I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall overtake the vintage, and the vintage shall overtake the sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and live securely in your land.  And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid; I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword shall go through your land.  You shall give chase to your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.  Five of you shall give chase to a hundred, and a hundred of you shall give chase to ten thousand; your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.  I will look with favour upon you and make you fruitful and multiply you; and I will maintain my covenant with you.  You shall eat old grain long stored, and you shall have to clear out the old to make way for the new.  I will place my dwelling in your midst, and I shall not abhor you.  And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people.  I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be their slaves no more; I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

The first verse of Leviticus 26 echoes the first verses of the Ten Commandments.[1] While these verses speak of “idols” and “carved images”, this is not an objection to the creativity of artists or stone carvers. The core issue is about limiting our understanding of God. The moment we try to “draw God”, or to carve a representation of God, is the moment that we reduce God to the limits of our understanding. God the Unknowable, the Unexpected, the Unexplained, the Wholly Other cannot be captured in visible form. Therefore the commandment is not about carvings – but is rather about limiting our picture of God.

There are also other ways of limiting God. We can limit God through the use of images:

·         “God our Father”, while offering a concept of love, also limits God to being male! And God is far more than the limitations of a male.

·         Some refer to God as “the Old Man upstairs”: again, God is far more than a benevolent grandfather.

·         Some have God pegged as a vengeful tyrant, who will obliterate all who do not follow Jesus. But this image falls short of the God of Grace.

Let us not be guilty of making our God suitable to ourselves – literally making God in our own image.  The challenge for today is to be reminded that God is bigger than anything we can imagine.


Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

Walter Chalmers Smith[2]

Third Sunday of Easter
The Lord is with us
Scripture reading taken from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants p.154



[1] See Exodus 20:1-5.

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