In the last message, I was just starting to examine the command, the principles, of not creating anything that would resemble a god. I explained how most common religious symbols incorporated various animals and human-animal combinations. Some of these symbols and images were rather odd looking.
However, this is where it gets sticky. As I was researching the history of symbols, particularly ones that used animal representations, it hit me that one of my favorite and most precious symbols; one that I associate with my faith, is a fish — a sea animal. But unfortunately, Exodus 20:4 specifically mentions that we are not to make any representation of “anything on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline. Ouch!
I started wondering how many of us have the fish symbol on our cars, or around or necks, or on our bookmarkers, or who knows where else? And, I thought, well, certainly that couldn‘t possibly have any connection with the meaning of the second word. I mean, we don‘t worship that fish symbol.
But, I read and re-read the second Commandment. I looked it up and went over commentaries on the original Hebrew, examined Biblical scholarship concerning it. I visited websites and read various explanations as to the supposed origin of the fish symbol. I reviewed all kinds of articles in Christian publications explaining what the fish symbolized, and counter-articles refuting what others claimed. The more I studied, the more confusing the whole issue became — and the more wisdom behind Yahweh’s principle of the second Commandment began to become clear to me.
In the end, I had no doubts that the fish symbol, I so dearly loved, might be something I have to reconsider; it might be violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the principle of the second word? Have you ever seen that same fish symbol with little legs added and the word “Darwin” written in the middle of it? It has become a famous anti-Christian symbol to combat the Christian fish symbol. The idea is similar to capturing an enemy‘s flag, desecrating it, and then posting it to humiliate the enemy. So, not to be outdone, some clever Christian came right back with another new symbol that had a Big Fish with the word, ” TRUTH” in it, eating a smaller fish with the word “Darwin” in it. I guess, one desecration deserves another, right?
Yeah, I admit that it is rather funny. But what, exactly, does it demonstrate about the lofty position this symbol supposedly holds in our hearts when we are willing to fight over it, and even have to get into a one-upmanship game over it with non-Believers? At the very least, within the Church, the fish symbol most certainly has come to represent Yeshua, who, in case we have forgotten, is Himself God — the very same God who set down this principle of no images.
Now I have heard some Believers say that it doesn‘t represent Jesus; that it represents the religion of Christianity in general. Well, I can accept that; and I think most people see it as identifying the person using the symbol as being a Christian. I understand that. However, I can also tell you that millions, including myself, have, either consciously or unconsciously, looked at that symbol as representing Jesus Christ. And that is part of he problem: we create or use symbols that make us feel good, symbols that we feel very comfortable in justifying and rationalizing, and then don‘t consider just what it is the symbol represents to others, or even, deep down, to ourselves.
We can get awfully careless with these things as we try to create an outward identity for ourselves. Where most Believers get in trouble isn‘t that we intentionally set out to offend the Lord; instead, we take that first seemingly harmless if not entirely well-intentioned step and then eventually look up and ourselves a long way from the path of righteousness.
I am sure you have noticed that many variations of those symbols of fish. Some are just the bare outline of the fish. Others have the word “Jesus” in English written in it. Still, others have the Greek Letters that transliterated into the English alphabet, are I-X-Q-U-S, in the middle of the fish. BTW: Does anyone know what those letters mean? (answer) It‘s an acrostic. It takes the first letters, in Greek, of each word in the phrase “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior,” and forms a word. In other words, it undeniably identifies the fish symbol with Jesus. And, that word, in Greek, is Icthyus and it means — FISH! Kind of cool, huh?
So, it is hard to ignore that the symbol is indeed of a fish and that it concerns an awful lot of Believers, and that fish, as far as they are concerned, is representative of our Messiah.
I am not trying to single out the fish symbol, or any other symbols, this is simply an example of what we are doing; so catch your breath for a moment while I pick on something else.
I have also heard many of my Catholic friends defend their use of statues of Christ, in that they don‘t worship those statues nor do they think that somehow there is an essence of the Savior in those pieces of plastic. Yeah, maybe. But why do they adorn their gardens and rest on the mantles? I can‘t count the number of times I have personally seen people praying to that statue, kissing it, and wiping their tears on it.
If you turn to the book of Leviticus and study about the Wilderness Tabernacle, you will find that its design and the various altars and implements used in it, each was God-ordained and given in detail, to be constructed exactly as instructed. But none of these items were ever designed to represent Yahweh: not the Father, not the Son, and not the Holy Spirit. None of these objects were symbolic of the Godhead.
Their primary purposes were to teach Israel about the Lord‘s holiness and to depict a future reality — a foreshadowing of things that would be accomplished by the Messiah. If you study the Tabernacle, none of the symbols violate the principle of the Second Word: nothing in the Tabernacle represented animals, or sea creatures, or humans, or stars or moons or suns to symbolize God.
Yahweh designed everything dealing with the Wilderness Tabernacle, even the tools and implements and altars. Each aspect designed for a purpose, which was the teaching of principles and the foreshadowing of future events — not as representations of the Hebrew faith or of Him.
The Israelites could never seem to stop slipping back into worshipping idols. But worshiping a symbol isn‘t the only thing going on in the second commandment. Yahweh didn‘t say: I give you permission to go ahead and make these symbols of faith and Deity provided you avoid worshiping them. He said: First, don‘t make any symbols and second, don‘t worship any symbols. He gave us those two instructions because He knows human nature. Our Creator knows that once we make the symbols, we will inevitably begin to worship the symbols to one degree or another.
The problem, folks, is that we prefer to believe that in all of our modern sophistication, we can make or buy and use our own representations of God or symbols of our faith because we would never let ourselves look at that symbol as an object of worship, or as actually being God. However, our human nature continually demonstrates that it is unavoidable. The Israelites could never seem to stop slipping back into idol worship.
But worshipping a symbol isn‘t necessarily the only issue being shown in the second commandment. God didn‘t say: I give you permission to go ahead and make these symbols of faith and of Deity provided you will avoid worshipping them. He said: First, don‘t make any symbols and second, don‘t worship any symbols. He gave us those two instructions because, above anyone or anything, He knows human nature. Our Creator knows that step one, making the symbols, would inevitably lead to step two, worshipping the symbols to one degree or another.
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