Idolatry is about the worship of anything other than Yahweh. Any item we place in God's place. Even our ideas of what it means to be a "Christian" can become a form of idolatry. We become more concerned with "living right" and "following the law" that we are blinded to what is truly the truth.
Do not allow my persuasive writing style to overcome your skepticism: weigh my words, check my facts, and accept only what passes muster. Don't agree with me without first putting me to the test, which is your duty according to 1 John 4:1-3.
God ordered His children to construct these statues and images, but He did not intend for His children to worship them. God was using the images to help them to recall situations, to see places as holy and set apart, and to help them to open their minds and hearts and turn them back to God.
You see, an image is not an idol. There is a difference.
“An image is simply a spiritual ‘visual aid’ that is used by the faithful to increase their spirit of prayerfulness and devotion to God. An idol, on the other hand, is an image that is worshipped by the unfaithful in place of the one true God (i.e., the ‘golden calf’ described in Ex. 32:7-8).”
In the Old Testament, images of God were forbidden because folks had not yet seen God in human form. In the New Testament, God HAS taken on human form…an image that we can see.
“He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God…” – Colossians 1:15
“For in Jesus dwells the whole fullness of the Deity, bodily…” – Colossians 2:9
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life – for the life was made visible…” – 1 John 1:1-2
When we profess that Jesus Christ is Lord, we must remember that we are professing the Incarnation…that is, that God became flesh…flesh in human form, Who we could see, smell, hear, touch and (through the Eucharist) taste!
When we look upon a statue as we meditate in prayer to God, our senses are illuminated. We are not worshipping the wood, plaster, plastic or paint. The image, though, appeals to our sense of sight, aiding in our visualization and helping us to focus on the pure, consistent and holy life lived by that saint…like the Blessed Virgin Mary, for instance.
Is a Children’s picture Bible that includes animations and drawings throughout it, the worshipping of images? Those are images, too, just not 3-D.
Catholics may pray in front of a statue, but never to a statue…that would be idolatry.
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 nor 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 fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20:4,5).
If this passage prohibits pictures of the incarnate Christ, or of angels or our heroes in the Faith, then at the same time we're tearing down all the Bible flannelgraphs in our Sunday School rooms, we really ought to destroy our photos of our families, picture of a nature, political leaders, Americans worship the American flag, film stars , sports players snapshots of pets or the Grand Canyon, and the Statue of Liberty... Those are all images of things in the heaven or earth or water.
Furthermore, if this applies to all images—then even the picture on a driver's license violates it, and is an idol. So either every Protestant with a driver's license is an idolater, or Icons are not idols. Leaving aside, for the moment, the meaning of "graven images" lets simply look at what this text actually says about them. You shall not make x, you shall not bow to x, you shall not worship x. If x = image, then the Temple itself violates this Commandment. If x = idol and not all images, then this verse contradicts neither the Icons in the Temple, nor catholic Icons.
The Scriptures do command the Israelites to bow before the Ark, which had two prominent images of cherubim on it. In Psalms 99:5, it commands: "bow before the footstool of His feet...." We should note first of all that the word for "bow" here, is the same word used in Exodus 20:5, when we are told to not bow to idols.And what is the "footstool of His feet"? In 1st Chronicles 28:2, David uses this phrase in reference to the Ark of the Covenant. In Psalm 99 [98 in the Septuagint], it begins by speaking of the Lord who "dwells between the Cherubim" (99:1), and it ends with a call to "bow to His holy hill"—which makes it even clearer that in context, this is speaking of the Ark of the Covenant. This phrase occurs again in Psalm 132:7, where it is preceded by the statement "We will go into His tabernacles..." and is followed by the statement "Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest; Thou and the Ark of Thy strength."Interestingly, this phrase is applied to the Cross in the services of the Church, and the connection is not accidental—because on the Ark, between the Cherubim was the Mercy Seat, upon which the sacrificial blood was sprinkled for the sins of the people (Exodus 25:22, Leviticus 16:15).
We ought to distinguish between worship, which is for God alone, and honor, which we owe to kings (1 Peter 2:7), presbyters (1 Tim 5:17), wives (1 Peter 3:7), and indeed to all people (1 Peter 2:17), since all are in the image [icon] of Christ. We bow to honor one another and to honor our heroes in the Faith who are depicted in icons. We greet all the saints (Hebrews 13:24) with a holy kiss ...including the saints who are represented in the Bible and in icons. After all, there isn't a great chasm fixed between the living and the dead. That gulf lies between the righteous and the wicked (Luke 16:26), not between us and the living Christians who are "absent from the body and present with the Lord." Christ doesn't have two Bodies, one on earth and one in heaven; His Body the Church is one, and includes both us who are in the body and the "great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1).
Anyone who's read much of the Old Testament will probably recognize the phrase "golden calf". Aaron set up a golden calf and told Israel "This is your God who brought you out of Egypt!" In later generations, Israel's default design for an idol was a bull or calf. This was an image that had strong resonance for them - this is what a god "looked like" to their religious sensibilities. (For comparison, see all the Assyrian and Babylonian images of "cherubim" i.e. human-headed, winged bulls.) Prophets cried out against the worship of the golden calves; God pronounced judgments on those who set up these images for worship.
So what would you say if I told you these images were set up in the Temple - with God's approval?
It may be startling (to say the least) to read in 1 Kings 7:25 that the brazen sea - the huge 15-foot diameter basin in the courts of the Temple - was made with graven images of twelve bulls prominently displayed. This should tell us, if nothing else, that God is not displeased by the presence of pictorial representations in holy places. Even when, as in this case, they are graven images identical to those the Israelites periodically worshipped!
Of course those weren't the only graven images in the Temple. You'll also find:
Two fifteen-foot-tall cherubim in the Holy of Holies (1 Kings 6:23-28)
All the Temple's inside walls were covered with carved figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. (1 Kings 6:29)
The doors of the sanctuary and of the inner sanctuary were carved gold-overlaid images of cherubim, palm trees, and flowers (1 Kings 6:32,34)
On the Temple carts, images of bulls and lions. (1 Kings 7:29,36)
and of course the two cherubs on top of the Ark itself!
God sees the difference between graven images in general, and graven image to which one gives worship.
God has commissioned a number of icons. He commanded Moses to display an icon in Numbers 21:8,9 - God healed the Israelites from snakebite when they looked to the icon of the snake. It was not until a later generation, when the people had named this icon Nehushtan and worshipped it as a god, that it was necessary to destroy it (2 Kings 18:4). At another time, God specifically commanded Ezekiel to paint an icon of the city of Jerusalem and to treat the icon as a symbol of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4:1).
In many cultures outside the Western world, there is nothing strange about bowing to greet someone; in Mediterranean and Slavic cultures it's common to greet friends and honored guests with a hug and kisses on both cheeks, as Scripture repeatedly says, "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26). It's worth speculating as to whether that greeting with a kiss came to Christianity from the hearty Mediterranean cultures, or whether those cultures learned it from the Christians.
It is clear from the Old Testament that the answer to both questions is, Yes. While Protestants, however, object to the veneration of Icons, they typically do not object to the making or possession of images. If they did, they would not have illustrated Gospel tracts, TV's, or pictures... but aside from the Amish, one would be hard pressed to find another group of Protestants that consistently eschews images. Protestants do typically object to the veneration of images, but interestingly the arguments and evidence that they use almost always argues against any images of any kind, if the logic of their line of argumentation were consistently followed.
Illiterate people could look at the stained glass pictures on the windows of the Churches and understand the story. So not only were the statues and paintings beautiful and reverent, but they were also very functional. They told the Bible story and the Priest could point to them during his homilies. Statues and stained glass were, for them, teaching tools and reminders. If we walk around any classic sanctuary and we'll see the statues, each saint holding his symbol. A well trained Christian could learn the stories of all those saints, and pass them along to his children, even if he couldn't read. This also explains the classic format of the windows: a large central picture surrounded by a host of smaller vignettes. With proper explanation, one could learn the whole story of, say, John the Baptist, along with all important tie-ins to the life of Christ. These were not false images to be worshiped, but reminders of the story of Salvation.
Anything can be an idol if it takes the place of God. Most of the quotes in the Old Testament which forbid graven images are talking about images of false foreign gods. In those days the pagans were big on making golden calves and things like that. They would worship the statue itself as a god. (Ex 20:35) These Scripture passages are stressing that there is one God, the true god. It prohibits idolatry, which is the worship of idols and false gods.
However, in the early parts of the Old Testament, it is also forbidden to make images of the true God. In Deuteronomy 4:15-18 we read, "Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in any form of any figure ..."
The important word here is "Since," which is a provisional word. God had not yet visually revealed himself to mankind. However, Catholics believe that God did finally reveal himself visually to mankind in the person of Jesus.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation"
In John 14:9 we read: "He who has seen me has seen the Father"
In the Old Testament it is forbidden to eat pork, but in the New Testament the Lord says that all foods are clean, and he lifts this ban. Likewise, Catholics believe that when God revealed himself to mankind he lifted the ban on making visual representations of him. I think deep down most Evangelicals understand this, otherwise they would not be able to go to any movies that have images of Jesus in them. They would consider movies like "The Nativity" blasphemous. Nor would they be able to have children's illustrated Bibles with pictures of Jesus. The Greek word "icon", means image. Jesus is the visible image of the unseen God.
Note: This article is collected from various internet source.. Thanks to all the authors of this content!