This is yet another internet ‘how to’, but one that I don’t really want you to follow.
The Ten Commandments are on the lips of Moses just after Israel is saved from Egypt (Exodus 20:1-17), and forty years later as they finally get close to entering the land of promise (Deuteronomy 5:1-21). The forty year gap had a lot to do with Israel’s failure to follow the law, especially commandment number two.
Here’s the commandment, from Exodus:
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.
It’s a strong warning about idols, false gods, and not competing with the one true God. Through the Old Testament, Israel (very!) slowly seemed to learn this lesson, so they became known for their opposition to idols of all sorts. Paul’s revulsion at Athenian idols (Acts 17:16) shows a pretty standard Jewish reaction to false religion.
The commandment says: don’t worship as God that which is creation, do not honour made things as in any way like their maker.
Sadly, Australians fall into this false worship all the time. Here are the two common sayings I hear that prove it:
“The best place to feel close to the divine is in the bush/garden.”
“Music moves me in a way that’s truly spiritual.”
That is: God is in the world; or, God is in a human manipulation of the world. They (metaphorically) bow down to creation, or serve something made out of creation. They are the same as saying, ‘I worship the sun,’ or, ‘Here is the god my silversmith manufactured.’
Christians, of course, should know this error – it’s sin in a most blatant form. But we mess it up all the same.
So often we (ok, yes, it’s me!) make the error of thinking God is more close in a beautiful garden than a city street. Or that the experience of fine music leads us more directly to the experience of the Holy Spirit than the Bible reading in church.
These are terrible errors, sins most awful.
Jesus, victor over death and ascended to God’s right hand, is with his disciples always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). There was no mention by Jesus of ‘only in sweet gardens’.
I agree that singing and music work better when in tune. But we must remember that songs (any art form) do not mediate God to us. They are human responses directed to the God who is already with us – thanks, praise, honour, rejoicing.
We can be thankful to God for his good gifts to us. But to turn those gifts into ‘God’s presence’ is an assault the second commandment, an attack on God himself.