Are altars and idols forbidden by God in the Bible?

Hello J,

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The good Lord forbids idolatry in the first and second Commandments:

“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—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 upon 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 20:3-6).

As the first commandment emphasizes the fact that there is but one God, in protest against the worship of many gods, the second places emphasis upon His spiritual nature (John 4:24), in disapproval of idolatry and materialism.

The error of idolatry lies in the fact that idols are merely the product of human skill, and therefore inferior to man and subject to him (Hosea 8:6). But man can truly engage in worship only by directing his thoughts to One greater than himself. The threefold division here and elsewhere (sky, earth, and water) covers the entire physical universe. Therefore, no idols should be made to any of these divisions.

God refuses to share His glory with idols (Isa. 42:8; 48:11). He declines the worship and service of a divided heart (Ex. 34:12–15; Deut. 4:23, 24; 6:14, 15; Joshua 24:15, 19, 20). Jesus Himself said, “No man can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24). Neither Jesus, the disciples or any of the prophets bowed down to idols or persons but to God alone. Worship-prayer, bowing and adoration are God’s only.

However, this commandment does not necessarily prohibit the use of sculpture and painting in religion. The artistry and representation employed in the construction of the sanctuary (Ex. 25:17–22), in Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6:23–26), and in the “brasen serpent” (Num. 21:8, 9; 2 Kings 18:4) clearly prove that the second commandment does not proscribe religious illustrative material. What is condemned is the reverence, adoration, the worship, or quasi worship, which multitudes in many lands give to religious images and pictures.

When John bowed before the angel, the angel refused His homage saying, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). John wanted to bow the knee and worship the angel.  But the angel told him not to do that because he was a fellow creature.  If the angel said that he was a fellow creature like John, and that John was not to bow to him, then neither should anyone else bow to an angel, idol or creature so as to offer worship.

In His service,

ProofDirectoryTeam

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