Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…
So says God in Exodus 20:4, and He has much more to say about it as the 2nd of Ten Commandments.
I think our tendency is to categorize those “graven images” as idols, dismiss the whole practice as ancient, uncivilized hocus-pocus, pride ourselves on our modern sophistication, and not give it much more thought. All the while, we live amidst a culture saturated with idol worship, mostly because it has become so trivial. People Magazine. Entertainment Tonight. And all their spin-offs, generating unending celebrity obsession. The scary part is, we often drag that same mindset into the church, build stages and spotlights, make heroes of pastors, worship leaders, singers and musicians, and hardly give it a second thought.
So where are the fuzzy boundaries between admiration, emulation, adulation and full-blown idol worship? I don’t know for sure. But here’s what I do know. The Bible presents a very clear picture of how not to handle it.
I love the Bible’s little side stories. The ones that seem out of context and don’t seem to follow the flow of the narrative. Here’s one of my favorites. In Acts 12: 21, Herod puts on his royal robes, sits on his throne, and gives a speech. The people shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” And immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
In contrast, I came across a situation where audience adulation was handled with profound perfection. I’m still not sure if it was coincidence or spontaneity (and, by the way, I love how God often orchestrates “coincidence”), but here’s what happened. Jonny Lang is a bona fide blues guitarist who looks like he should be in a boy band, but he has the guitar chops to be considered among the elite of his craft. On his Live at the Ryman album, Jonny is noodling around with a tender, contemplative solo guitar intro for his song, “Breaking Me” when (at 1:18) a couple girls from the audience scream out a clearly well-rehearsed, “We love you, Jonny!” The rest of the audience breaks into hoots, hollers, claps and laughter. Jonny breaks into a heartfelt instrumental of “I Love You Lord.” You can almost hear Jonny’s heart cry through each guitar note…
I love You Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You, o my soul rejoice
Take joy my King in what You hear
Let it be a sweet sweet sound in Your ear
I don’t know how many people in the audience recognized the song. I don’t know if anyone recognized the irony. But at least One did. And I’m sure He took joy in what He heard. The sweet, sweet sound of Jonny Lang rejoicing in his King.
Hear the whole thing unfold for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYyC-QAHrSQ
Let’s not get caught up in thinking that we’re so beyond the Second Commandment that we miss the clear message of the First.