15“Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire,
16Beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
17the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth.
19And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.”
In this narrative, the story tells us how Moses started to impart the Law of GOD to the Israelites in the Sinai desert.
As Moses was told by GOD that he was not allowed to enter the promised land with his people, he prepared them to receive the Law and establish the worship Lord YHWH demanded from them.
Moses gave a couple of recommendations, which are the basis of the whole Law.
GOD gave the legislation of ‘Cities of Refuge’, where people who had committed homicide unwillingly, could enter one of these specially made compounds, in order to save themselves from the wrath of the victims’s family (Deuteronomy 4:41-43).
This shows concern for the welfare and justice in favor of all humanity, which is one of the two reasons behind all other laws that will come later.
But before this mandate, Lord YHWH, made to Moses an observation that demonstrates the opinion of GOD over this matter, and the importance of our reverence to GOD as first principle behind the Law system. The worship of only YHWH as GOD of the universe.
Moses warned the whole people of Israel, that the day they heard GOD speaking to him, they only heard a voice, and did not see any figure or shape or form, but only a dark cloud of smoke (Deuteronomy 4:11-12).
Lord YHWH HIMSELF pointed this out as a reason to command that no image of man, animal or star should be built, painted, or grafted in any way, with the intention of ‘depicting HIM’ in order to be worshipped (Deuteronomy 4:15-19).
Notice that in this case, it was not GOD’s intention to stop the people of Israel, abandoning HIM for other gods, but to stop them from worshipping HIM in a visible manner.
GOD is Spirit, but an uncreated Spirit. Not in the form of angel, or energy as we perceive it, but HE is a divine intelligence, totally pure and perfect and infinite, unable to be contained in any form of shape. To shrink GOD into a specific shape is impossible and blasphemous, because it implies that we can trap HIM into a container.
But also, GOD is the source of all life forms on Earth, in other universes, and in the spiritual world, of all forms, shapes and varieties.
To portrait HIM into a specific shape or into a particular form, will also imply a preference of one form, above all others, alienating GOD into one side of his creation, while implicitly rejecting the others.
GOD YHWH warned the people to abstain from doing such a thing, because HE is invisible, and HE is all forms, and none of them at the same time.
GOD identifies with angels, humans, animals and with the stars of heaven, among other millions of living creatures that we do not know yet, so that all of his creatures can relate to HIM, and at the same time, HE is none of them at all.
Finally, GOD who knows men, and HE knew, that apart from being impossible to depict HIM, as HE is invisible, any depiction of HIM, would attract the worship towards that object instead of HIMSELF.
The idea that a ‘figure’ attracts the worship to the entity depicted and not the object, is a pagan idea that is behind the idolatry of ancient Greeks and Romans, who worshipped Zeus images, even though they knew Zeus wasn’t in the statue but in Olympus. The same pagan idea that leads some modern Christians to worship statues of Jesus and GOD YHWH, thinking that GOD is the one who receives that worship. But according to GOD, that is not the case.
For this reason, Lord Jesus said,
“GOD IS SPIRIT, AND HE MUST BE WORSHIPPED IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH”