‘You shall not make for yourself any graven image…. You shall now bow yourselves down to them, nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, AM…God — visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy to thousands (of generations) of them that love Me and keep My Commandments!’ Exodus 20:4-6.
Calvin comments: “It is necessary…to remember what God is — lest we should form any gross or earthly ideas respecting Him…. It is wrong for men to seek the presence of God in any visible image, because He cannot be represented to our eyes…. A true image of God is not to be found in all the world…. His glory is defiled and his truth corrupted by the lie, whenever He is set before our eyes in a visible form….
“There are two parts in the Commandment. The first, forbids the erection of a graven image or any likeness. The second, prohibits transferring…the worship which God claims for Himself alone, to any of these phantoms…. To devise any image of God, is in itself impious…. As soon as anyone has permitted himself to devise an image of God, he immediately falls into false worship…. God is insulted not only when His worship is transferred to idols, but when we try to represent Him by any outward similitude…. He declares that He will be merciful even to a thousand generations; whilst He only denounces punishment on the thirds and fourths.”
Calvin says in his Institutes I:11:1-2,6 & II:8:17-21: “As often as any form is assigned to God, His glory is corrupted by an impious lie…. ‘You shall not make for yourself any graven image…of anything that is in Heaven’…. By these words, He curbs any licentious attempt we might make to represent Him by a visible shape…. He rejects, without exception, all shapes and pictures…by which the superstitious imagine they can bring Him near to them…. Whatever statues are set up or pictures painted to represent God, are utterly displeasing to Him…. There must be no pictures used in churches.” Jesus is God. Therefore, to depict Him in a picture – is forbidden!
Calvin adds in his Tracts and Treatises III:232,319 & 369 that in Exodus 20:5-6…, “the merits of deceased Abraham profited his son Isaac — and Jacob, instructing his grandchildren in religion…. The Lord, I acknowledge, visits man with His favour to the thousandth generation, as He has promised…. It superabounds in all manner of ways — so that, after freely stretching out a saving hand to fathers, it extends it also to posterity….
“When the Lord, by His Law, forbade idols to be reverenced or worshipped — He, under that head, comprehended the whole of the external worship…. The Lord therefore by His interdict does not simply prohibit His people from standing in stupid amazement…before wood and stone, but forbids any imitation of their profane stolidity in any form by prostrating themselves before images for the purpose of paying honour to them or giving any…indication of religious reverence.”
Yet the multigenerational God blesses 1000s who love Him – and keep His Commandments!