It’s interesting to follow the word image through the Bible. Right at the beginning we’re told that God made us in his image – male and female (Genesis 1:26-27). It’s something that’s not said of anything or anyone else in the created order. Human beings are uniquely made in the image of God – to reflect his likeness. It goes without saying that anything we make is by definition somehow less than us (no matter how complex and clever). That’s why it’s so offensive to God and demeaning to us to worship anything man-made – we’re bowing down and serving something less than ourselves. God warns us against it in the strongest terms, for our own sakes and for the sake of our relationship with him, as we see in the second commandment. The story from the giving of this commandment onwards is mostly a catalogue of God continuing to draw his people into true loyalty and worship, and human resistance to that, and often active constructing of alternatives to worship and serve.
At the other end of the bible, Jesus is referred to as “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), or as the writer to the Hebrews puts it, “the exact imprint of his nature” (1:3). In Christ we have the full revelation of God. So much so, that to worship him is to worship God, to listen to him is to listen to God. In the end, “every knee will bow to him, every tongue confess that He is Lord” (Phil 2:10). He is the real image of God – one in whom all the fullness of God lives. Worshipping and serving anything or anyone less is idol-worship, whether it’s an image on the shelf or in the head, or wealth, health, power, relationships, whatever detracts from giving Jesus his true place. At the most basic level, Christians are people who declare and live that Jesus is Lord. This is the abundant life, full of all that God intended for us.