“You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God (Ex 20:4-5). These are the two verses that are used TIME AND TIME AGAIN, against the Old and New Testament saints and against Christian statues. The problem with this is that in the context, God was not speaking against bowing down to Saints or Christian statues. The bowing and down and worshiping is against Pagan gods. And the reason we know this is because in verse 3, it says so. “You shall not have OTHER GODS beside me.”
So what do they do about verse 3, OTHER GODS? They don’t bring it up; they leave it out. I began to realize that they leave it out because the moment that you include the context OTHER GODS, you can no longer use this against Saints, Mary and Christian symbols. Here is the part that absolutely fascinated me; when I would bring it to their attention, they would still ignore the context and quote verses 4 & 5 and leave out verse 3, OTHER GODS, the context. My next question is this, why would they do this? The only thing that I can conclude is that they are coming from their tradition. They must believe this way because if it is not true, then they have to ask the question, what other false things have they been taught by their tradition? Many, many Evangelicals are beginning to see this intellectual dishonesty and this is why we have this huge exodus from Evangelical Christianity into the Catholic Church.
God is a Jealous God, but is he really so jealous that he would be upset with those who bow down to persons and angels who are his friends? Often times Exodus 20 is used to support the notion that we should not bow down to persons or angels, only God. After all God does speak against idols of other gods carved out of silver and gold, and that we should not bow down to them.
“You shall not BOW DOWN before them or worship them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a JEALOUS GOD (Ex 20:5). It is obvious that we should not bow down to other gods, but is it right to bow before an angel or another person. I have people tell me regularly, we should not bow down to any person or angel. We shouldn’t bow to Peter; we shouldn’t bow to Mary; we shouldn’t bow to angels. We should only bow down to God.
They are partially correct in that we do bow down to God (Jesus). “The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, 'Truly, you are the Son of God” (Mt 14:33). “Terrified, the women bowed their heads to the ground. But the two said to them, 'Why look among the dead for someone who is alive” (Lk 24:5)?
At the same time God did express his displeasure with people who bowed down to other gods. The name of two of these gods are mentioned, Baal and the Ashtaroth (Judges 2:13). They actually bowed down to them. The Israelite s bowed down to false gods: “They deserted Yahweh, God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt, and they followed other gods, from those of the surrounding peoples. They bowed down to these; they provoked Yahweh” (Judges 2:12). They continued to bow down to other Gods: “But even to their judges they refused to listen. They prostituted themselves to other gods and bowed down before these. Very quickly they left the path which their ancestors had trodden in obedience to the orders of Yahweh; they did not follow their example” (Judges 2:17). They followed other Gods and bowed down: “But once the judge was dead, they relapsed into even worse corruption than their ancestors. They followed other gods; they served them and bowed before them and would not give up the practices and stubborn ways of their ancestors at all” (Judges 2:19).
Why did the Lord object to these examples of bowing down? They were clearly violating the first commandment “I am the Lord your God you shall not have other gods beside me.” They were bowing down to OTHER GODS (Ex 20:3).
Some people object to bowing down bowing before others because Peter rejected it. Here is one person objection; Peter did not accept worship or people bowing down to him, why do people think it's OK to bow to the pope or statues? These were the verses that were cited as definitive proof that you cannot bow before anyone but god. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. Peter, however, raised him up, saying, "Get up. I myself am also a human being" (Acts 10:20:25-26).
The reason that Peter did not accept the bowing down is because Cornelius thought Peter was a god. Why would Cornelius think Peter was a god? If you back up a few verses you will notice that Cornelius was directed by an Angel to summon Peter. "Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, respected by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to summon you [Peter] to his house and to hear what you have to say." Having been directed by the angel to summon Peter, he thought that Peter was a god rather than a human being.
So when Cornelius bowed down to Peter, he thought he was bowing to another god. This is why Peter objected; it would not be proper to bow down to another god other than the one true God; “You shall not have OTHER GODS beside me” (Exodus 20:3). The reason we know that Cornelius thought Peter was another god is because Peter had to explain to him “Get up. I myself am a HUMAN BEING” (Acts 10:26). And so it is clear that Cornelius thought Peter was another god. So the question here is this; is it proper to bow before a person when you know the person is not another god? The answer is yes. There are many examples in the Bible where people were bowed down and it didn’t evoke the anger of God.
Abraham bows to three of the Lords angels: “He looked up, and there he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them, and bowed to the ground” (Gen 18:2). Lot bows to the ground in front of two angels: “When the two angels reached Sodom in the evening, Lot was sitting at the gate of Sodom. As soon as Lot saw them, he stood up to greet them, and bowed to the ground” (Gen 19:1) Abram bows to the Hittites: “At this, Abraham rose and bowed low to the local people, the Hittites” (Gen 7:23). Joseph’s brothers’ bow to Joseph: “It was Joseph, as the man in authority over the country, who allocated the rations to the entire population. So Joseph's brothers went and bowed down before him, their faces touching the ground” (Gen 42:6). Solomon bows to his mother: “So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him about Adonijah; the king got up to meet her and bowed before her; he then sat down on his throne; a seat was brought for the king's mother, and she sat down on his right” (1 Kings 2:19).
Abraham and Lot bow down to angels; Abraham bows to the local people; Joseph’s brothers’ bow down to Joseph; and Solomon pays homage to his mother by bowing to her. At no time was God provoked. He did not express His anger. Why wasn’t God angry with them for this? The answer is simple; the persons and angels were not other gods. The people were showing respect.
In the first three examples God was provoked because the people were bowing down to OTHER GODS (Baal and the Ashtaroth) which is for bidden in Exodus, “You shall not have OTHER GODS besides me” (Ex 20:3). In the other six examples God was not provoked to anger because these people were bowing down to friends of the one true God. Note that they were not in violation of Exodus 20, and the first commandment, because they were not bowing down to OTHER GODS. And so it is true that God is a Jealous God (Ex 20:5), but He is not so jealous that He is jealous of His friends. He is only jealous in the context of OTHER GODS.
Some people are using Exodus out of context. They quote Exodus, “You shall not BOW DOWN before them or worship them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God’ (Ex 20:5). And then they say “you cannot bow down to anyone but God.” However; Exodus 20:5 does not prohibit the bowing down to people and angels of the one true God. When they quote Exodus 20:5, they conveniently leave out Exodus 20:3, because this clearly shows the prohibition is limited to the bowing down to OTHER GODS and not the people and angels of the one true God.
Exodus 20:5 is also used, by some, against Mary to show that we should not bow down to her or pay her homage. Mary does not fit the context because she is not an OTHER GOD, but the Mother of God (Jesus). Remember Solomon paid homage to his mother by bowing down to her; “So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him about Adonijah; the king got up to meet her and bowed before her; he then sat down on his throne; a seat was brought for the king's mother, and she sat down on his right (1 Kings 2:19). If Solomon can pay his mother homage, then it is even better that we should pay Jesus’ Mother Mary, homage. If the King can provide a seat for his mother on his right, then all the more that we should provide a seat for Jesus’ mother Mary, in our houses. If there are some who have a problem with this, please take it up with Solomon. I am sure he would love to hear from you.