A Discourse on the Foolishness of Idols

Isaiah 44

9How foolish are those who manufacture idols to be their gods. These highly valued objects are really worthless. They themselves are witnesses that this is so, for their idols neither see nor know. No wonder those who worship them are put to shame. 10Who but a fool would make his own god—an idol that cannot help him one bit! 11All who worship idols will stand before the LORD in shame, along with all these craftsmen—mere humans—who claim they can make a god. Together they will stand in terror and shame.

12The blacksmith stands at his forge to make a sharp tool, pounding and shaping it with all his might. His work makes him hungry and thirsty, weak and faint. 13Then the wood-carver measures and marks out a block of wood, takes the tool, and carves the figure of a man. Now he has a wonderful idol that cannot even move from where it is placed! 14He cuts down cedars; he selects the cypress and the oak; he plants the cedar in the forest to be nourished by the rain. 15And after his care, he uses part of the wood to make a fire to warm himself and bake his bread. Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it and makes himself a god for people to worship! He makes an idol and bows down and praises it! 16He burns part of the tree to roast his meat and to keep himself warm. 17Then he takes what’s left and makes his god: a carved idol! He falls down in front of it, worshiping and praying to it. “Rescue me!” he says. “You are my god!”

18Such stupidity and ignorance! Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see. Their minds are shut, and they cannot think. 19The person who made the idol never stops to reflect, “Why, it’s just a block of wood! I burned half of it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. How can the rest of it be a god? Should I bow down to worship a chunk of wood?” 20The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes. He is trusting something that can give him no help at all. Yet he cannot bring himself to ask, “Is this thing, this idol that I’m holding in my hand, a lie?”


The Daily DAVEotional

In this chapter of Isaiah, the prophet goes to considerable lengths to explain the process and foolishness of fashioning an idol out of wood and then worshiping it as your god.

Who in their right mind would take a block of wood, using some of it to heat their home and cook their food while fashioning an idol out of the remaining portion, which they then worship as their god? It makes ZERO sense. Isaiah goes so far as to call it “stupidity and ignorance!”

Why would people do this?

For starters, the people living in the Ancient Near East did not have the same technological and informational understanding that we do today. It was quite common to believe in a regional deity as a supernatural being who had to be appeased or worshiped in order to gain favor and blessings that would make life livable.

For example, if there was drought, the people would appeal to the regional deity to bring rain. If crops were failing, the regional deity would be appeased in order to bring a favorable crop.

The god you worshiped and to whom you appealed was largely a function of where you lived, as it was a commonly held belief that there were many deities, each of whom ruled over a particular territory.

The fact that the Israelites continually forsook the Lord in order to worship Baal was because Baal was the god of the Canaanites, the people who occupied the land when the Israelites arrived on the scene. Though God had instructed the Israelites to remove the Canaanites from the land, the Jews never fully expelled the Canaanite religious belief system, which became a constant thorn in their side.

Today, there are still cultures that worship regional deities but most of the modern world sees this as foolishness, just as Isaiah has described. But that doesn’t mean that the modern world doesn’t still worship idols. We do. We are just much more sophisticated in how we do it.

What really is an idol anyway, and why is it wrong to worship an idol?

An idol could be defined as an object of substitutionary trust.

Think of the 10 commandments. The first commandment, which is found in Exodus 20:3 is “Do not worship any other gods besides me”. But before the Lord shares the first commandment, He prefaces it by saying, “I am the Lord your God who rescued you from slavery in Egypt.”

At the core of this commandment is a recognition of who provides for you and who sustains your very life. It’s a remembrance and acknowledgement of all that God has done for you, including deliverance from slavery.

When the Israelites worshiped idols, they were essentially saying that God was NOT the one who rescued them; God is NOT the one who sustains them: God is NOT the one who delivers them or protects them or cares for them.

We do the same thing – we just attribute our trust to things other than carved wooden idols.

If an idol is an object of substitutionary trust, what are people today most likely to put their trust in instead of God?

Themselves!

The most common idol that people trust for their success, deliverance and provision is themselves. Many people have become their own gods. They alone determine their destiny. They alone can provide for themselves and their family. They alone are the masters of their own fate. They alone determine what they believe to be right and wrong.

In our modern culture, we no longer take a block of wood and use some of it for heating while fashioning a portion into an idol that we then worship. Instead, we simply reject God as the ultimate standard of right and wrong, while denying God’s involvement in our lives, His sovereignty in the world and His right to receive worship as the one who created us.

In short, we magnify and glorify ourselves and others, who serve as our means of trust to provide for us, deliver us, protect us, and bless us! It may not be as obvious as creating our god from a block of wood, but nonetheless, it’s just as foolish!

Reflection

What do you think of the author’s definition of an idol as a substitutionary object of trust? Do you agree with it? Why or why not?

What are the things that you are most likely to trust to provide for you, care for you and deliver you in place of God?

What can you do to ensure that God has His rightful place in your life and that you worship Him and Him alone? What steps can you take; what practices can you implement?

 

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

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