Digging in Deeper: Isaiah 44:18-20

“They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.  No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, ‘Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten.  And shall I make the rest of it an abomination?  Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’  He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?'”  (ESV – Read the chapter)

This and the few verses on either side of it is one of my favorite passages in the whole Old Testament.  It ranks up there for me as one of the best in the Bible.  That may not be a very spiritual answer to the question of what this preacher’s favorite verse is, but read it again for yourself.  It’s hilarious.  No other passage in the Bible captures the sheer idiocy of idolatry quite so well as this one does.  And it does it with a sarcastic sense of humor that resonates really well with my own.

Look at what Isaiah is saying here.  Folks in his day who worshiped idols would do exactly the kind of thing he was describing.  They would take a natural resource, use some of it to build a house or cook their food or warm them on a cold night, and then use the rest of it to make an image which they would then worship as a god.  They would make something with their own hands and then worship it.  How utterly ridiculous!

Indeed, all idolatry is ridiculous.  So much sin falls into that category, by the way.  It’s not just morally wrong, it’s so out of sync with reality as to be worth lampooning because of the sheer inanity of it.  Idolatry is at the top of the pile here.  When someone is given to idolatry of any kind–and rest assured, we still practice idolatry today in this country, we just don’t usually bow down before statues in order to do it; our centers of worship are shopping malls, gyms, the internet, in front of our phones, in front of the television, at sporting events (especially those of our kids), and so on–that person is worshiping something created.  What’s more, it was created by people.

Why on earth would we worship something we have created?  If we have created it, what power could it possibly possess that we don’t already have?  What benefits could it bring to our lives that we couldn’t get somewhere else?  What wisdom could it impart to us that we don’t already know?  The answer?  Nothing!

No, the truth is that when we fall to idolatry, regardless of the form it happens to take, in the vast majority of the cases, what we are really worshiping is not some false god, but rather a reflection of some part of ourselves.  Whether in the form of a need or a desire or a skill or something else along these lines, we are deifying a part of who we are and elevating it to ultimate status.  We are giving ourselves the permission to scratch that particular itch to our heart’s content whatever the consequences happen to be.  The problem, of course, is that if you scratch an itch too much, you wind up with a sore.  Keep scratching and it will get infected.  Keep on after that and it can kill you.

In this, all idolatry is an echo of the original sin of Adam and Eve.  They made a god out of their natural desire to make morally significant choices as free agents.  They forgot that because of who God is, the most morally significant choice anyone can make is to choose to obey Him.  As a result, they bought into the serpent’s lies and did the one thing God had told them not to do.  They looked in a moral mirror rather than looking to the source of morality and worshiped what they saw.  We have been doing riffs on the same thing ever since.

The time truth about this world is that there is but one God and He alone is worthy of worship.  We are not.  No part of us is.  No other created thing is either.  And if we try, this ridiculously disordered approach to reality (also known as a fantasy) will deal death and destruction to us and anyone else who happens to be within our personal blast zone.  Let us set about, then, worshiping what is real–Who is real–and stay out of Isaiah’s crosshairs here.  Let us avoid, no, let us flee the idiocy of idolatry so that we can enjoy abundant life as it was always meant to be enjoyed.

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