Who would form a god or cast an idol
that does no good?
All its worshippers will be ashamed,
and its artisans, who are only human.
They will all gather and stand,
tremble and be ashamed together.
A blacksmith with his tools
works it over coals,
and shapes it with hammers,
and works it with his strong arm.
He even becomes hungry and weak.
If he didn’t drink water, he’d pass out.
A carpenter stretches out a string,
marks it out with a stylus,
fashions it with carving tools,
and marks it with a compass.
He makes it into a human form,
like a splendid human,
to live in a temple.
He cuts down cedars for himself,
or chooses a cypress or oak,
selecting from all the trees of the forest.
He plants a pine, and the rain makes it grow.
It becomes suitable to burn for humans,
so he takes some of the wood and warms himself.
He kindles fire and bakes bread.
He fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.
Half of it he burns in the fire;
on that half he roasts and eats meat, and he is satisfied.
He warms himself and says,
“Ah, I’m warm, watching the fire!”
And the rest of it he makes into a god,
into his idol,
and he bows down, worships, and prays to it, saying, “Save me, for you are my god!”
We like to think we invented sarcasm, but in reality it’s been around forever. Sometimes the prophets even used it in the service of God! This takedown of idolatry demonstrates the power of words to poke holes in our mistaken understandings of the world. You could summarize Isaiah’s argument like this: “So you mean to tell me this same tree you went out and cut down, this same log you used to cook dinner and keep warm, you’re praying to now?” Of course, when asked that way, the whole idea of idol worship seems ludicrous. But there are plenty of times that we find ourselves stuck in ways of thinking – about ourselves, about God, about the world – that are every bit as strange and nonsensical. We set up things, people and ideas in God’s place without even realizing they’re there. Often, the challenge is to allow the voice of the Spirit in, so that we can come back to what’s real.
For Pondering & Prayer
Is there something that you’ve allowed to become an idol by giving it more authority over your sense of happiness, fulfillment, or well-being than it deserves?
How have you created “idols” in your relationships with others by demanding they change their behaviors or attitudes before you’re willing to accept or engage them? Certainly, there are times when boundaries are necessary, but have you allowed preferences or ideas about “how things should be” get in the way of what’s really important?