A daily devotion for February 19th
The Lord, Not Idols
6 “This is what the Lord says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.
7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come—
yes, let them foretell what will come.
8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”
9 All who make idols are nothing,
and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
they are ignorant, to their own shame.
10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
which can profit nothing?
11 People who do that will be put to shame;
such craftsmen are only human beings.
Let them all come together and take their stand;
they will be brought down to terror and shame.
12 The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.
13 The carpenter measures with a line
and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in human form,
human form in all its glory,
that it may dwell in a shrine.
14 He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
15 It is used as fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself,
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
“Save me! You are my god!”
18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
19 No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”
This is what the Lord says — Israel's King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.(Isaiah 44:6)
Critics of the Bible sometimes complain that God is constantly bragging about himself. But this is not empty boasting. It is simply declaring reality. It is an attempt on God's part to save his creatures from the folly and danger of following false gods. Today's passage goes on to describe the stupidity of the idol worship that the Israelites were falling into. The prophet describes a metal smith who melts metal, pours it into a mold to make an idol of it, and in the process he becomes tired. Isaiah points out what a ridiculous thing it is that a man makes a god who has no power to help him even while he is making it. Then he describes a carpenter who carves the figure of a man out of a block of wood, then uses the chips that he has carved off the block to build a fire to warm himself. He then bows down and worships the idol, seeking deliverance from something his own hands have made. What a ridiculous concept!
When we read a passage like this we are tempted to say,
Surely this does not apply to us. We are not idol worshipers. But we are really not that far removed from this kind of practice. As I drive to church on Sunday mornings I often notice people out in their yards worshiping a shiny, bright, metal idol. They pour expensive fluids into it, polish and shine it, and bow down before it. Have you ever noticed the change that comes over them when they get into it and take off down the street? Mild, inoffensive people, who never utter a word in anger, blast out of their driveways, leaving a trail of rubber as they depart, transformed with an illusion of power. One item we worship is the automobile, which to many has become the symbol of luxury, beauty and power.
Silicon Valley is one of the great idol-manufacturing areas of the world, shipping out computers, these strange machines with their flashing lights and weird symbols, to the worshipers of knowledge in the far corners of the earth. Many today worship the god of sex, thinking that sex will satisfy them and fulfill their needs. But the god of sex will not deliver them. It is true we do not have idols of wood and stone any longer, but the ideas behind them remain the central idols of the American people.
The prophet declares of the idolater, Verse 20:
He feeds on ashes; a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, (Isaiah 44:20 RSV). The folly of worshiping any god other than the true God is that people deceive themselves. They are left dissatisfied, feeling they have been feeding on ashes. The soul, as well as the body, needs food. It looks for that which satisfies. But those who look for satisfaction in drugs or sex discover that they have been feeding on ashes. They have been deceived, failing to recognize that there is
Is there not a lie in my right hand?
a lie in their right hand. The right hand is the symbol of what you grasp, who you look to for help. But those who follow idols are unable to see that they will not satisfy, but will leave a taste of ashes in the mouth. Many businessmen worship the god of power. They are climbing the corporate ladder to the top, seeking honor and recognition. When they have all they want, however, they will find it has turned to ashes. Many students worship knowledge. They feel confident that the wonderful things they are learning will help them control life. But it all turns to ashes. They do not recognize the
lie that is in the right hand. The only hope, as this passage makes clear, is found in the God who formed us.
Gracious Father, you are the only true God. Forgive me for worshiping the creation rather than the Creator, and teach me to bow down before you and you alone.
Life Application: The first commandment says we are to have no other gods but God himself. Are we trying to fill the God-shaped vacuum inside us with everything and everyone but God?
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