In Isaiah 44:9-23 the prophet is on a rant against idolatry. It is a diatribe against idols. And it is one we need to hear, for idols not far from any one of us.
The great irony in Isaiah’s words is that while the Israelites had chosen god’s which they have “made” with their own hand (or minds), it is the true and living God who has “made” them!
Notice the emphasis …
- “All who fashion idols … Who fashions a god … He fashions it with hammers …” (vv.9, 10, 12)
- “Thus says the LORD who made you . . . I formed you . . . Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb …” (43:2; 44:21, 24)
All of the words in bold render the same Hebrew word which means “to make.”
The cure for idolatry says Isaiah, is found first in what the Lord Himself has done (redemption) and then in our response to it …
“Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.” (44:21)
“I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (44:22)
“Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD have redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.” (44:23)
Idolatry (whatever form it may take) is, then, fundamentally …
1. A departure from reality. Remembering is a function of our intellect, our minds, of our brains. This should tell us that long before a person “fashions” an idol with his hands, he has already “fashioned” it in his thoughts. We in the Western world who tend not to indulge in “classic idolatry,” fashioning gods with our hands and bowing down to them, are no less in danger of idolatry than those in the 2/3’s world who may have a greater proclivity toward physical idols. We do well to ponder just how we fashion gods with our thoughts, assumptions, reasoning and goals. We need to “remember” the reality that God has formed us before we have formed our gods. He has redeemed us to make us His servants. While we may have forgotten God, we “will not be forgotten” by Him!
2. A deluded journey. Because of a miscalculation in thinking about reality (imagining a world with the Lord God defined out of the equation), we have undertaken a deluded journey. The only answer is to turn around and return to the truth, thus changing our journey. This is possible only because even while we were delusional, God redeemed us for Himself and blotted out our sins.
3. A dungeon of despair. Instead of the joy of worshiping offered to the true God who redeemed us by His grace, we are entombed to a life of marionette, puppet gods. We hold them up, we manipulate their strings … and we have no one over us to rescue and redeem us, the future is up to us and our efforts to make the gods we have fashioned “perform” according to our desires. There is no higher purpose, just our whims and wishes sought through manipulations of hunks of wood, stone and metal that we ourselves have fashioned. Worship thus becomes about manipulation, not joy.
So let us remember Him who has fashioned and redeemed us. Let us return to Him even now, through His Son, Jesus. Let us rejoice in the grace freely given through Jesus and by which the Father will receive us.