Against Idols: Isaiah 44:6-20
This post will cover Point 2 of the outline introduced in the previous journal entry.
Septuagint Isaiah 44 Quick Outline
I. God’s Provision for Old Testament Israel Isaiah 44:1-6
II. The Foolishness of Those Who Make and Worship Idols Isaiah 44:6-20
III. God’s Good News for Old Testament Israel Isaiah 44:21-28
Isaiah 44:6 is a transitional statement. Even though the last post (Isaiah Devotional 2.18) groups it with verses 1-5, it also functions to introduce the next section against idols.
God’s argument against idols begins with his own sovereignty and power. There is no room for any competing power in God’s statement of his own divinity.
6 Thus says God, the king of Israel, who delivered him, God Sabaoth: I am first, and I am after these things; besides me there is no God. (Isaiah 44:6 NETS Silva)
Then God issues his challenge in verses 7-8. Who is like God? If there is anyone, let that one stand and declare his case. God made humans a very long time ago until forever (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα). God has a plan he intends to bring about and he has announced it. If there are any other gods out there, then they should be able to state what will happen in the future. God’s people are his witnesses. Did any other god stand beside the one true God from the beginning? If so, then let them prophesy the future.
Who Is At Fault?
The challenge having been issued, no “god” came forward. God then turns his attention upon those who make the false gods. The idols are vain and worthless (verses 9-10). He calls their makers forward as a group (verse 11), so that they can be disgraced and put to shame together. But to whom is God speaking? Who makes these idols?
The text does not specifically state that Israel is the culprit. However, they are definitely included. God’s concern in this chapter is with his own people. He is not railing against the nations. Long before the golden calf incident, Israel had mixed idol worship with worship of their one true God (see, for example, Genesis 31:19). Isaiah 44:21-22f also indicates that God had been addressing his own people.
God’s approach in Isaiah 44:12-20 is to ridicule the absurdity of those who fashion idols and then bow down to worship them. The craftsmen use wood. The wood grows from trees, which God created. The rain waters it and makes the forest grow. The craftsmen find and cut the wood. But before they can complete their work, they become hungry. So they use the block of wood they have cut to build a fire on which they cook their bread. Then they continue with an unburnt portion of the same block of wood and fashion their idol. They say to the idol their own hands have made, “Deliver me; for you are my God” (Isaiah 44:17).
God’s indictment of these people is severe.
20 Know you that their heart is ashes, and they err, and no one is able to deliver his soul: see, you will not say, There is a lie in my right hand. (LXX2012)
What About Today?
Worshiping an actual physical idol is not so very far removed from reality. I confess that as a teenager without a personal, real connection with God and Christ, I once found a tiny, golden, plastic bird on the ground. I picked it up and began to worship it. I hoped against hope that this little plastic bird and my action of worship would be able to set my confused heart straight. Of course I knew better, but I tried it anyway.
I’ll give another example. As an adult Christian, I once had a friend who was as emotionally desperate and insecure as I had been. She called herself a Christian. We used to meet often to talk about the Bible. On one of these occasions, she stopped the flow of our conversation and turned to a portion of Scripture where we had not been. She read aloud, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3 ESV). She hastily explained to me that because she seeks God’s blessing, she reads aloud that verse every day. Then, she turned right back to the part of Scripture we had been discussing. She had no understanding that she was using Scripture in a literal-concrete way that bordered on superstition.
As God said in verse 20, people err when their heart is ashes. It is so difficult to perceive the deadness in one’s own soul. And no one can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
Verse 21 opens a new section.
But God yet again displays his compassion and mercy. He once again forgives Israel and calls them to himself. This is where we will begin next time, Lord willing.