Isaiah’s Sarcasm Regarding Idolatry

The book of Isaiah is full of the glory of God, displays of the sinfulness of humanity, prophesies of Christ, and the promises of God.  One of my favorite chapters is where Isaiah openly mocks the practice of idolatry in Israel.  The commentary bleeds holy sarcasm.  Pointed humor juts out everywhere.

Yet, before we jump too quickly jump into the “those idiots” mindset, Isaiah’s comments should cause us to pause and consider what created things we may be worshiping instead of the Creator.  What do we think that we can’t live without?  What do we think gives (or would give) us purpose and meaning in life?  What do we spend the most time and/or money on every month?  (For more on human idolatry, check out Timothy Keller’s Counterfeit Gods).

[9] All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. [10] Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? [11] Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

[12] The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. [13] The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. [14] He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. [15] Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. [16] Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” [17] And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

[18] 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. [19] 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?” [20] 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?”
(Isaiah 44:9-20 ESV)

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Rightly Knowing God

“There’s nothing more important than rightly knowing God and thinking true thoughts about him. But there’s also nothing I find more difficult. And that’s not for the reason you might assume…What makes it difficult for us to see the truth about God, I think, isn’t his overwhelming immensity but our overwhelming self-centeredness. Looking past ourselves is a lot harder than most of us realize. Many have never tired. In this way we’re a lot like the people walking past the windows of the coffee shop. Instead of looking through the window of God’s self-revelation and seeing him, we find it easier to admire our own reflection or to place on him the constraints of our own existence. We judge him by our standards of justice, fairness, power, and mercy. We even measure his greatness by our own ideals of greatness.”
-Joshua Harris (Dug Down Deep p 39)

When getting into discussions about God, or Jesus in particular, whether with Christians or non-Christians, one of the top questions that I ask is “where do you find that in the Bible?”.  I don’t ask this question to be a jerk or obnoxious (though some people may take it that way).  I ask the question because we all fall into the trap of imposing our beliefs about God onto God based not upon His self-revelation in the Word but based upon our personal preferences.  When we fall into this trap we end up worshiping a god made in our own image and according to our likeness rather than allowing God to reveal who He is to us and allowing Him to change our thoughts about Him to match the truth.

Can we humble ourselves to acknowledge God for who He is and not who we want him to be based upon our own (often self-centered) preferences?  Are we willing to submit to God’s self-description as spoken through the prophet Isaiah?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”
(Isaiah 55:8-9).

Snow Jesus

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18)

The earth and all that is on it is being draped with a thick blanket of white.  The imperfections of the sidewalks, streets, and lawns are disappearing beneath the layer of pure white snow.  Though I do not look forward to driving through the accumulating inches, from inside of my office I can’t help but be enamored with the beauty unfolding outside of my windows.

Paul’s letter to the Colossians declares that Christ is the “Firstborn of all creation”.  The Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 1 says that “Firstborn” is a “title that confesses the supreme rank of the pre-existent Christ as the mediator in the creation of all things.” I don’t believe that I will fall into heresy by saying that the latter half of the definition gives the implication that when we look at the world around us, there is something about it that declares Christ to us (c.f. Psalm 19; Romans 1).    Looking out at the virgin white snow brings to mind Isaiah 1:18 and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  Though our sins are blood red, Jesus shed His blood on the cross so that whoever believes into Him will be forgiven and washed clean becoming as pure as white snow.

Unwrapping The Gift

Sunday, December 13th marked the start of a new series called Behold the Man at UA Christian Assembly.  The first message, Unwrapping the Gift, opened with the picture of Jesus being the real and best gift a person could ever receive.  The rest of the message was spent slowing unwrapping the gift of Jesus using Isaiah 9:6 and Philippians 2:6-7.

Rain of Righteousness

This morning I read and prayed over an awesome verse in Isaiah:

RainingDrip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down righteousness; let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, and righteousness spring up with it.  I, the Lord, have created it. (45:8)

Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down righteousness. God is dripping and pouring down His righteousness from the heavens.  The earth is being covered and saturated with God’s righteousness.  How is this mostly seen?  By the pouring out of His Son, Jesus Christ the Righteous One.  By the death & resurrection of Jesus, God’s righteousness is poured out on the earth.

Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit. Salvation is offered to the world through the righteous outpouring of the Son.  We need only to open up and receive Jesus Christ through belief and we will bear the fruit of salvation.  God has freely offered us the way to be righteous.  All we need to do is open up and receive this freely poured out gift from God.  (Here I spent a lot of time in prayer that Columbus, OSU, and Upper Arlington would “open up” and that much fruit of salvation would be born.)

And righteousness spring up with it. Upon our opening up, not only is there salvation, but also righteousness.  While doing devotions with my lovely fiancee in the book of Romans the matter of us being righteous in Christ has really stood out to me.  Upon salvation, we are made 100% righteous before God’s eyes because we are in Christ, the Righteous One.  Even greater than this, is that this righteousness and salvation doesn’t stay put on the inside, but spreads out and affects our lives and our living.  We are not to be happy with “fire insurance” but are to actively seek out and cooperate with God’s changing us so that both in our position and our living righteousness is bearing fruit.  By doing so, our salvation & righteousness are demonstrated to the world through our lives.

I, the Lord, have created it. Once again we see the sovereignty of God.  It is God who pours out righteousness.  Apart from salvation in Jesus Christ, our righteousness is as filthy rags.  It is God who provides & enables our salvation.  We can not earn or ever do enough “good” to gain salvation.  It is God who creates the fruit of salvation and righteousness in our lives.  The power is from Him and not from us.  Yes, we can and must choose to open up to His salvation and His work in our lives; but we must never deceive ourselves and think that “we did it”.  All the glory and honor and praise and thanks must go to our God and Savior.


Idol Mockery

I was reading through Isaiah last night and came to one of my favorite chapters – chapter 44.  I think it is one of my favorites because it demonstrates God’s sense of humor in a somewhat-mocking fashion. Just look at verses 12-17 (ESV):

12 The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. 14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” 17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

Whenever I read this section I can’t help but start laughing.  Isaiah portrays an excellent picture of the stupidity of worshipping created things.  This is especially potent when you look at how God is described in the surrounding verses:

  • The One who chooses (v1)
  • The Lord who formed you from the womb (2)
  • Pours out His Spirit & blessing (v3)
  • We are those who belong to the Lord (v5)
  • The Lord, the King of Israel, the Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts (v6)
  • The first, the last, no God besides Me (v6)
  • Establisher of the ancient nation (v7)
  • Omniscient (v7)
  • The Rock (v8)
  • The One who will not forget us (v21)
  • Wipes away our transgressions & sins as the Redeemer (v22)
  • Shows forth His glory in His people (v23)
  • The Lord, Redeemer, One who formed us in the womb (v24)
  • Maker of all things (v24)
  • Confirms the word of His servant & performs the purpose of His messengers (v26)
  • Builder of the temple (v28)

It is actually a lot more powerful to look at all those things within the verses themselves (yep…you’ll need to open up and read your Bible).  It is a wonder that we would end up in idolatry with such an awesome God.  Yet, I think we slip into idolatry – when we elevate something or someone to equal or greater status than God by our actions, thoughts, time, etc.   What are some of the idols in your life?

Here is a list of questions from page 168 of Vintage Jesus by Mark Driscoll that may help us discover the idols in our lives:

  • Who or what do I make sacrifices for?
  • Who or what is most important to me?
  • If I could have any thing or experience I wanted, what would that be?
  • Who or what makes me the most happy?
  • What is the one person or thing I could not live without?
  • What do I spend my money on?
  • Who or what do I devote my spare time to?

College Life in Isaiah

I reached Isaiah 5 in my OT reading and couldn’t help but smile and think, “There truly is nothing new under the sun” when it comes to people’s attitudes and lifestyles.  In particular, I would guess that if a person paraphrased Isaiah 5:19-22 you would assume that it was talking about attitudes on your typical American college campus.  Take a look:

“Woe to those…who say, ‘Let Him make speed, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it; and let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come to pass, that we may know it!’God's Way Sign

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!

Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine and valiant men in mixing strong drink.”

In so many words Isaiah seems to say:  “Look around and feel sorry for a culture that says, ‘I won’t believe in Jesus until He physically shows up in front of my eyes or declares Himself miraculously (and even then I probably still won’t believe)’.  For a people who turn the morality and truth of the Bible upside down and declare immoral to be moral and moral to be immoral.  For a people who declare that they are smarter than God.  For those party animals and fans of party animals.”

That said, I don’t think that we should get too much into a head shaking and finger pointing mood.  Rather, we should recognize the Lord’s “Woe’s” and have a heart to see them come to the knowledge of Jesus as their Savior so that they will no longer be under the wrath of the Lord.