Isaiah 40:18–23; 41:5–7; 44:9, 18–20; 45:20–22comment (0)
November 16, 2006
By Jerry W. Batson
Related Scripture: Isaiah 40:18–23; 41:5–7; 44:9, 18–20; 45:20–22
Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
Live in Reality, Not Delusion
Isaiah 40:18–23; 41:5–7; 44:9, 18–20; 45:20–22
Most would protest that we are not tempted to engage in idolatry. Likely none of us would physically bow down before a metal, stone or wooden idol. The sin of idolatry is not limited to worshiping a physical object. Idolatry in our culture takes more sophisticated forms. Idolatry occurs when people elevate any person, thing or idea above the true and living God who is revealed to us in His Word. People can elevate their own reasoning, feelings or personal beliefs to the point of idolatry.
This lesson describes a time when God’s people pursued idolatry by bowing before gods of wood or metal. From Isaiah’s reaction to their practices and the consequences, we can appreciate the value of trusting God alone while avoiding any form of idolatry.
What Is God Like? Compare! (40:18–23)
Isaiah challenged God’s people to think about the differences between the one, true God and idols (18). By making a careful comparison, the people would be able to see more vividly what God is like. So the prophet urged the people to think about the process by which idols came to be made (19–20).
By contrast, Isaiah described the greatness of the true and living God (21–23). As the Creator who sits on the “circle of the earth,” God stretched out the heavens like a curtain. As the great King, He rules over the earth and all that is in it. By contrast with God in all His majesty and power, earth’s inhabitants are but grasshoppers. As the exalted Judge, God brings to nothing earth’s rulers and judges.
The calculated effect of calling us to compare God to idols and to contrast Him with human beings is to cause us to renew our vision of our exalted, unrivaled God.
What Feeds Idolatry? Fear! (41:5–7)
Isaiah prophesied about a future time when God would raise up a threat to His people’s complacency and security. In the face of this threat, the people would respond by increasing idolatrous practices. The driving force behind increased idolatry would be their fear of the unnamed “man from the east” (41:2), a mighty conqueror who is later identified as Cyrus (45:1). Isaiah predicted that in fear the people would join together to help each other craft more idols (40:5–7).
People whose religious practices are misinformed or superstitious tend to entrench themselves more deeply in those practices when faced with overwhelming threats and troubles, rather than abandon what does not help and turn to the true God who can help.
Where Does Idolatry Lead? Self-Deception! (44:9, 18–20)
Isaiah declared that idolaters were blinded to reality and guided by self-deception. Lacking discernment, proponents of idolatry failed to see that they made their gods from the same materials they used for ordinary activities. From one portion of a block of wood, they fashioned an idol and then used the rest of the wood as fuel with which they baked bread or roasted meat. To fall before such an idol is to worship that which can be reduced to ashes — both the half used for the idol and that used for a cooking fire. Such idolatry was based on self-deception. In fact, all idolatry, including that of the more sophisticated variety, blinds and deceives.
Who Can Save? God Alone! (45:20–22)
Through Isaiah, God challenged those who worshiped idols to reject their false gods. He called idolaters to recognize their gods had to be carried by their worshipers. Praying to manmade gods amounted to praying to that which cannot save. God called on the people to turn to Him for salvation — a righteous and unrivaled God who is a Savior. There is none beside Him. God alone can save.
For some, belief in the true God has been displaced with a modern form of idolatry described as humanistic relativism. This says everybody creates their own reality based on their chosen “truth.” The Bible would label this as idolatry. Whether idolatry is simple or sophisticated, God calls us to avoid idolatrous delusions and live in reality.