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The first two of the Ten Commandments read as follows:
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
“You shall not bow down to them or worship them . . .” (Exodus 20.2-5)
The logic of why God commanded people to observe these two instructions will be evident as we consider Isaiah’s words in today’s article.
The Foolishness of Idolatry
The ancient world believed that their gods were an inherent part of trees, water, large fish, and heavenly bodies.
For example, since their god resided in a tree, they would make a symbol of their god as an object of worship.
With mocking sarcasm, Isaiah described the idol-making process to compare the gods of the neighboring nations to the Holy One of Israel.
To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?
An idol? — A workman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold,
and casts for it silver chains.
As a gift one chooses mulberry wood
— wood that will not rot —
then seeks out a skilled artisan
to set up an image that will not topple. (Isaiah 40.18-20)
It makes no sense to worship something that we create when the Creator is available. It is especially foolish to worship something that will eventually rot and fall if not secured properly.
Jesus didn’t use the word “idol” when he spoke about material goods, but the term would have easily fit his thoughts.
He counseled his hearers, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6.19-21).
Our treasures – a house, a car, a bank account, and a wardrobe – will all wear out and fail us.
In the same sermon, Jesus taught, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.
“You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6.24).
We may laugh at Isaiah’s depiction of the foolish idol worshipers, but we must reflect on the modern equivalent of ancient idols – money, power, sports, houses, cars, and the like.
Here is Your God!
Isaiah exhorted Jerusalem to proclaim, “Here is your God!” He then described the awesome attributes of God.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to live in . . . (Isaiah 40.21-22)
The gods of the earth-based religions could never compare to the One True God, who is completely separate from creation. He is the only Being who stands outside of creation as its Creator.
The word, “holy,” describes God’s total otherness. He is “other than” creation because he is the Creator.
To make an idol or a physical representation of God is to bring God down to the level of the created order.
Note, God’s holiness also includes his moral character. He is “other than” all humans in the grandeur of character, being righteous, just, loving, and more.
Since God is God, it is no wonder that he has power over the so-called mighty ones of the earth.
Who brings princes to naught,
and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.
Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows upon them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble. (Isaiah 40.23-24)
Prideful, arrogant, self-sufficient humanity is nothing more than withered grass that is easily blown away. Only God and those committed to him are permanent.
God rules over kings and princes, but he also created and controls the heavenly bodies.
To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing. (Isaiah 40.25-26)
Ancient religions worshiped the sun, moon, and stars. The Hebrew faith declared that God was not part of the sun, but he was the Creator of the sun and all of the other heavenly bodies.
For God to name the heavenly host meant that he had authority over them. This means that God is transcendent over all creation and literally “stands” outside of our universe.
The Holy God – Our Friend
I hope I have been able to convey a sense of God’s majesty in this article. He is truly majestic and worthy of awe and worship.
The same God who is beyond all of the created order desires to be our friend. Jesus said, “I have called you friends” (John 15.15).
About This Blog
Rudy Ross is an excellent student of Isaiah. Rudy and I have a video you can see on the Bob Spradling YouTube Chanel.
Rudy will bring a different dimension to Isaiah than what is in my blog. I hope you will check out and enjoy my interviews with him.
I am indebted to a book by Dr. John Oswalt on Isaiah for his insights into this powerful book.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist prayer team will pray for you.