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Rudy Ross and I produce a daily video that corresponds to these blog articles. It can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
When we came to Isaiah 44.9-20, Rudy wondered why there are so many references to the futility of idols in Isaiah’s book.
I told Rudy about one of my pastor friends, whose church leaders complained that he seemed to have only one topic for sermons. My friend replied, “When you start doing what I have been preaching, I’ll begin another topic.”
Possibly, Isaiah spoke so frequently about idols because the people were so slow to respond to his message.
Isaiah condemns the worship of idols and claims that no one profits from serving them.
He wrote, “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit; their witnesses neither see nor know. And so they will be put to shame.
“Who would fashion a god or cast an image that can do no good?
“Look, all its devotees shall be put to shame; the artisans too are merely human. Let them all assemble, let them stand up; they shall be terrified, they shall all be put to shame” (Isaiah 44.9-11).
Sometimes a list is a good way to emphasize the message of an author. This is Isaiah’s list of negative idol qualities.
— They are nothing.
— They do not profit.
— People who worship idols will be put to shame (mentioned three times).
— Idols can do no good.
— Idols are fashioned and made by frail humans.
The utter worthlessness of idols seems quite evident when we examine the idols of Canaan. Does Isaiah’s logic fit when we speak of American idols of 2021?
I am convicted when I remember that I was more emotional over the championships of the St. Louis Blues and the Chiefs than over the deaths of 1.5 million people from coronavirus.
How is kissing a trophy different than kissing the golden bull of the Canaanites?
What about political viewpoints? America is divided over politics more than at any time in my life. Are we willing to apply Isaiah’s standards about idols to politics?
The study of Isaiah has helped me come to some conclusions about the idols of sports and politics.
(1) If I am trusting anything other than God, then what Isaiah said about idols applies to me.
As a result, I choose to invest most of the energy of my life in my relationship with God rather than politics and sports.
(2) I still follow politics and sports, but I have decided that to know and do God’s will is the most important choice of all.
A Sarcastic Picture
Fox Business places the value of the National Football League at 91 billion dollars. In 2018 the NFL generated more than 16 billion dollars of revenue.
The 2020 election was the most expensive in history, spending 14.4 billion.
People are willing to invest vast sums of money in these two national pastimes. The question is whether they stand up to Isaiah’s sarcastic picture of idols.
He wrote about the construction of idols: “The ironsmith fashions it and works it over the coals, shaping it with hammers, and forging it with his strong arm; he becomes hungry and his strength fails, he drinks no water and is faint.
“The carpenter stretches a line, marks it out with a stylus, fashions it with planes, and marks it with a compass; he makes it in human form, with human beauty, to be set up in a shrine.
“He cuts down cedars or chooses a holm tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it.
“Then it can be used as fuel. Part of it he takes and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Then he makes a god and worships it, makes it a carved image, and bows down before it.
“Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he roasts meat, eats it and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, ‘Ah, I am warm, I can feel the fire!’
“The rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, bows down to it and worships it; he prays to it and says, ‘Save me, for you are my god!'” (Isaiah 44.12-17).
All idols all have similarities that reveal their weakness when compared to God.
— Idols are the construction of fallible and vulnerable humans.
It took two craftsmen to fashion a Canaanite idol. They got hungry, thirsty, and tired from their labors.
Sports teams and political parties are the construction of similar vulnerable and fallible humans.
— Idols are made with leftovers.
The idols in Isaiah’s example were trees planted by humans, used for various purposes, and finally fashioned into an idol.
After a recent event where a fan threw a bottle of water at an NBA player, Kevin Durant said, “Hey, we’re just playing a game.” How can we equate a game with the greatness of the One True God?
It may seem strange to paint politics with the same sarcastic brush as did Isaiah. I submit that politics is a product of human energy and human failings. The political process is important, but in no way should it receive more obedience than our service of God.
It is easy to see the foolishness of idolatry in 700 B.C., but it is much more difficult to recognize it as a part of modern culture. I have used sports and politics as illustrations because they are entrenched idols in America.
Even though I am the author of the article, I am by no means exempt from guilt concerning these American idols. I need to understand Isaiah’s message, just as I pray that others accept it too.
He wrote about spiritual blindness and idols with these words: “They do not know, nor do they comprehend; for their eyes are shut, so that they cannot see, and their minds as well so that they cannot understand.
“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. Now shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’
“He feeds on ashes; a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot save himself or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a fraud?'” (Isaiah 44.18-20).
Here is another list of Isaiah’s thoughts about those who serve idols.
— They don’t know or comprehend the truth about idols, because their minds resist the truth.
— They lack knowledge and discernment about how “man-made” and fallible are the idols that receive so much of their energy.
— A deluded mind leads idol worshipers astray. Idols cannot save us, because they are a fraud when compared to God.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I produce a daily video of these blog articles on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Rudy is Jewish, a Christian, and an excellent Bible student. The videos present insights from a dialogue with the two of us.
I am indebted to Dr. John Oswalt, who has written an excellent two-volume commentary on Isaiah for insights into the Book of Isaiah.
Please email your prayer requests to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist Church prayer team will pray for you.