I know I’ve discussed this subject quite a bit recently, but today’s passage is too good to pass up, plus it has some points we haven’t considered before.
There are two parallel themes in the latter part of Isaiah’s book, aside from the overriding arch of “God is coming to save you.” The first theme is God’s sovereignty, the fact that God is in charge of everything and everyone, from the largest nation down to the smallest child. Exactly how this works in conjunction with man’s will and choices is a mystery which the Bible doesn’t explain thoroughly.
The other theme—which actually builds upon the first—is the futility of trusting in and worshipping idols. It actually makes sense: Why would you worship idols instead of the true living God who's sovereign?
But Isaiah wants to illustrate for us just how foolish this is, particularly in today’s passage. In fact I know of no better place in Scripture that illustrates the stark contrast.
See the would-be idolater in action. He goes out to a forest to pick out the best tree. He takes an axe to it and chops it down. He hauls the fallen tree back to his house.
Here’s where it gets funny. Part of the wood he uses for kindling. He throws it into the fireplace or stove. He lights it. Then he can sit down for a while and say “Boy, that fire really is great on this cold day.”
Then he takes the rest of the wood, cuts a figure out of it, cuts a face onto it, decorates it as best as he can, sets it on a platform in his house and bows down to it. One half of the wood is burning in the fire place, while the other half is his god to whom he bows and prays and sacrifices.
It’s a block of wood. It can’t see you or hear you or think any thoughts whatsoever. It certainly can’t provide the rain or sunshine or harvest that you need. It can’t keep you healthy or enemy armies away from your door. It can’t provide children or fertile soil.
It’s a block of wood.
And even worse, it’s a lie. You believe in it, and pray to it, and sacrifice to it, all the while thinking it can save you. It can’t.
Only the real, true, living God can do that. He’s the One who provides the children, the sun, the rain, health, etc. The armies of the nations might rage and plot and march, but they’re nothing compared to the Lord of Heaven. And he'll take care of his people and protect them from any real harm.
But before we leave this poor fool, let’s spend just a moment more on idol worship. I’m pretty sure there are no blocks of wood in your home before whom you bow and pray. But what about money? You know, Paul said that greed is idolatry, not once but twice. Or how about putting your trust in your saving account to keep you safe? Solomon warned us a long time ago that riches can fly away in an instant. Or maybe you look to a certain politician to provide what we need? David in the Psalms has a word for us here: “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.”
But your response to that might be “Of course I don’t trust in politicians or anyone else. I trust myself. I can figure things out for myself.” Again, Solomon (pretty famous for his wisdom) has a word for you too: “Those who trust in themselves are fools.”
That’s the problem with idols, whether they’re a block of wood or money or a politician or our own judgment. Sooner or later they all topple and fall down.
But if you actually go back to the psalm I quoted above, you’ll see that David provides the sweet alternative to stupid idol worship: “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”
The sovereign God or an idol of some variety. Your choice.
Father God, I choose you. Right here and now, I choose you. When fears and doubts come, please confirm me in that choice. By your grace.