IDOLATRY MAKES NO SENSE IN LIGHT OF THE UNIQUENESS OF THE ONE TRUE GOD AND HIS PRECIOUS, IRREVOCABLE PROMISES TO THOSE HE HAS REDEEMED
Why are we tempted to trust in ourselves? Why do we doubt the sufficiency of our God? Why do we set up idols that compete with God for our affection, our loyalty, our time, our energy? Why are we not resting in the precious promises that God has put out there for the encouragement of His elect children of the faith?
Remember what an idol is: anything that replaces God as the object of our trust and affection and worship; anything that man lives for – could be money and material possessions – covetousness at its essence is idolatry; our career; could be power and prestige; could be the affirmation of people around us – so that our value system is governed by our peers – so that we live as man-pleasers; could just be the “I did it my way” individualistic philosophy of our age; could be sports or entertainment that consume our time and affection – that we look to in order to escape the pain of the reality of our broken relationship with God; could be our own deluded reasonings where we create a god after our own imaginations
IDOLATRY MAKES NO SENSE IN LIGHT OF THE UNIQUENESS OF THE ONE TRUE GOD AND HIS PRECIOUS, IRREVOCABLE PROMISES TO THOSE HE HAS REDEEMED
God’s sarcasm drips from every verse in this passage as He completely destroys the folly of idolatry – How could anyone be so stupid as to walk down this path – yet we do it all the time
1 Cor. 10:14 “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”
I. (:6-8) ENCOURAGE YOURSELF WITH THE UNIQUENESS OF GOD –
WHO IS LIKE GOD?
Fortify yourself; edify yourself; guard yourself with this understanding of who God is —
A. (:6) Unique as the Eternal, Self-Existent God – King and Redeemer
“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.’”
Typical fashion for Isaiah – as he sets forth the words which the Lord is speaking to His people; he piles up a list of identifiers as to who this God is; wants to get our attention; wants to emphasize the importance of what God is saying; wants us to focus in on our relationship with God
Intimations of the Trinity in this verse – the Lord and His Redeemer (always goes back to the memory of the Exodus as he causes us to anticipate even greater redemption that God will perform in the future)
There should be no competition to God; God has no tolerance for the false gods of other religions – does not speak favorably of those who trust in the religion of Islam or Hinduism or the Health and Wealth gospel or the Pharisaic error of Roman Catholicism with its reliance on good works and church sacraments or the dead shell of apostate Protestantism which has stripped away the guts of the gospel
Look at the sports figures who embraced a supposed transformation: Tremendous sports careers
Lew Alcindor – Kareem Abdul Jabbar – how many women does he boast of sleeping with? His only marriage lasted 6.5 years
Cassius Clay – Muhammad Ali – converted to Islam in 1975 — Ali has been married four times and has seven daughters and two sons.
No deliverance from the bondage and lust of sin and covetousness and idolatry
Not models to be followed or idolized
Constable: The same terminology used in this verse describes Jesus Christ later in Scripture (Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 21:6; 22:13).
Motyer: As first he does not derive his life from elsewhere (contrast the idols; verses 10-17) but is self-existing and self-sufficient; as last he remains at the end, supreme, totally fulfilled.
Oswalt: It is evident that as their King, God does not intend to let Israel be swallowed up in captivity. Instead, he will play the part of the near kinsman who will deliver his abject relative from the effects of misfortune and tragedy.
Darryl Klassen: The LORD is first in that he does not derive his life from anywhere else. He is self-existing and self-sufficient. He is eternally present and the eternal “I AM.”
He is the last in that he remains at the end of all things supreme and totally fulfilled. He is so complete that no one can add or take away anything from him. He is the beginning and the end; the Creator and the Judge; the full revelation and the final authority.
B. (:7) Unique as the Sovereign Master of History
“And who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, From the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming And the events that are going to take place.”
Oswalt: Because he alone controls history, what has happened to Israel was neither a surprise to him nor against his will. The people are in captivity for one reason alone: their broken covenant with God, and it was all foretold. By the same token, God’s uniqueness means that the gods of Israel’s enemies can do nothing to prevent him from delivering his people at the moment he chooses to do so.
Oswalt: the evidence for the uniqueness of God, that he is the sole creator, rests on his ability to predict novel turns of history in advance, an ability the idols and their technicians do not have. Specifically those predictions included Assyria’s all but total conquest of Israel and Judah. Assyria’s failure to capture Jerusalem, the fall of Assyria, the fall of Jerusalem and Judah to Babylon, the exile, the fall of Babylon to Cyrus, Cyrus’s proclamation of freedom and encouragement to rebuild, the return of a remnant, and the establishment of a messianic kingdom.
C. (:8) Unique as the Solid and Reliable Rock — Who Alone Can Be Trusted
“Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none.”
Motyer: Here we see the devastating exclusivity of biblical monotheism. Apart from the Lord there is no God and no Rock (nothing reliable to rest on, nothing active in salvation). . . a symbol of refuge (cf. Pss. 71:3; 95:1), trustworthiness, changeless integrity (26:4) and reality as opposed to fantasy (Dt. 32:31). The Lord who brought Israel to birth (Dt. 32:4), the Redeemer and ruler (Ps. 19:14-15) is active in salvation (Ex. 17:6; Ps. 95:1). The character of God is the ultimate assurance of his people.
Oswalt: The message that this royal Redeemer wants to impart is that there is no one who can even be compared to him. It is not merely that he is the greatest of the gods, but that in comparison to him, there is no other god. . . But the God of the promises is much more than an aloof, if benevolent, Master of history. He is one in whom we can hide when storms, whether deserved or undeserved, break on us.
Darryl Klassen: In Deuteronomy 32 God is called “the Rock” several times and Moses croons at one point, “For their rock is not like our Rock, as even our enemies concede” (32:31).
II. (:9-20) EXPOSE THE ABSURDITY OF IDOLATRY –
WHAT PROFIT IS AN INANIMATE IDOL CREATED BY MAN’S HANDS?
A. (:9) Idolatry is Rooted in Futility and Leads to Shame
“Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame.”
Futile and unprofitable
Motyer: to fashion an idol proves that the maker has no sense of meaning and purpose in the world nor any chance of achieving it.
Martin: Pagans view their worship of idols as meritorious, but it will ultimately bring them shame (cf. v. 11; 42:17; 45:16).
B. (:10-17) Idolatry is Limited by Both Its Creator and Its Composition
1. (:10-13) Idol Limited by Its Creator
a. (:10-11) The Creator’s Humanity
“Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit? Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men. Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them together be put to shame.”
Young: The true God can create that which is lesser than Himself, but the creature that partakes of flesh and blood cannot produce what is divine. The idols, being under men and inferior to them, cannot help men.
b. (:12) The Creator’s Frailty
“The man shapes iron into a cutting tool, and does his work over the coals, fashioning it with hammers, and working it with his strong arm. He also gets hungry and his strength fails; he drinks no water and becomes weary.”
Medium here is iron; in vs. 13 it is wood
Oswalt: Humanity is creating god in its own image, and that is a compulsive, exhausting task, because it is ultimately futile. But apart from the revelation of the transcendent Creator, what other hope is there of giving meaning to one’s life and forging out some semblance of control over it?
c. (:13) The Creator’s Man-Focused Modeling
“Another shapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk. He works it with planes, and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house.”
2. (:14-17) Idol Limited by Its Composition
a. (:14) Made From Trees That Men Cultivate
“Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak, and raises it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow.”
God needs to make the tree grow; provides the rain that makes it grow
b. (:15-17) Identical Material is Both Burned and Worshiped
“Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image, and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, ‘Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.’ But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for thou art my god.’”
– Burned for heat and for cooking food
– Worshiped – prays to it and seeks deliverance from it
C. (:18-20) Idolatry is the Product of Blindness and Self-Deception
1. (:18) Blinded to the Truth
“They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend.”
Grogan: the reductio ad absurdum of idolatry
Mark 4:23 – take heed what you hear and how you hear
2. (:19) Irrational in Their Thoughts and Deeds
“And no one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, ‘I have burned half of it in the fire, and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!’”
idolatry is defiled reasoning
3. (:20) Deceived so That Their Condition is Hopeless
“He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’”
Clay Curtis: Idolatry is perverted appetite – what are ashes? All that is left of matter that has been completely consumed; utter death and ruin; what creature or plant can live on ashes? The refuse of everything that is good; Every time plane crashes they look for the little black box that explains what actually happened – people are deluded and deceived
Oswalt: The idol worshiper misses the goal for which humanity was made, and his own delusion, the delusion that the creature and the Creator are the same, is the cause of that failure. Why would we not see the fallacies in the delusion? Why would we not ask the obvious questions that idolatry raises? Because the biblical alternative is too painful. We would rather believe that we can capture the divine in the stuff of this world, with all the contradictions that involves, than to admit that God is utterly beyond our control and manipulation.
Constable: Seeking refuge in idols is not only fruitless but fatal (vv. 9-20). The idols have no witnesses to their ability to forecast and control the future. They are nothing (vv. 9-11), and their worshippers are confused (vv. 12-17) and blind (vv. 18-20). If Isaiah could show that it was foolish to think that supreme power resided in an idol, he could expose the heresy of paganism. This he did in this pericope.
Beall: In vv. 12-14 the blacksmith and craftsman are featured. The blacksmith works hard to make the metal image, which requires great strength. And yet, the maker himself gets tired and weak in the process! Similarly, in vv. 13-14 the woodworker (either putting the finishing touches on the metal idol, or making a new, wooden idol) carefully measures out his work, but in the process shapes it in the form and beauty of (“adam”), man! The idol is made in the image of one no greater than man himself! v. 14 continues the description of the idolmaker, going back to the forest from which the wood for the idol came. He mentions how the wood is cut, and then how it is “made” in the first place: “he plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it”! It is God Himself who providentially cares for the pine by causing it to rain, who is responsible for the pine to grow in the first place! And yet, here is this man, turning his back from God on the one hand to make an idol; yet, all the while, dependent upon God (whether he realizes it or not) even while making the idol! Man cannot be entirely “humanistic” after all! So much for our self-sufficient attitude of the ’80’s.
Constable: vv.15-16 – The craftsman uses one piece of wood to make an idol, and another piece out of the same tree—as fuel—to warm and feed himself. Actually, the piece he burns does him more good than the piece he worships. The piece burned serves man and delivers him from the cold and hunger, but the piece not burned demands human service and only promises deliverance
(cf. Acts 17:29; 1 Cor. 8:4-8). Instead of thanking the Creator for the wood, the idolater uses what the Creator has made to make a god in his own image that he thanks (cf. Rom. 1:18-23).
Oswalt: Instead of a logically developed summation in which previous points are enumerated, the author paints a detailed picture whereby he appeals to the imagination to drive the final nail of persuasion. Here, when he has finished his sarcastic picture, it is simply unthinkable to compare these gods to God.
III. (:21-23) EMBRACE THE PROMISES OF GOD –
HE WILL NEVER CAST YOU ASIDE
Application: 3 Simple Commands:
A. (:21) Remember Your Relationship to the One True God
“Remember these things, O Jacob, And Israel, for you are My servant;
I have formed you, you are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.”
God keeps His covenant promises; we need to embrace the promises of God; He will never forget His children
Has created and formed Israel for a purpose that He will see through to fruition; not done with the nation of Israel yet
Oswalt: life is to be lived on the basis of reflection on the character of God as revealed in his treatment of his people in their historical experience. . . Thus in the light of all that has been said about the Lord’s superiority over the idols and in the light of this special relationship that Israel bears to him, she must not interpret the exilic experience to mean that God has forgotten her. The purpose for which he created her – evidence of his sole Godhood – has not yet been fulfilled. How can he cast her off?
B. (:22) Return to the God Who Loves You and Redeemed You
“I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud, And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
Story of prodigal son – father ready to receive the straying son who returns home; not about condemning him
Oswalt: cloud has two possible meanings in this context: that which intervenes between heaven and earth, and that which is o not substance. The first, which some medieval commentators favored, would apply to the fact of sin intervening between God and humans. Thus God removes the barrier to divine-human fellowship. But nothing in the context supports that usage here. The more fitting meaning is that, as real and substantial as sin is, God has the power to remove it from the record as swiftly as a rising wind can sweep a cloud form the sky.
Young: The emphatic form of the imperative is not to be overlooked. To return involves turning from the direction in which one had been facing to another direction. In this case it is a turning from the place where sins and transgressions had led the people and a turning unto God. A complete change is required. “Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old” (Lam. 5:21).
C. (:23) Rejoice with Songs of Joy
“Shout for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it; For the LORD has redeemed Jacob And in Israel He shows forth His glory.”
Constable: vv. 21-22 – This brief section is a call to God’s people to embrace God’s promises. It concludes this section of the prophecy (42:10—44:22) by affirming that God would not abandon the Israelites because of their sins, but would deliver them, and even use them to demonstrate His unique deity.
Oswalt: typical feature of the book: transitional elements that function so smoothly that it is difficult to determine whether they point primarily forward or primarily backward.
Young: Whereas the mountains and trees of the forest manifest in wondrous fashion the glory of God their Creator, the redemption of Israel is an act in which the saving and redeeming glory of God will be displayed. Even more wonderful than the creation is the new creation, the redeemed humanity that Yahweh, the God of Israel and the Creator of heaven and earth, has brought into existence.
Darryl Klassen: The ironic thing here is that the very wood that a man takes and shapes into an idol yearns to break out in praise of the true God. Man subjects creation to a position it does not belong in, the position of god. All creation, even in its fallen and sinful state, sings praise to God – that is its purpose.
We have TV shows like American Idol – somehow trying to transform that word idol into a positive image
1 John 5:21 “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”