These people were the same ones who had just witnessed Moses parting the Red Sea so they might escape Pharaoh’s army…but their attention span was short, and their loyalties to God fickle as the days wore on with no sight of Moses. So they rejected him as some fly-by-night wannabe and demanded that Aaron make them a replacement god. While still up on the mountain, Moses learned of this when God told him, “Go down from here at once, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have become corrupt. They have turned away quickly from what I commanded them and have made a cast idol for themselves.” (Deuteronomy 9:12) Fast forward to today, and nothing much has changed. We get bored easily, we like our information in sound-bites, and we want God to perform at the snap of our fingers…but He doesn’t work that way! Waiting on the Lord is a faith-building, trust-strengthening, hope-fulfilling endurance race that takes us from marginal Christianity to mighty warrior of God.
Here Isaiah was lumping together any idol crafted by man…whether it was cut, carved, cast, or sculpted. He called them all worthless, or as he wrote in Isaiah 41:24, “Less than nothing.” But sadly from the beginning of time, mankind has coveted with selfish desire idols of their own making rather than worshiping the one true God. And this vanity has only led us to deceptively think we know more than God…which is so far from the truth, or as Isaiah lamented, “They are ignorant to their own shame.” Wow!
Earlier in this Chapter, Isaiah speaks of the power and magnificence of God and how there is no other God besides Him. He then addresses the many idols of Israel…man-made pieces that they have put their trust in rather than God. Finally, in these verses above, Isaiah sarcastically suggests they bring their idols to him so they may be questioned about past and future events in order to somehow legitimize their “godliness”. His sarcasm only continues as he urges these idols to, “Do something, don’t just sit there looking at me!” No man-made idol will ever take the place of God, for no man-made idol has the capacity, authority, dominion, or might as God does.
“For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.” (Psalm 95:3) I added the emphasis to make us all think for a moment of just how glorious and awesome God is. He is deserving of our praise and worship… He is God (capitol G)… not all the “little” gods we allow in our life. For when we put our trust in idols (little gods), we’re putting our confidence in worthless and vain man-made objects…not the God that created the heavens and earth. He is the one and only great God above all, and is so worthy of our praise.
King Hezekiah had his priories where they needed to be from the very start. One of his very first acts as king was to open up the Temple, which his father Ahaz had earlier boarded up. Instead of keeping the Temple of the Lord open for worship, Ahaz had placed altars to foreign gods at every street corner for the people. (II Chronicles 28:24-25) Hezekiah’s superstitious dabbler in idolatrous cults father had even scorned the Prophet Isaiah’s promise of a coming Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14) to instead run after foreign gods. The new King Hezekiah, with God’s help, was finally able to launch the long-needed moral and religious reform within the nation of Judah.
Over the course of history there hasn’t been anything made by man that could take the place of Jesus Christ. From the wooden statues overlaid with gold to the modern-day idols we chase after today…they are and will always be fraudulent, deceitful, and totally worthless. I Samuel 12:21 warns us, “Do not turn away after useless idols.” For anytime we take God off His throne and place a man-made object there instead, we’re putting our trust in ourselves. And no man-made idol has or will ever have the power to save our souls…only Jesus can do that.
Stiff-necked is a great word picture. It comes from oxen resisting the yoke placed on them by the farmer. And when we turn away from God and His Word…we’re essentially doing the same thing. We stubbornly think God’s yoke is too difficult to bear and so in rebellion we throw off the yoke of obedience. But it warns us in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” For we become totally deceived when we think that the yoke of sin is easy to escape out of…for in reality, the bondage of its yoke is far heavier and more difficult to carry.
Anytime we put a “thing” between us and God…that’s an idol. Anytime we take God off the throne of our heart and put that “thing” in His place…it’s an idol. We’d all vehemently deny that we engage in idol worship…but let’s stop and think about for a moment. An IDOL is – Iconoclastic Ideology that causes Deception Over Our Lives. An idol is something that attacks and opposes cherished beliefs and doctrines in a very misleading and crafty way…slowly and deceptively worming its way into our lives over time…until that idol has become firmly established on the throne of our heart. We may say we’re not into idol worship…but who’s sitting on that throne today? The newest smart phone…an addiction…unforgiveness? Anything can become an idol when it comes between and causes discord between God and you.
Across the span of the Bible, God has always been very emphatic to mankind…”I will not yield My glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:11) So why do we continue to worship objects in place of God? When our love is focused on man-made idols rather than God, our devotion is deeply divided. We want to serve God…but our “things” are always getting in way. These “things” have a way of sucking time, passion, and energy from us until there’s nothing left for God. And in the end what do we have left? Just a never-ending need for more “things”.
So many times our humanness gets in the way of a right relationship with the Lord. In a twisted form of arrogance, we place our wretched past up on a pedestal and proclaim it to be “too terrible” for the Lord to forgive. Yes, your past may be riddled with bad choices…but nothing God hasn’t forgiven beforehand. Murder, adultery, rape…the list goes on in the Bible of deplorable actions done by people in difficult situations. But when they took responsibility for their sins and asked forgiveness…God forgave them. For there’s nothing so serious, so vile, that God’s redemptive power can’t forgive.