Today’s readings are Isaiah 44:1-23 and Revelation 2:1-7; I will be focussing on the passage in Isaiah.
Upon first reading my eyes almost glazed over when I got to verses 6-20. It seems like the same old Israel – forgetting God’s goodness and worshipping idols. Whenever I read stuff like this I have a pretty similar thought process, “How dumb could they be? They’ve just been triumphantly rescued by an almighty God! They have seen his compassion and his wrath – how could they so easily forget that? And to worship a STATUE that they MADE?” It all seems so crazy to me.
However, reading it through a second time this passage hit me in a way it never had before.
“The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.” (v. 12)
While blacksmiths are not as prevalent as they were back then, the idea of toil and weariness are not foreign to us. The overriding phrase that came into my mind reading this was “the futility of idols”. Sure, we’re not creating little statues and bowing down to them, but how often do we see people in our lives, or even ourselves, slaving over futile things? The person who comes home exhausted and wakes up wearied eyes and tired souled in their efforts to climb higher up the corporate ladder? Or the one who pours out their soul, doing all they can to win the affections of someone they love? Or the person who spends hours of a morning perfectly combing themselves to be presented in the best possible way to be well-liked by others?
The list could go on and on for all the things we do which lead us to lose our strength and grow faint. How often do we put all our efforts into things which we are told will give us no reward?
“Their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see … a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself” (v. 18-20). And that is the thing about idols – so often we do not even realise what we worship, what we desire with our hearts, and what we put our faith in to fulfil us.
I encourage us all now to spend some time looking inwards to our hearts. Are we one of the deluded ones? What is the thing we desire most?
But the Lord will redeem us, we are not alone, it is not up to us. The Lord will remember us always, like he remembered Israel. Through Jesus we have freedom from the chains of idolatry. We have a Spirit in us that helps us overcome temptation, and continually points us to Jesus. So let us pray for God to make himself the greatest desire of our hearts and find freedom from the futility of idolatry.