It really makes no sense as you read it. Yet, how many people have done it . . . and how many continue, in one form or another, to do it. It’s the folly of taking an object that you have complete control over and allowing it to take control of you. It’s taking something that you fashion, and allowing it to fashion you. It’s pouring your life into something that has no life in itself. It’s the folly of worshiping wood.
If, in the book of Isaiah, the Holy Spirit is leading the prophet down a river of prophetic warnings and promises, then, within the forty-forth chapter, there is an eddy that Isaiah pauses in as thoughts swirl in his head concerning the foolishness of idolatry.
Essentially Isaiah says, Give your head a shake! How rational is it to take a piece of wood, use part of it for a fire which you cook over and warm yourself with, and then fashion the rest of it into something you bow down to. You cut down the tree. You arbitrarily took some of it and declared it fit for fuel . . . and the rest you declared fit to be an object of worship. The embers and ashes glow as proof that they are but a means towards an end. . . a means towards cooking and eating . . . a means towards heating and warmth. But next to them, the same wood is fashioned into a god which commands your life’s energies . . . becoming an end in and of itself.
Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” (Isaiah 44:16-17 ESV)
No discernment, the Lord says through the prophet. Blinded eyes . . . hardened hearts. Split a block of wood . . . throw half in the fire . . . bow down to the other half in hopes of a better life. Crazy!
He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isaiah 44:20 ESV)
A deluded heart . . . he cannot deliver himself. Cue the need for a Savior!
A Savior who doesn’t passively wait to respond until we come to our senses, but one who, by grace, actively seeks to bring us to our senses. One who has paid the price for our folly . . . and offers us freedom. One who seeks the lost . . . and beckons the wayward. One who transforms hearts deluded and serving chunks of wood into hearts desiring the things of eternity and serving the living God.
And it occurs to me, Isaiah’s talking to the people of God. Those who exchanged the knowledge of the holy for the pursuit of the commonplace. Those who poured out their energies into gods which are no gods at all rather than pour out their lives to One who called them to Himself. Those who became distracted by what they could make . . . and what they might accomplish . . . and what they thought would bring fulfillment and joy . . . failing to realize that it’s all just fuel for the fire at some point . . . instead of investing in “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1Peter 1:4).
Worshiping wood makes no sense. O that God, in His grace, would awake His people when we slip into bowing down to that which our hands have made.
That we might live for His glory alone . . . Amen?