Isaiah 45 begins with the proclamation that the Lord is about to use King Cyrus of Persia to show the Israelites the folly of idolatry and that He is the one true God. He asks His people to turn to Him that they might be saved, that He will not give His glory to another. The next chapter points out the folly of idolatry, and the Lord asks what man can make that can truly compare to the glory of God. He mocks their use of metals, that a man would shape cold iron or gold and then fall over himself giving it honour and praise, even though it cannot save or hear or deliver.
The 47th verse speaks of the indictment against Babylon, who, despite their magic and sorcery, will be brought low and made into nothing. After this, the Lord promises that He will continue to guide Israel even though “your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass.” He says how He has deferred His anger on account of His promise and calls Israel back to Himself as the only one who can deliver and save, the one who brought forth water in the wasteland.
These chapters contain many themes; however, the lampooning of idols and the supremacy of Yahweh are overarching. Nothing quite mocks idolatry like the Hebrew scriptures, just read the last paragraphs of Isaiah 44! The Lord not only judges Israel for their disobedience and idolatry, but Babylon as well, as they practice magic and divination and think themselves secure in their wickedness. These people cast metal and engrave it, they chop wood and worship it, they carry around their own sin on their shoulders, praising it.
The Lord, oh how He is merciful! How He never forsakes His covenant or breaks His end of the bargain! Israel commits abomination after abomination, and the Lord is merciful even in His judgement, not wiping out this obstinate people, yet their deeds cry out for it.
The Lord goes on to establish yet again that He is the only God, He is the one from beginning to end, He is the one who has first and final say on all matters, that he is the Holy One, the Redeemer, and Saviour. Like a loving father, He patiently waits and welcomes back His children.
Idolatry in the modern age looks different now as opposed to what went on in the ancient Near East. Engraved images don’t pop up on our street corners, churches are not beset by pagan worshippers sacrificing within them. As is ever the case, it has only become more subtle, better at hiding in plain sight. There is no less idolatry now than then, it has only changed it’s mask.
There is an incredible push to follow your heart, believe in yourself, and do what you feel is right. Instead of venerating carven images, we put ourself and our own personal feelings and experiences on that highest pedestal that exists within our hearts. We put our phone time and friends and television as close seconds, and our comforts are seen as the number one concern, even though it may not be a conscious thought. We must not fool ourselves that simply because idolatry is harder to see it must not exist. A careful examination of all our hearts will reveal how scarcely we “revere Christ in our hearts as Lord …” (1 Peter 3:15a).
To do anything less is to hinder our growth and restrict our freedom before God. To make ourselves slaves to anything other than God is to find true imprisonment. Jesus came that we might have our bonds burst and be free to love God with our whole hearts and minds and soul and strength – so let us get to it today!!
What or who has the highest place of honour within your own life? How can we make sure that we honour and revere Christ as Lord with our whole self?
Father God, we thank you that you have given us true freedom to love you and live for you, for life on your terms. We pray that we may never submit again to a yoke of slavery, that we can carry our cross and follow you, and that we do not look back. Please show us what it means to live fully for you, whether by teaching or your word or by the example of those around us. Amen!
Song: All I Have is Christ (Shane & Shane)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.