The Futility of Idolatry

Uneven-Foundation-Photo_Illustration-scaledIt’s another Monday! I am excited to prepare our Connect Group lesson for this coming Sunday. As the old pastor preached, “It’s Monday, but Sunday’s coming“. I hope that you had a great weekend that culminated in attending church and worshiping the Creator of the universe. In our journey through the Old Testament, we have covered some amazing subjects. One reoccurring subject in the Old Testament is the futility of idol worship. As human beings, we were all created to worship something outside of ourselves. But, because of our sinful, human nature, we have a tendency to worship ourselves. When surveys are done, people tend to think more highly of themselves than they think of others. We are born with this tendency. God created us to connect with Him and worship Him in our daily lives. As rebels, we are naturally inclined away from God and toward ourselves. God, through the prophet Isaiah, explains to us very clearly that idol worship, the worship of ourselves, is futile. The word “futile” means, “incapable of producing result“. God gives us the ability to chase after idols but, He warns us that idol worship is pointless. We would do well to heed His warning. The word “futile“comes to us in the English language from Latin via French. It was originally used in Latin to describe an unreliable pitcher that held liquids. The pitcher was unreliable because it was leaky. How does this all tie in with the idolatry described in Isaiah 44? Let’s discover the answer together in this article.

I. God is reliable

In the verse 6 verses of Isaiah 44, God contrasts Himself with idols. The contrast is so clear that idolatry simply does not make enough sense to practice.

“But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, And Israel, whom I have chosen: (Isaiah 44:1)

God is reliable because when He is the essence of a person’s life, that person is radically transformed for his own good. Jacob was a man who relied on himself for most of his life. The name Jacob means, “heel grabber” or “one who strives“. Jacob was the second born. His brother Esau was the first born male who would receive his father’s inheritance. Apparently, at birth, Jacob had a hold on his brother’s heel and was striving to be the firstborn. During his life, Jacob worked together with his mother to deceive his father, Isaac, and steal the blessing of the firstborn. He was successful. This striving led to family problems. Obviously, his older brother, Esau, was furious with him and they had a family feud for many years. Jacob encountered God one night and he tried to strive with God. Anyone who has ever fought with God can testify, you cannot win. Jacob learned his lesson the hard way. God renamed Jacob as Israel. The name Israel means, “God prevails“. This was a turning point in Jacob’s life. He surrendered to God and quit striving. That changed everything. When Jacob trusted in himself, he royally messed things us. When he surrendered to God and did things God’s way, he was very successful. Idol worshipers are like Jacob and God worshipers are like Israel. Which one are you more like? God is reliable. He can transform you.

Thus says the LORD who made you And formed you from the womb, who will help you, ‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. (Isaiah 44:2)

In verse 2, God describes Himself as Jehovah. The name Jehovah means, “the Self-Existing One“. God has life within Himself and He does not need outside sources to satisfy Him. When Jehovah connects with mankind, it is always for the good of mankind. Mankind is the beneficiary. God is the benefactor. We just witnessed that in God’s encounter with Jacob. In verse 2, we see that God calls Jacob, “Jeshurun“. The name Jeshurun means, “straight” or “upright“. Jacob was crooked because of his sin nature, like we all are. But God intervened and straightened him out. Jacob needed that. I need that and so do YOU. When we trust in ourselves, we are as crooked as Jacob was. When we trust in the Lord, we are straightened out, by Him. Are you more closely associated with Jacob or Jeshurun?

‘For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring And My blessing on your descendants; (Isaiah 44:3)

The Lord is reliable because He promises to provide for His people and He is able to do it. Striving to provide for yourself is a roll of the dice. It may happen and it may not. There is no security in that. On the other hand, there is 100% security in trusting in the promises of God. When God says something, it is as good as done. Not only will God provide for His worshipers, He will also provide for their descendants. As a person walks with the Lord and worships Him alone, his children and grandchildren will learn from him and do the same. What a blessing this promise is to all of us. Anyone who invests the Word of God in the lives of children is doing a noble thing that will have ramifications throughout all eternity. That is why I am so passionate about mentoring children, teaching them how to walk with the Lord and worship Him alone. I am so grateful to collaborate with other adults as we seek to train the next generations to walk with the Lord and worship Him alone.

“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. (Isaiah 44:6)

The Lord is King. He is the perfect leader because He invests in His people as He leads them, for their own benefit. Unfortunately, when we think of leaders today, we think of people who use their own people for the benefit of the leader. God is the exact opposite. He leads us for our own good. We are the beneficiaries of His leadership. God is our Redeemer. He buys us back from our slavery to sin. We are all born enslaved to our sin nature and God, because of His great mercy and grace, pays the debt that we owe and sets us free, for our own good. What a leader we can have in the Lord! Why would we want to trust in anyone or anything else other than the Lord? God reveals Himself in this passage as, “the Lord of hosts“. In the Hebrew language, Lord of hosts is, “Jehovah-Sabaoth“. This characteristic of God means that He fights for the good of His worshipers. If I fight on my own behalf, I may win or I may lose. If I surrender to the Lord and let Him fight my battles, I am guaranteed victory. To me, the logical bet is on the Lord fighting my battles instead of me.

II. The appeal of idolatry

After having seen all of the above promises and benefits, why in the world would anyone want to worship anyone or anything other than God? Ultimately, I do not have the answer to that question but I do have some theories. The first one being that people who do not worship God do not know the above promises and benefits. They need someone to share with them. That is why I am passionate about sharing the Word of God with others. So many in our society simply do not know and they are waiting on someone to share with them.

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.

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.

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. (Isaiah 44:9, 11, 15)

Idols are attractive to people yet ultimately unreliable because they are man made. They are attractive because they appeal to mankind’s selfish, sin nature. When a human worships idols, the ultimate object of that idolatry is the self, also known as the “ego“. We often think of idols as man made images and figurines but the heart of those idols is the self. Idol worship is a façade for worshiping ourselves. It all boils down to, “are you going to trust in yourself or the Lord“?

III. The consequences of idol worship

There are so many negative consequences of idol worship. The consequences are laid out for us clearly in Isaiah 44. Idolatry is futile, useless because idols are man made. Idolatry is not beneficial to human beings, even though it is very attractive on a surface level. In verse 11, the prophet explains that idolatry brings shame upon us because it is an appeal to our base notions, our insatiable sin nature. Idolatry will simply plunge a person deeper and deeper into sinful activity that results in shame.

17 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 you are my god.”
18 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.
19 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!”
20 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?” (Isaiah 44)

People pray to idols for deliverance but it is in vain because idols cannot deliver. People seek to deliver themselves but that is deception because we cannot deliver ourselves. God has promised to be our Deliverer. A person who trusts in idols, ultimately trusting in himself, demonstrates the fact that he has a lack of knowledge and understanding about reality.

My dear friend, the evidence is clear, you have the choice of trusting in yourself or the Lord. One makes perfect sense and the other is nonsense. Which one have you chosen based on your daily attitude, actions, and conversations?

2 comments on “The Futility of Idolatry

  1. This is so good, Erik. Wow. Thank you. You make it so simple and profound. I may need to read it a couple times:)

  2. Pingback: Who is influencing YOU? | Erik and Elena Brewer's Weblog

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