To be sure, there is plenty of mysterious imagery that shows up in the writings of the prophets. But, every now and again, we find a passage where the prophet slaps us with something so blunt that it just couldn’t have been said any clearer.
The middle section of Isaiah 44 is one such passage, where the prophet gives us the absurd play-by-play of a craftsman who cuts down a tree, uses some of the wood to cook a meal, but fashions the remainder into an idol to which he bows down and says, “Deliver me! You’re my god!”
It sounds foolish. It’s supposed to. But, not a lot has changed over the centuries. Sure, the finished products look different now, whether the deliverer is a sprawling estate, an impressive title or a bobble-head Blessed Virgin mounted on one’s dashboard. These are all pretty easy targets, and we’ve all heard sermons that have duly warned us against their allure (except the bobble-head). The better sermons have gone deeper, to ask what kind of condition in the human heart produces its own little gods in the first place.
Barely a generation ago, New Age guru Shirley MacLaine stood on the ocean’s shore and bellowed “I… am … God!!”, while movie audiences applauded, and all of heaven replied, “Surely, you can’t be serious.” We snicker, but doesn’t every human heart whisper “I am God” when we snub our Shepherd’s rod and staff, and reach for a more convenient source of comfort? Ms.MacLaine only said it louder.
So we bow down to the great Creator in whom Isaiah trusted – the Creator who forms light and darkness, and who brings comfort and calamity. The saints affirm together, “We have not only fashioned useless idols, we ourselves make lousy gods and we don’t want the job any more. You alone are worthy!”