The other day, in reading through Isaiah, I was struck by the emphatic, repeated warnings about the absolute stupidity of idolatry. Isaiah 44 in particular illustrates this point with this biting passage:
The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 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!” (Isa. 44:12-17, emphasis mine)
This is how ridiculous idolatry is in the eyes of God: We are so foolish that we will take a tree, chop half into firewood, and worship the other half.
We would rather worship a “god” that we knowingly create, rather than the One who created us.
I’ve had a lot of idols over the years—books, money, TV, food—but there’s one that gets me into trouble more than any other: It’s when I try to make myself my own God; in particular, my intelligence. My heart was exposed when I read the following:
You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, “No one sees me”; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me” (Isa. 47:10, emphasis mine).
In this one line, God exposed my idol, that being my pride in my intellect. In trusting in my own wisdom, and relying on my own knowledge, I act as though Iam God because I read a lot of books and know a lot of things. I act as if it’s not Him who has given me that knowledge in the first place to use for His glory!
It’s absolutely ridiculous! Isaiah puts it this way:
Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
or ‘Your work has no handles’? (Isa. 45:9)
“…will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?” (Isa. 45:11b)
When I rely on myself, when I trust in my wisdom and my knowledge and am led astray by them, it is no less ridiculous than clay saying to the potter who forms it, “what are you making?” When I endlessly criticize out of an unrighteous desire to be “right,” I am doing nothing less than trying to command God concerning the work of His hands.
It’s nothing less than arrogant, self-righteous pride.
May God help me to put my pride to death.