The prophet Isaiah lived during a time when his people were deeply embedded in idolatry. His attempts to reason with them are so logical and convincing, it is hard for the modern reader to understand why anyone continued to worship idols after Isaiah was done with him.
Watch how Isaiah builds a comparison of gods:
To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move. (Isaiah 40:18-20)
In another place, Isaiah uncovers the absurdity of idolatry by getting his audience to think about where their gods come from:
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)
Isaiah’s words did not convince too many of his contemporaries, but we get his point. As sophisticated, intelligent members of the twenty-first century, we have overcome this silly compulsion to worship gods of stone and wood.
Or have we? What is an idol if it isn’t anything we consider to be more important than God? We may not bow to the Asherah pole or dance around the iron furnace of Molech, but we pay homage to our own modern versions of idolatry. Our idols are made of money, sex, and power and take the form of just about anything that human beings find pleasurable—cars, movies, ballgames, careers, lovers, food, spiritual guides, family, animals, lake houses, addictive substances, books, music, fashion—the list could go on forever. Anything that captures our fascination more than God, whether it is inherently good or evil, becomes an idol that will lead to our destruction.
Paul exposed the same absurdity behind idol worship that we found in Isaiah when he stated that an idol as “no real existence” (1 Corinthians 8:4). No idol can grant us hope. We already have a God who created us and knows what is best for us. Why would we want to settle for anything less?