Search This Blog

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Cutting Room Floor: "Is there not a lie in my right hand?"

In Sunday’s sermon I mentioned Isaiah 44:9-20 as having a strong connection to Romans 1:18-32.  I would like to show you how tightly the two passages go together in detailing the human bent toward idolatry and the rejection of the One True God.
Isaiah 44:9 begins the passage: All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit.  Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 
There are three truths to note from the outset.  First, there is a contrast between God as Creator and man as the idol-maker.  The preceding context in chs43-44 depicts God as the Creator, Provider, and Sustainer of Israel.  Compared to Him, all those who make idols are nothing. 
Second, there is a contrast between the profitability of idols versus the profitability of God.  The ludicrous nature of trusting in an idol is made clear in the rest of the passage, but in the preceding context, God is shown as Israel’s Savior.  The disparity between a wooden idol incapable of any benefit to its worshiper and the God of the Universe who blots out the transgressions of His people couldn’t be greater. 
Third, those who worship idols prove to be absolutely unaware of the absurdity of their worship.  They think what they are doing is absolutely reasonable and right.  Vv10-11 show that these people will be shamed.
Vv12-17 vividly depict the stupidity of idol worship.  I won’t comment on the whole of those verses, but I will hit the high points.  Vv13-14 tell of a carpenter planting a tree.  The tree exists, humanly speaking, because the man planted it and allowed it to grow strong.  In a sense, the tree owes its existence to the care of the man.  V15 is where things get ridiculous:
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.
From the one tree, the man warms himself, cooks his food, and fashions an object for worship.  Part of the tree is fuel.  Part of the tree is divine.  And keep in mind that the tree exists because the man planted it.  The man is worshiping something that owes its existence to him.
Vv16-17 expound on v15: 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!"
Now let’s consider a portion of Romans 1.  Following vv18-21 in which sinful men rejected the obvious revelation of the One True God, their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Vv22-23: Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  Just like Isaiah 44, the idol worshiper thinks that his foolishness is wisdom.  He does not see the truth anymore.  He exchanges the One True God for idols, images of things created by Him. 
Back to Isaiah 44: v18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.  The reason the idolaters don’t see the foolishness of what they are doing is that part of the judgment for their rejection of God is that He prevents them from seeing the truth.  This same thing can be seen in Romans 1:24, 26, 28, as God progressively gives the idolater over to his own sin. 
Romans 1:25 says that sinful men exchanged the truth about God for a lie.  If you will remember from Sunday’s message, the truth about God that they exchanged is that God exists and that He is worthy of service and worship.  The lie is that the created idol is worthy of man’s service and worship.  It is on this note that we find the clearest connection between Romans 1 and Isaiah 44.  The passage in Isaiah 44 concludes with these words in v20: He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?"
This is more than just a neat coincidence.  And our finding this kind of connection should do more for us than simply lead us to conclude that Paul must have had Isaiah 44 in mind when he penned the opening section of his epistle to the Romans.  The significance is that both the Old and New Testaments reveal man’s propensity to worship created things rather than the One True God.  And what the Old Testament portrays in shadows and shapes is the same thing that Paul says explicitly in Romans 3:23-24: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Those of us who have been justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus can never again be identified as idolaters.  We are adoptees of our Heavenly Father and fellow heirs with Christ.  For that we should be forever grateful.  But we should not assume that our hearts are fully sanctified, for they continue to pull us toward the worship of idols in our lives.  And while we do not fall down before idols fashioned from wood, our objects of false worship are no less real.  Money, sex, entertainment, work, relationships, power, food, possessions, politics, beauty, talent, achievement, competition, comfort… As ridiculous as it is for a man to worship the wood from a tree that he himself planted, how much more ridiculous is it for us to return to these unprofitable false gods, knowing with certainty the truth of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross?
Are you falling again for the lie?  Are you by your practice testifying that Christ alone is not worthy of service and worship, but that your idol is?  It's time to throw away the idol and return to the cross of Christ.

 How vital it is to evaluate ourselves before God and ask the question, “is there not a lie in my right hand?” 

Posted by Greg Birdwell

No comments: