Isaiah 44:13-16 says, “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!’”
The prophet Isaiah portrays for us the insanity of idolatry. Man takes a chunk of wood, does nothing to its chemical substrates, but simply changes the shape. The wood now has divots for eyes and grooves for ears. And because it looks different, it is different, at least that’s the lie the carpenter tells himself. He turns to you and says, “Look at this god! Let us bow down and worship it together.” The effectiveness of this ruse depends on either, 1) your propensity towards gullibility, 2) a distrust of your own faculties which leads you to doubt your own intelligence. You think, “Maybe it is a god.” 3) You’re enamored with the carpenter or at least motivated to please the carpenter, causing you to abandon the truth in exchange for attention. You know it’s just a chunk of wood, but you are willing to participate in this idolatrous theater to garner favor. Or 4) and this is the most dismal, you actually believe the carvings and etchings transformed the hunk of wood into a god.
The carpenter is selling a fantasy. A world where he can fashion gods out of wood and sell them in the marketplace, “A god for sale, come purchase your god. He’ll deliver you from calamity, he’ll grant you prosperity. Come and buy protection and long life. Who wouldn’t want to trade a few drachmas for that?” But if the little statue is not a god, then the situation is as follows: either the carpenter is a charlatan and a scammer who profits off of your naivety, or it’s the blind leading the blind.
If you are of the gullible sort, pray for discernment. If you distrust your own faculties, you may have to work harder than someone who is naturally gifted, but pray for the sort of work ethic that would eventually lead to understanding. If you are enamored with the carpenter, then you already own an idol. Your idol is not sitting on the shelf at the vendor booth, your idol is manning the vendor booth. Do not neglect what you have learned, it is written, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
And if you believe the wooden figurine is actually a god, you have been deceived, dear friend. Heed my voice when I tell you, placing the effigy in the fire will be of more value to you than keeping it out.
The carpenter makes one to look like a boar, one to look like a bird, another resembles a fish. They come in all sorts of shapes. So the question is: What shape does your idol take?
Daniel Namahoe – December 24, 2023