"This lover of emptiness, of nothing, is so out of touch with reality, so far gone, that he can't even look at what he's doing, can't even look at the no-god stick of wood in his hand and say, "This is crazy." Isaiah 44:20 (The Message)
In Isaiah 44, God brings this charge against his people: You are worshiping unworthy things - things made with human hands, things that are not gods at all. They were so blinded by what they were doing, that as another translation states, they can't say, "Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?" (Isaiah 44:20, NIV)
In the previous chapter, God challenges His people to take him to court and evaluate what He has said and done for them. No other god has told them what was to come. No other god has provided forgiveness and a way of escape. God says that they have proven themselves to be no gods at all.
It's harder to pinpoint idols these days. I doubt the majority of us are going into our backyards, hacking down a tree and carving it up into something we kneel before and pray to. But the comparison is not totally lost.
In the illustration God gives in Isaiah 44, He describes a man who goes out, cuts down a tree and uses part of the wood as fuel to cook his food over and then uses the other half of the wood to make something to worship. For some reason it doesn't dawn on him that he's essentially worshiping firewood.
It's really not so different from what we do. With part of our money we go out and buy food to feed our families and with the other portion we turn it into something we worship. We each have our own gods of choice - a nice home, cars, the latest gadgets and technology, a beautiful appearance, a big bank account etc. We may not physically bow down in front of them, but we worship them with our hearts, with our thoughts, and with our time.
We look to them to satisfy and to save us, but in the end they will only disappoint. But somehow, like the man in the illustration, we don't notice that the thing we're holding onto in our right hand is a lie. It has no power to save us. It cannot tell us what will happen tomorrow, and it's certainly not looking out for our best interests. It's a created thing: with half, we eat our food and with the other half we bow down and worship.
God calls them on their foolishness, but he doesn't just leave them in their current condition. He admonishes them to come back to their senses:
"I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel." Isaiah 44:22-23
Help me to recognize when I'm worshiping something that has no power to save me. Help me to recognize that the thing I hold in my right hand is a lie. Thank you for being a God who sweeps away my offenses like a cloud and my sins like the morning mist. You alone have the power to save. You have done great things. Thank you for being a God who calls us out when we're in the wrong and restores us to a right relationship with you.