Read Numbers 23, Isaiah 46, and 1 Thessalonians 1. This devotional is about Isaiah 46.
This section of Isaiah was written before the Babylonians conquered Israel yet it prophesied the restoration of Israel from that Babylonian exile (vv. 1-2). That exile happened because of Judah’s unbelief and idolatry. As in other chapters of Isaiah that we’ve read, God reminded his people of his provision for them (vv. 3-4) and his superiority over other so-called “gods” (vv. 5-13).
If this chapter was written before the Babylonian captivity but promised that exile would end with God’s people restored to the land, then what is the purpose of this prophesy?There were three purposes for this prophetic word:
- The first purpose was to warn the people of Judah of coming judgment (v. 12). As with all of God’s warnings of judgment, the warning was an invitation to repent while there was still time.
- The second purpose was to teach those who would read this later, during that judgment, not to follow the gods of the Babylonians (v. 1).
- The third purpose was to encourage God’s people with the promise of his restoration so that they would worship him instead of those false gods (v. 13).
In verse 12 Isaiah wrote, “Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are now far from my righteousness….” That rebuke was for the people who were worshipping false gods. Whatever “piety” they thought they had was being measured by the wrong ruler because they were, in fact, “far away from my righteousness.” Any feelings of godliness these idol worshippers had were false. They were far from God, not walking closely with him.
As Christians, we do not worship idols in complete unbelief as the people of Israel and Judah did; however, our wayward hearts are still charmed by idols despite our new birth and allegiance to Christ. When we are enamored with materialism, or the desire for recognition and status from others, or by a life of ease or of pleasure, or by countless other idols, we trade genuine worship of the true Creator God (v. 9) for man-made objects (vv. 6-7) that cannot help us when we need it (v. 7d-e).
Idolatry is like trading in a genuine army officer for one of those little green plastic army men that kids play with. Idols don’t ask us to seek and desire holiness but they also are a cheap, impotent substitute for the true God.
What idols are you tempted by? Money? Materialism? Sex-appeal? Positions of power in this world’s corporate or government structures? Don’t let these cheap imitations turn your heart from the true God.