Monday, August 09, 2010

Religious Epic Fail

I had to watch this twice because I missed something the first time (the music should have been a clue):

Ok, perhaps a little too specialized.

Nestled two-thirds of the way through the Old Testament book of Isaiah, we find God discussing religion. Certainly this sounds strange, but in Isaiah 44 we find a tragic-comical commentary of what God thinks of those who make for themselves a god of their own understanding. First, we find a description of the Lord making a people for Himself (44:1-8): He chooses, forms, and pours out blessings as The Incomparable God. God is served by whom He forms, wiping out transgressions, redeems, receives worship and is glorified as The Maker of all things, “causing the signs of boasters to fail, making fools out of diviners,, causing wise men to draw back, and turning their knowledge into foolishness,” the One who performs His desires (44:21-28).

Isaiah 44:9-20 describes the contrasting action of idolatrous man, who in futility makes a profitless and shameful witness to himself. There are two definitions of religion being illustrated here:

  • “a system of beliefs, feelings, and behavior which issues in rights, rituals and liturgies “ where, “man is the focus of life and all forces (powers) are solely for his benefit;” or,
  • “an ultimate concern with a seeking and self-revealing God, which morally and ethically qualifies all other concerns, which motivates God-centered patterns of life, worship, and mission, and answers the question of the meaning of life.” (Steyne, Philip M. Gods of Power: A Study Of The Beliefs and Practices of Animists. Columbia: Impact International, 1999.)

Isaiah 44:12 reminds man, the practitioner of religion, that man gets weary whether he plays or works. The question assumed is, “what kind of god can he make?” The form of this deity is described in verses 13-14: man chooses wood, marks it, cuts it, and venerates it. What he does not deify, he burns to make a meal (44:15-17). Is his greatest desire in life to be delivered from hunger?

Men who are not God-centered are in rebellion against Him. Choose something to venerate, paint it up, dress it nice . . . but you can’t take it out:

People are deluded because they do not know or understand (44:18); they are without knowledge or understanding (44:19), being deceived by their own heart (44:20). There are more than 80 references in Isaiah to knowing and understanding—one gets the impression that God desires intimacy and comprehension!

What is your god like? Is He the true and living God, who reveals Himself; or, is he a god of your own understanding? Is He the same God who reveals Himself in nature and in scripture?

The beauty in all this is that God, though passing down judgment to those who will not reason with Him, offers grace and love to man. Should he have his eyes opened to his foolishness, God is ready to receive Him. Those who have been embraced by the true and living God are to extend the same love, grace and understanding by investing in those who do not yet believe.

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