We are all prone to idolatry. We may consider ourselves far too advanced to bow before an idol of wood or stone, to bend the knee to the image of an animal or man. But none of us is immune from bowing before the idols of our dreams and desires, before the idols of our wandering hearts. None of us can forever resist the allure of our illicit longings, of finding hope in mere riches, of finding meaning in mere accolades. In one way or another we are all prone to idolatry. And idolatry is futility.
In the prophecies of Isaiah we hear the voice of God as he rebukes the nation of Israel for its commitment to idols. He challenges the people to consider the cost of turning away from the God who called them, the God who saved them, the God who loves them. “When you cry out,” he says, “let your collection of idols deliver you!”
He knows the day will come when his people will face a great calamity. He knows the day will come when his people will understand that they cannot save themselves. And in that time, he tells them, they ought to be consistent and cry out to their idols for help, for deliverance, for satisfaction. Cry out to those pieces of wood, cry out to those blocks of stone, and let them come to your rescue!
And what will happen? “The wind will carry them all off, a breath will take them away.” In that day when they, in desperation, cry out for deliverance, they will see the futility of their idolatry, for their gods will be unable to stand before the smallest breeze, the merest breath, the tiniest puff of wind.
We may roll our eyes at the Israelites for being so easily swayed by Baal and Asherah and Molech. We may regard them with mockery for thinking these imaginary gods could ever have interceded on their behalf, could ever have come to their rescue, could ever have been worthy of their worship. But with a moment’s honesty we need to admit that we are just as easily swayed. With a moment’s introspection we need to consider the cost of our own idolatry.
“When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you!” he said to Israel. And perhaps to us he says:
When you encounter times of deep grief and sore loss and long to be comforted, let the women of your pornography rush to your side. Let them minister to your sorrows.
When you are old and infirm and need someone to care for you or simply care about you, let your career come to your side and nurse you. Let it bring you comfort as you prepare to face eternity.
When you have sinned and transgressed and long for someone to love you and walk with you through repentance and restoration, let the characters in the books or movies or games that so consumed your time be with you. Let them be the friend who sticks closer than a brother.
When you have been treated unjustly, forsaken by those who ought to love you and care for you, let your money hasten to your side. Since you have prioritized wealth ahead of relationships, let your bank account and cars and holiday homes rush your cause and come to your rescue.
But God does not leave his people without hope. There is hope even for the idolater if only he is willing to repent, if only he is willing to turn to the God who saves. “But he who takes refuge in me,” says God, “shall possess the land and shall inherit my holy mountain.” It is never too late to turn to God, never too late to cry out to him for help and deliverance, never too late to flee to the one who is—and will always be—our refuge.