Idols are all around us. They will gladly take our time, energy, and worship. Idols may be as minor as Facebook or as major as a pagan “deity”. I have had many idols in my life but sports always found a way of capturing my heart like no other. I wanted to become the best baseball player to ever throw a ball. This dream never came true because I wasn’t talented enough and because my shoulder couldn’t hold up after two years of college ball.
I placed sports, especially before college, ahead of everything else. I focused my energy into them (baseball and football). However, they could never fulfill what I needed. In the end all sports gave me was a bum shoulder. I had to reevaluate my priorities. And when I did God struck in the face by this passage of Scripture:
“Set forth your case, says the Lord;
bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.
Let them bring them, and tell us
what is to happen.
Tell us the former things, what they are,
that we may consider them,
that we may know their outcome;
or declare to us the things to come.
Tell us what is to come hereafter,
that we may know that you are gods;
do good, or do harm,
that we may be dismayed and terrified.
Behold, you are nothing,
and your work is less than nothing;
an abomination is he who chooses you.” -Isaiah 41: 21-24
God is speaking to the false idols and giving them a test. This is clear when he says, “Set forth your case, says the Lord,”. God is challenging the world’s gods to do what he can. The first test is this, “Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen.”
The first challenge should be easy for these idols. All God is telling them to do is bring the argument to him. He is challenging the fact that they can’t even speak for themselves. They can’t move. They can’t stand. They are incapable of defending themselves. And if they can’t do that then the following challenge to, “tell us what is to happen,” is far too impossible for these man-made gods.
The second challenge is for them to, “Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, that we may know their outcome”. We may not see this challenge as very difficult. We have technology that gives us access to resources of history that older generations did not. However, even with our modern technology historians disagree on events of the past. God’s challenge goes even deeper than that.
God says, “that we may know their outcome”. This phrase is asking them, “why did these things take place.” That “what happened” question is easy but the “why” question is not. For any specific event that happens think of how many variables are involved. No one can possible answer the entire “why” question apart from being more than divine. That is what makes God, God.
The third challenge is, “…or declare to us the things to come. Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods.” God knows the future. God establishes what it means to be God. In order for the creator to be called deity he needs to know what is going to come to pass. The false gods can’t declare what is going to happen just like you or I can’t. We can make some pretty good estimations but we cannot exhaustively know what is going to happen. Why? Because we are fallible. I can say that I am going to take another breathe…and I was right! But did I know undoubtedly that I would breathe again? Of course not! I made an educated guess that I wasn’t going to drop dead as I wrote that sentence. God, however knows the number of my days as seen in Psalm 139:16.
The God of the Bible knows the past, present, and future…perfectly. That is one hallmark of deity. Then, God gives his fourth and last challenge to these idols when he says, “do good, or do harm, that we may be dismayed and terrified.”
God’s challenge here is similar to the first. He is asking the false gods to do something, anything to create fear in the eyes of their followers. But, of course, they cannot. They are powerless unless they are given power by the ones that follow them. Man made gods are only given power that is human. This is why sports for me was such a huge problem.
I gave sports the power to control my life. I built me schedule around practices. I missed awesome church experiences because of, what I though were, important games. Sports are not evil or wrong but when I gave them the top priority in my life they became an idol. When I realized I had made sports an idol the last words of God in Isaiah 41: 21-24 became more real.
“Behold, you are nothing,
and your work is less than nothing;
an abomination is he who chooses you.” -Isaiah 41: 24
What are you making an idol?