Isaiah 44: God's Judgement on Idol Worship

The first part of Isa 44 is about God’s grace and His love for His chosen people Israel (Isa 44:1-5). This week’s topic, however, is about God’s judgement on Idol worship so we are going to start at Isa 44:6.

The following section is a cap to the argument presented in the last four chapters (Isa 42:10-44:22) that God alone is sovereign, able to deliver His people, and chooses to show grace to His chosen people. The cap is a highly-detailed expose of the foolishness of idolatry and the whole worldview that idolatry comes from. Oswalt says the following about this section in the Isaiah 40-66 NICOT commentary:

“In its pungent detail it is the most extensive example of the characteristic of the book that I have called the graphic summary. Instead of a logically developed summation in which previous points are enumerated, the author paints a detailed picture whereby he appeals to the imagination to drive the final nail of persuasion. Here, when he has finished his sarcastic picture, it is simply unthinkable to compare these gods to God.[1]”

Oswalt provides the following introduction in the NIVAC commentary on Isaiah:

“The diatribe here reflects the trajectory that has developed in the earlier ones. Initially, the case against the idol gods was focused on their inability to explain the meaning of the past and tell the future (41:21–29). In the second presentation of the case (43:8–13), another element was added: their inability to save their people or prevent Yahweh from saving his people from them. Now in this third presentation, although their inability to predict the future takes first place (44:7–8), it is quickly succeeded by their inability to save, and that issue takes up the rest of the case. [2]”

I. The Absurdity of Idolatry (Isa 44:6-23)
    A. The LORD establishes Himself as the sole authority to say these things (Isa 44:6-8)
        1. The LORD invites Israel to bring forth witnesses that there is any God but the LORD (Isa 44:8)
        2. This “first and last” language is applied to Christ as well who is God Rev (Rev 1:17, 2:8, 21:6,                22:13)
    B. The craftsmen who make idols are compared to the LORD and there is no comparison 
         (Isa 44:9-20)
        1. The LORD scoffs at the craftsmen by saying their “witnesses” (the idols they make) are blind
            and recognize nothing (Isa 44:9, Isa 44:18)
        2. The inherent weaknesses of humans is emphasized as the process of crafting an idol is 
            explained (Isa 44:11-12)
    C. A narrative is explained highlighting the absurdity of cutting down a tree and using half of the
        wood to make an idol and the other half to burn in order to cook a meal. The part that is burning 
        can at least cook the meal while the other half that he worships can do nothing (Isa 44:14-19). 
    D. What the idol and the craftsman cannot do
          1. announce future events (Isa 44:7)
          2. be sheltered (Isa 44:8)
          3. work without getting tired (Isa 44:12)
          4. rescue himself (Isa 44:17, 20)
          5. see and witness about him (Isa 44:9, 18)
    E. What God can and does do
          1. announce future events (Isa 44:7)
          2. shelter (Isa 44:8)
          3. make Israel to be His servant who witness about Him (Isa 44:21)
          4. remove the guilt of sin (Isa 44:22)
          5. protect (Isa 44:23)


1. The language of this passage sounds harsh and would probably offend some people. On the other hand, an issue as serious as idolatry should be addressed in a serious way. How do we balance the command to proclaim the Gospel with acting in a spirit of gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15) or do we?

Some people are to be rebuked “sharply” (Titus 1:13)
Yet, we must be kind to everyone (2 Tim 2:25)

These two concepts of being kind yet rebuking error sharply complement each other -- they do not contradict. 

Phil Johnson from Gracelife says:

“Paul is calling for every possible demonstration of patience, kindness, magnanimity, and longsuffering. People will not be won to the truth by relentless scolding. If your rebukes and corrections are flavored with exasperation rather than true concern for the flock, if you deal out reproach after reproach and upbraiding after upbraiding without a true spirit of gentleness, you're not being a true shepherd.[3]”

Here are some additional resources about preaching with gentleness and respect:

2. What should we be preaching to people? 

The Gospel in-context. There are different methods of doing that for example:

 which reflects Romans 3:21-26

3. Who should we be preaching the Gospel to?

“every creature” (Mark 16:15-16)
“the highways and hedges” (Luke 14:23)
“All Nations (make disciples)” (Matthew 28:19-20)
“be witnesses to the ends of the Earth” (Acts 1:7-8)

You can preach the Gospel to your friends, family, or people on the street or the internet. 

4. Can serving the Church become an idol? What are some ways ministry can become an idol?
“If we only rejoice in God because of what He is doing through us and not because of what He has already done for us, we cherish our ministry more than Him. If our awe for what He is doing through us surpasses our awe for what He has done for us, we have made ministry our god." - Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Ministry idolatry is something that can sneak up on you. After all, how could performing an activity that serves the Lord be bad? Here are a few links describing this subtle but deadly snare:

5. What are some other idols in our society and across the world?

Conclusion: Idols let us down because they are worthless, have no power, and take away glory that rightfully belongs to God. God never lets us down. God loves Israel even though they rebel against Him. God transformed people’s wicked hearts back then and He continues to transform them today -- even while we were dead in our sins. 

1. Oswalt, J. N. (1998). The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66 (p. 170). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
2. Oswalt, J. N. (2003). Isaiah (p. 501). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
3. Johnson, Phil. “Preach The Word”, The Gracelife Pulpit,  23, June, 2013,