He is a weary prophet, weary of the people’s short-sightedness. Why do they not see? Why do they not understand? It is as though his oracles go in one ear and out the other.
He should go for a stroll outside among the people. This often helps because they really do like him, and they are eager to hear him speak. Their greetings tell him so.
But today, everywhere he goes, he sees idols — or so it seems. They seem to jump out at him from every house. Even after all these years, idols of Bel and Nebo are still popular in Israel.
He should have recognized that a new oracle (a sermon-like proclamation) was forming deep within his soul. Oracles are a thing of the soul, not of the mind. This was the reason for all his brooding.
When finally he did speak, this is part of what the people heard (Isaiah chapter 46). By the time these words reached human ears, it is God speaking:
“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, you who have been borne by me from birth and have been carried from the womb; even to your old age I will be the same. And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you.
“Those who lavish gold from the purse and weigh silver on the scale hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; they bow down, indeed they worship it. They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it; they set it in its place and it stands there. It does not move from its place.”
Here, in a nutshell, in these words of Isaiah, we find the truth about idolatry and why it is to be avoided: that God has formed us, not we him, as idol-makers form their idols; and that God carries us, not we him, as do the people carry their idols from place to place.
Do the words against idolatry, found in the second commandment and in Isaiah’s oracle, have any relevance today, or are they a hazy concern about something long past? Certainly, idolatry is not a part of our age. We have no idols that we can look upon with worshipful adoration and a deep, abiding love. Or do we?
It’s called bibliolatry. It occurs when a high regard and a deep commitment to the Bible begin to rise to the level of devotion and commitment due God alone, when the Bible is given equality with God, deified, as though it is a part of God’s nature rather than a part of God’s revelation.
It’s seen when we extend the kind of devotion to the Bible that Israel extended her idols all those generations ago.
It’s seen when a prominent American pastor (referring to John 14, where Jesus is identified as the word of God) calls the Bible, “divine,” “eternal” and “God’s Word.”
It’s seen when the minister lifts high the Bible and leads the congregation through a pledge of loyalty to the Bible, loyalty deserving of God alone.
It’s seen in the frown when, inadvertently, a textbook or any book is placed on top of the Bible.
It’s seen when a congregant stands, raises a Bible and declares his faith and his trust “in the King James version.”
We, the community of faith, revere the Bible. My concern is not with the Bible itself. My concern has to do with how we use the Bible, with “rightly dividing the word of truth.” The Bible is important to who we are, but only God is indispensable to who we are.