Since Genesis 3, people created in the image of God instinctively reversed their role. We who are made in God’s image now attempt to make god in our image according to our desires. The essence of the problem is our self-exalting pride—believing that other people exist for us to rule over, to heap accolades on us, to bring us pleasure. And, as we behold creation, it too exists so that we might have maximum enjoyment of its food, conveniences, and delights. Moreover, if we acknowledge God’s existence, He also is expected to bow to our every whim of pleasure as a commandable genie. This dynamic lies at the root of all of our personal addictions and interpersonal conflicts.
Idolatry is the perversion of our delight in God into enslaving delights of the created order (pleasures, power, praise of man, possessions, peace; Romans 1:21–32). When our hearts are fixated on the fleeting pleasures of this world, our ability to perceive this world (and its people) through any other lens than the pleasure afforded us is constricted. We will not be able to perceive God in our hard circumstances. We will not be able to perceive the needs of others in our encounters. And therefore, idolatry is no less than a reversal of the two greatest commandments to love God and love others.
Our forefathers in the faith, Israel, struggled just as much as we do with idolatry. Israel’s millennium-long violation of “have no other god before me”(i.e. the first commandment, Exodus 20:2) brought God’s severe discipline. In the Scriptures, Israel is metaphorically pictured as “blind” and “deaf”— like the idols in which they delighted (Psalm 135:14-18). The picture of Israel being “blind” and “deaf” is precisely the judgment pronounced by Yahweh in Isaiah 6:9–13 (they will “hear but not hear, see but not see”—i.e. they will be blind and deaf). In contrast to Isaiah who saw and heard the thrice Holy God (Isaiah 6), Israel could only see the blind and deaf stone objects which they hoped could bring them their much desired delights.
Isaiah’s sight was not constricted. He fully saw and heard the incomparable Yahweh who is unlike any pleasure or created enjoyment in this universe. He saw the HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, God—high and lifted up. He saw and heard The God Who is not like cheesecake. He saw and heard The God Who is not like fame. He saw and heard The God Who is not like sexual pleasure. He saw and heard The God Who is not like entertainment. He saw and heard The God Who is not like affection. He saw The God Who is unlike anything or anyone else! This, then, is the essential meaning of “Holy.”
Beholding the Incomparable Yahweh was also Isaiah’s prescription for idolatrous Israel (and us). After seventy years of blind and deaf Israel contemplating the reasons for her exile, Isaiah unleashes a vision of the Incomparable Yahweh in Isaiah 40:12–31. This holy passage is unlike any other in Scripture. Isaiah invites the hearer to ask himself, “Who or What is like Yahweh?” Isaiah invites the blind idolater to see Yahweh in all of His incomparable glory.
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand?
And marked off the heavens by the span?
And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure?
And weighed the mountains in a balance?
And the hills in a pair of scales?
Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord?
Or as His counselor has informed Him?
With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge?
And informed Him of the way of understanding?
Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.
Even Lebanon is not enough to burn,
Nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
All the nations are as nothing before Him,
They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.
To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare with Him?
As for the idol, a craftsman casts it,
A goldsmith plates it with gold,
And a silversmith fashions chains of silver.
He who is too impoverished for such an offering
Selects a tree that does not rot;
He seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman
To prepare an idol that will not totter.
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth…(Excerpt from Isaiah 40:12-31)
Beholding the incomparable Yahweh is the only solution to blinding idolatry. When we see God for who He is, how then can we compare Him to cheesecake, fame, sexual pleasure, entertainment, and affection as if these were more desirable?
In the comments below would you offer your suggestions as to how you help your counselee “behold the Incomparable Yahweh” from the Scripture and thereby be rescued from enslaving idolatry?