1 Sipping salt water (Keep Yourselves from idols)John Kirkland
Isaiah 44 6-23
Isaiah 44 6-23 ()
**Due to a technical problem the recording of this weks sermon was unsucsessful please se the sermon notes below ** Isaiah 44:6-23 All Saints HC 080320
Cf. Recently read the story of Louie Zamperini Famous athlete who crash landed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean Somehow he survived the crash But he had some problems
Firstly, he was in the middle of the largest ocean in the world Secondly, no-one knew he was there And thirdly his raft was attacked by a school of sharks He was burned by the sun And he lost 2 pounds a day in weight But his greatest danger was thirst He was surrounded by water But he couldn’t drink a drop Saltwater is a killer It dries out your insides and leaves you thirstier than before Gives you: pounding headache, hallucinations, high blood pressure, & kidney failure If you keep drinking -> fall into a coma organs fail sustain irreparable brain damage And in the end it kills you So Louie resisted temptation And he survived for 47 days at sea
Sadly -> we’re not all as wise as that We’re thirsty, spiritually thirsty. We have a God-shaped blank -> cries out to be filled How God made us.
And God wants to fill that longing himself. In words of St. Augustine: ‘God made us for himself and our hearts are restless ‘til they find their rest in him’. Or as John Piper says: ‘Our chief end (or purpose or reason for existence) is to glorify God by enjoying him forever’. Why God tells us, ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ ‘You shall not make for yourself an image’. He’s not being mean and negative, He’s telling us where true joy and peace is to be found. He’s telling us what’s best for us.
But as fallen beings we try to satisfy our thirst with something that isn’t God. We sip saltwater Some people gulp it down But most of us sip it without realising And -> what Isaiah tells us
- The attraction of drinking saltwater
Jews knew all about idols In exile in Babylon Babylon was full of idols Tempted to integrate the Babylonian gods into their Jewish faith Why they were in exile in the first place
And no doubt they seemed to work Babylon was the super-power Surely their gods must be better than the Lord?
We’re not likely to worship gods of wood and stone Don’t go home/cut down a tree/carve it into a god But let’s dig a bit deeper
An idol is anything which is more important than God Anything I rely on to keep me safe and secure Anything I trust to make me feel I matter They hijack our hearts They steal our souls And ultimately we worship them
Means that anything can become an idol. May be a person/relationship may be my children/family may be success in my job may be power and control over others may be popularity and acceptance and we’ll sacrifice anything to get it may be pleasure and whatever brings me joy may be my reputation In my case it’s often been preaching - ‘If only I can preach the perfect sermon…’
Problem is -> good gifts in themselves but we turn them into idols We trust them to give us meaning and value and happiness Our identity is bound up in them. Our sense of self-worth depends on them.
In Ezekiel God says: ‘these men have set up idols in their hearts’. It’s what we all do. In Calvin’s words: ‘The heart is a factory of idols’
- The absurdity of drinking saltwater
Isaiah says: ‘All who make idols are nothing’ in v9 Haven’t got a clue about the meaning of life Those who trust in them are ‘blind’ and ‘ignorant’ Lack spiritual understanding And in the end -> ‘be put to shame’
How do we know that? ‘The things they treasure are worthless’, v9 Cf. Someone has translated that as ‘their little darlings’ Things they delight in are futile/empty Don’t deliver the goods
Why are they worthless? Because they’re man-made, v12 The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint. Or again v13 The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in human form, human form in all its glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. Instead of worshipping the God who made us We worship a god that we’ve made We take a gift from God and turn it into an idol
Can’t answer our prayers, v17 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, ‘Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.’ From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, ‘Save me! You are my god!’ Can’t speak/Can’t save Why they’re foolish
And in the end it leads to disaster Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’ Leaves a nasty taste of ashes in the mouth
E.g. Think of some of the great Olympic athletes. Think of some of the famous cyclists in the Tour de France. Success was everything. In order to win they took banned substances. When they were found out they lost everything. ‘The very thing on which they built their happiness turned to dust because they had built their happiness on it’ Keller.
Idols are like saltwater. They promise much but they can’t satisfy. They promise paradise but they can’t deliver. And yet we listen to their lies. We believe their lies.
Idols leave us wanting more and more. Like drugs – you have to take more and more to get the same ‘hit’. Like porn – have to watch more and more extreme stuff to get: same effect.
Idols demand greater and greater sacrifices How many people have sacrificed their families on the altar of success by working impossible hours? They demand our love; they demand our trust; they demand our obedience.
In the end they kill us just as certainly as drinking saltwater Cf. Tim Keller tells the stories: several people -> made an idol out of wealth/success lost it all: the economic crisis in 2008 People like: chief executive of a leading American real estate firm shot himself behind the wheel of his Jag Or a Danish senior executive with HSBC hanged himself in the wardrobe of his Knightsbridge suite Or a French money manager: lost $1.4 billion of his clients’ money slit his wrists in his office
- The Alternative to drinking saltwater
Only the Lord can satisfy us Only the Lord can save us He is our King and Redeemer
Isaiah says -> first and the last, v6 Apart from the Lord there is no God You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.’
Only the Lord can tell us what the future holds, v7 and 8 Idols can’t/God can Won’t forget his people, v21 We may forget him He won’t forget us Redeems his people, v22 Sins -> swept away like the clouds Displays his glory in his people, v23
Only God can truly satisfy us. Only Jesus offers us living water. We won’t find it anywhere else.
Cf. What the woman at the well had to discover in John 4 Had 5 husbands and now she was living with her partner outside marriage Looking for satisfaction in relationships and sex And Jesus offered her living water Jesus said ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’
We need to see Jesus and find our worth and value in him. To quote John Piper again: ‘The more satisfied we are in God, the more God will be glorified in us’.
All these other things are gifts from God. We’re not meant to worship them as gods And we’re not meant to reject them as garbage. We’re meant to enjoy them and use them as God intended.
What do we need to do?
(i) Remember Remember the truth, v21 Bombarded with lies about God Offered attractive alternatives We need to remember the truth
Need to remember who we are – we’re his servants and his witnesses Need to remember what the Lord has done for us – he’s forgiven and redeemed us
(ii) Return Return to the Lord, v22 Why? Because he has redeemed us Our response is the result of God’s grace towards us
Means we need to identify our false gods What do I love far too much? What do I think about all the time? What do I spend too much time doing? What do I trust when life is scary? What defines me? What am I terrified of losing?
Of course we feel grief if we lose someone we love but sometimes we despair We feel life isn’t worth living any more. It’s a sign that we’ve made whatever it is into an idol.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. What are our idols? All fall at times but forgiveness is available
(iii) Rejoice Rejoice in the Lord, v23
How can we find our true joy in God? We need to turn to Christ. We need to spend time gazing upon him. We need to remember that we have Christ even if we lose everything else. Even if I lose all my money. Even if I lose my reputation. Even if I lose my partner. Even if I lose my family.
Still have Christ. Nothing can separate us from his love.
One thing to say that. But do I believe it?
Cf. Tim Keller tells the story of a man named Bill 3 years before the financial crisis of 2008 - became a Christian Before that -> ultimate security was money But now it’s his relationship with God In the middle of the crisis he said this: ‘If this economic meltdown had happened more than three years ago, well, I don’t know how I could have faced it, how I could have kept going. Today, I can tell you honestly, I’ve never been happier in my life.’
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