29 “You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks
in which you have delighted;
you will be disgraced because of the gardens
that you have chosen.
30 You will be like an oak with fading leaves,
like a garden without water.
31 The mighty man will become tinder
and his work a spark;
both will burn together,
with no one to quench the fire.”
Become What You Hate
Like I have mentioned before, idolatry becomes a major theme throughout Isaiah. But it is not just Isaiah that focuses on this sin, but really all of Scripture. All sin has its root in some form of idolatry, whether of self or wealth or sex, which explains why it takes such precedence in both the Old Testament and Jesus’ great commandments.
But this metaphor that Isaiah gives exposes one of the most dangerous aspects of idolatry, which is its power to change us. In the passage, we find people putting their trust and delight in sacred oaks and gardens, symbols of idolatry and wealth. But the twist is that ultimately, they become like those oaks and gardens, temporary, easily sparked and set ablaze and destroyed.
Idolatry is very dangerous because it actually transforms us, rather than the other way around. We often think that we have control and influence over the foci of our lives, our jobs, our wealth, our relationships. But in reality… they are the ones that control and influence us. Take for example if you buy a really expensive phone – yes, you use it. But it uses you too, it changes how you treat it and care for it and the time you spend guarding it. It has mastery over YOU, over your behavior, over your money – it has transformed you into its slave. It can be your phone, or any other possession (cars? shoes?). It can be getting ahead in your career. It can even be a person, maybe someone you’re infatuated with – they change you.
Or in the words of Tyler Durden, “The things that you own, end up owning you.” And of course, that is not compatible with the Lordship of Christ in our lives.
1. Is there anything in your life that you feel really influences your behavior or consumes your energy and thought?
2. In what ways has it changed you? What don’t you like about the person you’ve become?
3. Why do you think that particular issue or part of your life is so difficult to submit to God?