Have you ever been camping deep in the woods where your only heat source came from a good old-fashioned campfire? I remember those days all too well. And then there were days the rain came down and soaked all the firewood, and it took everything you had to get the fire started. I miss the days we used to camp in the woods. I miss meeting new people, burning marshmallows, and eating endless dishes we didn’t cook at home.
My camping memories brought to mind a story I read from Isaiah 44. Isaiah the prophet talks about the many uses for firewood.
“He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
15 It is used as fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself,
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
17 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!”
18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
19 No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
20 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?”
So, in summary:
You can use a piece of firewood to warm yourself, cook food over a fire, or make an idol and worship that idol.
People living in Bible times made idols out of wood and other things. When Isaiah made the point about the many uses of a log, it made me think about this – What do we make our own gods – money, power, fame, or other people?
If we make a god of our own choosing, we deceive ourselves.
Maybe someone should have said something to the people back then, like, “You do realize you’re worshipping a piece of wood and asking it to provide for you, right? Are you asking this piece of firewood to love, protect, and guide you?
Or perhaps they should have asked, “You just burned half the log over the fire into ashes to be of no more use to you, right? Now you are worshipping what is left?”
That doesn’t make any sense to me either.
When we think of idols, we can think of stars and celebrities, and those idols made out of wood or metal. But Isaiah is addressing a much deeper issue.
Isaiah has caused me to ask myself if I have created an idol out of anything or anyone. Am I worshipping anyone or anything other than God?
I then asked myself these questions as a spot check on idols in my own life.
1. Who created me?
2. Who do I ultimately trust?
3. Who represents the ultimate truth, and where do I look for that?
4. Who can provide me with security and happiness?
5. Who is in charge of my future?
The answer to all of the above in my life is God, the creator of Heaven and earth. The same God sent Jesus down to earth to take on the wrath of God for all my sin. That’s the God, I believe. I don’t call him my idol. God is my Heavenly Father.
If we are not careful, we may end up serving someone or something else other than God.
No idol ever created anything or anyone, and I think we can say with great certainty that no idol ever willingly went to the cross and shed blood for us. Only one person did that for us; his name was Jesus Christ.
Firewood can be very useful, but let’s not make it into something we worship. Use it for its original intent.
Thank you, Lord, for sending your Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins, and thank you for the beautiful trees that give us wood. Lord, I know they will never replace you, no matter how useful they are. May we guard our hearts when it comes to idols, both from wood and people. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.