Dead but Not Harmless

Alec Motyer

READ : Isaiah 44:6-23

He feeds on ashes. (v. 20)

Here is a passage to be read for the sheer enjoyment of Isaiah’s skill in exposing the
folly of the idolaters of his day. His satire really is funny, but it is also deadly
serious. Deadly is the right word. There is only one true and living God, and as we have
noted time and again in Isaiah, he delights to share his life with us.

Correspondingly, dead idols share their death. The idolater “feeds on ashes.” In other
words, he becomes like the god he worships. This is a biblical principle: “They that make
them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them” (Ps. 115:8). Jeremiah 2:5 literally
says, “They went after what is without substance and became without substance.”

Empty gods, empty people! The Bible says it; history shows it. Trust in armaments and
become brutal; trust in market forces and become greedy. Isaiah sets four facts together:
If you worship an idol, then

  • physically, you feed on what cannot nourish;
  • psychologically, you saddle yourself with deception,
  • spiritually, you abandon all hope of salvation;
  • mentally, you cannot discern what is happening (v. 20).

The Bible rightly tells us to beware of departing from the living God (Heb. 3:12) and
to keep ourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).


Search me, O God. . . . See if there is any wicked way in me.