A Little Story from the Idol Shop

The shop is hot today, but there is work to be done. No work, no food – so the man blows air into the flame and begins the hammering process. He continues until his right arm aches, and that’s how he knows it’s time to take a water break.

He steps outside and mops his brow and waves at the passersby. It’s much cooler outside, and as much as he would like to linger, there’s no time to waste. He has an order to fill.

So he goes back inside and the relentless hammering continues. He pounds away until the metal starts to take a rough kind of shape. One he goes, and finally, the dull iron has been forged into something resembling its final form. It’s dunked in the cauldron to cool, then heated again. Now comes the detail work. Still in the heat of the shop as the fire smolders, the skilled craftsman sets to work again. The hammering is more subdued now. A little tap here; a little tap there.

This is the part of the job he likes the most; it’s when the brute strength gives way to creativity. He checks his notes to make sure he can picture the final product in his mind’s eye; it’s important, he knows, that it looks like what the customer wants. More than once he’s made a delivery only to have it pushed back on him with the claim that there was just something a little out of place. Amazing, he thinks, how specific people like to be about these things. Even so, he enjoys the process of making something that looks like nothing into something that a human being has in their mind.

And finally, after a long day’s work, it’s ready for delivery. And with no time to waste. His patron was specific. He needed to take possession this evening.

The blacksmith steps outside and relishes the cool breeze of the late afternoon. His creation is heavy in his right hand, now fully cooled and fully formed. He looks down at what he has made, and he can’t help but shake his head and smile. Soon, he will have a pocket full of money. And a wealthy neighbor will have a brand new god to worship.

A god that he had made according to specifications. A made to order deity, just as requested. The irony was as thick as the air inside his shop…

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!”
They know nothing, they understand nothing;
    their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
    and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
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?”
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?” (Isaiah 44:12-20).

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  • Bobbie Shaw says:

    I really enjoyed your talks last week at M-Fuge in Nashville. Each day you said something that made me think about how God deals with each person individually (and that, of course, includes me). I grew in my understanding of what Christ’s work has really done in making me “a new creature”. Thank you for putting some very difficult theological concepts into understandable word pictures.

  • MK says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Bobbie. And thanks for taking time to comment on the blog here.

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