At its core, idolatry (which is a sin, Exodus 20:3 - 6, Matthew 4:10, Revelation 21:8) is one of the starkest examples of irrational human thinking found in Scripture. The belief that a human can create a god more powerful than himself makes no sense whatsoever! This characteristic alone makes idols a prime target of humor and mockery.
Israel's tendency to worship pagan deities goes all the way back to Moses and the receiving of the commandments (Exodus 32). Sadly, even after entering the Promised Land, the people and even a few of it best rulers (i.e. King Solomon, 1Kings 11:4 - 10) openly used idols.
The passage found in Isaiah 44:9 - 20 possesses several characteristics that make it unique and the funniest humor directly from the Lord.
First, the passage uses different types of humorous techniques such as irony and sarcasm to make its points about idols. Second, it is composed entirely of words spoken directly by God. Lastly, it goes into detail delineating the planning and effort humans subject themselves to in order to produce something that does them no earthly good!
God prefaces his biting humor in Isaiah by firmly asserting he is the only true Deity in existence (Isaiah 44:6 - 8). We are then informed that people plant and cut trees in order to provide for themselves the basic necessities of life such as heat and food. Some of the wood harvested, however, is given to craftsmen so that an idol can be created.
He cuts down cedars, he selects the cypress and the oak, he plants the ash in the forest to be nourished by the rain. And after his care, he uses part of the wood to make a fire to warm himself and bake his bread, and then - he really does - he takes the rest of it and makes himself a god - a god for men to worship! An idol to fall down before and praise!
Part of the tree he burns to roast his meat and to keep him warm and fed and well content, and with what’s left he makes his god: a carved idol! He falls down before it and worships it and prays to it. "Deliver me," he says. "You are my god!" (Isaiah 44:14 - 17, TLB throughout).
The craftsmen spend a great deal of time laboring to form, shape and embellish the harvested wood into an object that resembles a man. Once completed, it is amazingly (and humorously, from our point of view) worshipped as a god and called upon for help in times of trouble!
The Lord openly mocks the fact that such idols, which his people consider powerful deities, do not even have the ability to move themselves from one place to another!
Then the woodcarver takes the axe and uses it to make an idol. He measures and marks out a block of wood and carves the figure of a man. Now he has a wonderful idol that can’t so much as move from where it is placed (Isaiah 44:13).
God, using a bit of sarcastic humor to point out the intrinsic illogical nature of what the Israelites are doing, then states the following.
Such stupidity and ignorance! . . . The man never stops to think or figure out, "Why, it’s just a block of wood! I’ve burned it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. How can the rest of it be a god? Should I fall down before a chunk of wood?" (Isaiah 44:18 - 19).
This humor from God points out how sad, yet funny, it is to believe something man creates can magically become a deity far more loving and merciful than he is. It is the height of vanity for anyone to believe he can manufacture anything to replace the Lord!
What fools they are who manufacture idols for their gods. Their hopes remain unanswered. They themselves are witnesses that this is so, for their idols neither see nor know. No wonder those who worship them are so ashamed.
Who but a fool would make his own god - an idol that can help him not one whit! (Isaiah 44:9 - 10).