Isaiah 41:6, 7
They helped every one his neighbor; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.…
A curious and interesting fact is connected with the reference in this passage to hammering an idol into shape. Ancient hammers had no handles; the workman held in his hand the metal piece with which he worked. In all the copies of Egyptian figures engaged in various arts, there does not appear to be one representation of a handled hammer. Mr. Osburn, remarking on this, says, "The jar occasioned to the nerves of the hand by this violent contact of metal with metal, without the interposition of a wooden handle, or other deadening substances, would be intolerable to a modern workman, or, if he had resolution to persevere, would probably bring on tetanus. Long practice from an early age had habituated the robust frames of the ancient mechanics to these rude concussions." This passage is of a satirical character; the folly of idolaters in trusting to gods made by common workmen, and dependent on the most trivial mechanical operations for their form and their stability, is vigorously presented. We regard all this idol-making as man's device to do without the one living and true God; and, so regarded, it is suggestive of applications which may be made to our own times. Now men try to do without God because -
I. THE CONCEPTION OF HIM IS TOO SPIRITUAL. We are not permitted to think of him through any material associations, or to image him in any creaturely shapes. He is to be to us a Spirit. But that sets him out of reach; and since men will not cultivate their spiritual faculties for the apprehension, they put him aside, and try to find what they may put in his place in art-creations, art-ideals. This is their device - let us create the "beautiful," and make it do for us instead of the spiritual God. The "beautiful" is their idol.
II. THE REQUIREMENTS OF GOD ARE TOO STRICT. He gives no chance to self-willed-ness, no opportunity for the pleasantness of doing wrong. So their device is to arrange a training of the body, a system of rules and restraints by which they may regulate themselves and their relationships. Because religion is too severe they try to be satisfied with a morality which reaches no higher than a man's idea of goodness. Morality is their idol.
III. THE ATMOSPHERE OF GOD IS TOO PURE. "Nothing entereth his presence that defileth;" and it is characteristic of him that he "desireth truth in the inward parts." There man finds the demand too great, and is set on the endeavour to satisfy himself with a ceremonial purity, which does not disturb the inward corruptions. Ceremonies may express heart-piety; but they may be put instead of heart-piety. Ceremonies and ritual too often become men's idols, whose worship is easier and more comfortable to the natural man. So men help one another to make their own idols, and shift the one true God into the background. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.