Spiritual Negligence | A Study of Isaiah 44:20
“He who feeds on ashes; A deceived heart has turned him aside; And he cannot save himself; Nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’”
Our High Calling
God has called each of us to follow Him. We have all received a high calling from The Most High. In Philippians 3 the apostle Paul admonishes us to keep pressing on, to remember what our calling is. He urges us to forget what is behind us and press on to what is ahead, as he did.
“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.” Philippians 3:14 & 16
However, sometimes in our everyday lives we are not mindful of the things that hinder us from pursuing a godly life. Unfortunately pursuing a godly life isn’t something that comes naturally to us. This study aims to point out the symptoms of spiritual negligence and find out how to combat those symptoms.
He who feeds on ashes
In Isaiah 44:9-20 God tells us that idolatry is foolishness. We read it and agree. Who with a sound mind would build an idol with his own hands and then bow down to worship it? It is utter foolishness. In verse 20 He says, that the idolatrous one feeds on ashes. The Semitic word for ashes is afar/efer (aphar, Strong’s #6083). It’s primary meaning is “a minute (small) thing”. Note that ash was once living matter but is now dead matter. The word for ashes is also the same as dust.
Ashes = Dust -> Dust = SELF “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground & breathed into his nostrils, the breath of life and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7
Ingesting and feeding on ashes is symbolic for indulging self and worldliness. Feeding on these carnal desires ultimately leads to death. The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:6 “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Interestingly the Babylonians thought of dust as the food of the inhabitants of the underworld.
Feeding is a daily exercise. It is something we cannot live without doing. Note that to eat ashes/dust you must bend down and lower yourself. This may take the form of lowering your standards, practices or beliefs. This takes you further away from God.
“He humbled you, causing you to hunger & then feeding you with manna (which neither you nor your fathers had known) to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3
A deluded heart misleads him
The root word of delude is delusion. The idolatrous person’s heart is guided (in a sense) by delusion. To deceive is to cause someone, including yourself to believe untruth. To mislead someone is to give false information; which may lead someone in the wrong direction. Self-directed hearts and minds are not what is best for us. God has the best plans for us and by not following Him we are going in the wrong direction. Either we are following God or we are not. There is no middle ground. Sadly, we can drift further and further away without even realising it.
He cannot save himself or say is not this thing in my right hand a lie?
There are two Hebrew words for “save”. They are Padah, which means to be free from paying ransom and Yasha, which primitively means to make wide. Yasha also mean to be delivered, liberated and victorious. The Hebrew word for right is Yamin. We know that the name Benjamin means “Son of the Right Hand”. In Ecclesiastes 10:2 King Solomon tells us that “A wise man’s heart is at his right hand whereas a fool’s is at his left”. In the Bible the right is better than the left. It is a synonym for goodness and brightness whereas left is a synonym for badness, awkwardness and clumsiness.
The right hand represents what the individual values and worships. They hold in their right hand ashes, they hold their carnal desires as the most important thing to them. They see serving self as a good thing because they are holding the ashes in their right hand.
Lying is abhorred throughout scripture. God says Himself that He does not lie. (1 Sam 15:29)
The holding of ashes in the right hand is “a lie” it is false to do this. Not only does this verse say that he cannot save himself but it also says that he cannot say (understand) that what he holds in his right hand is a lie. It is deceiving him but he cannot see it!
Let us discern whether our right hand is full of ashes and pray for the grace of God to open our eyes to those things which are a hindrance to our walk with God. Let us remember our High Calling.
Combatting the Symptoms
It is not necessary for us deliberately to choose the service of the kingdom of darkness in order to come under its dominion. We have only to neglect to ally ourselves with the kingdom of light. If we do not co-operate with the heavenly agencies, Satan will take possession of the heart, and will make it his abiding place.
The only defence against evil is the indwelling of Christ in the heart through faith in His righteousness. Unless we become vitally connected with God, we can never resist the unhallowed effects of self-love, self-indulgence, and temptation to sin.
We may leave off many bad habits, for the time we may part company with Satan; but without a vital connection with God, through the surrender of ourselves to Him moment by moment, we shall be overcome.
Without a personal acquaintance with Christ, and a continual communion, we are at the mercy of the enemy, and shall do his bidding in the end.
Desire of Ages 324.1
As the leaven, when mingled with the meal, works from within outward, so it is by the renewing of the heart that the grace of God works to transform the life. No mere external change is sufficient to bring us into harmony with God. There are many who try to reform by correcting this or that bad habit, and they hope in this way to become Christians, but they are beginning in the wrong place. Our first work is with the heart.
Christ’s Object Lessons 97.1
“Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.” Lamentations 3:40-41
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1