Feeding on Ashes

E L. Flannery
Eugene, Oregon

"He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" (Isaiah 44:20).

How utterly foolish to turn from the Almighty God to worship an idol god! How void of reason and wisdom to turn from God's word to human opinions! Who would turn from a table stocked with delicious, wholesome food to feed upon ashes? No one in his right mind would do this.

As Isaiah ridicules Israel for her vanity and folly in embracing idolatry, he pictures her as using a tree for fuel to warm by, wood to cook his food, but with the residue of the tree he makes himself a god and falls down to worship it. "Shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?" (Isa. 44:19) Isaiah concludes their hearts being void of knowledge and understanding caused such action. Jesurun, a term of endearment applied to Israel, was truly feeding on ashes. Of this expression Adam Clarke says:

"He feedeth on that which affordeth no nourishment; a proverbial expression for using ineffectual means, and bestowing labor to no purpose. In the same sense Hosea says, "Ephraim feedeth on wind" (Chapter 12:1). (Clarke's Commentary)

Fire could and did reduce to ashes the idols Israel made. Her wooden and other gods had no power to deliver the soul or to deliver from the enemy.

What led Israel to make such a foolish choice to give up God and practice idolatry? Isaiah says, "a deceived heart hath turned him aside." Jesurun had believed and accepted a lie and now his (Israel's soul) could not be delivered. As long as a man believes a lie to be the truth he can only believe the truth is a lie. Since only truth can free and save, he cannot be saved (deliver his soul) for he rejects the only means of deliverance. "He feedeth on ashes" instead of the Bread of Life.

Jacob could not believe the truth (that Joseph was alive in Egypt), for he had been deceived into believing the beasts of the field had slain Joseph. He clung to a "lie" in his right hand.

How many times the deceiver has turned aside the hearts of men and women with deceitful words! How careful all must be to seek out the truth, to buy it and sell it not; to have the conviction and courage to stand on that truth. How watchful we must be for that old Deceiver, Satan himself (Rev. 12: 9). How desirous Satan is that we feed upon ashes rather than God's word.

No worse calamity can befall man than to be deceived. Poor Samson! Strong! Courageous! But turned aside from God's way by the temptation presented in the enticing Philistine beauty, a worshipper of Dagon, believing that she could bring more joy and happiness into his lonely life than any daughter of Israel. Samson was feeding on ashes! He held a lie in his right hand and knew it not, until it was too late to deliver himself from death.

The sincere sectarian clutching his creed is feeding on ashes. The Jehovah's Witnesses devouring the writings of Judge Rutherford and other leaders of that cult are feeding on ashes. They hold a lie in their right hand and know it not. One told me recently, "This religion will do for me through life!" I replied that that may be so, but will it do for the Judgment?

Liberal brethren, having forsaken a "thus saith the Lord," depending upon human wisdom and reasoning, refusing honest and open discussion by able and conscientious brethren, are feasting upon ashes. Those being impressed to follow them by their big promotions, impressive numbers, fallacious reasoning have gripped a lie in their right hand that will not permit their acceptance of the truth, the word of God, the Sword of the Spirit.

That brother of weak faithwho prefers to go fishing than to meet with the saints and the Lord around the table, is feasting on ashes. That member who prefers to watch Bonanza, the Beatles, Beverly Hillbillies or what-have-you on Sunday night rather than to meet with other brethren to study God's word and to worship him in spirit and truth is feeding on ashesthat which gives no nourishment or strength spiritually.

Brethren, as Satan is out to deceive us all, be on guard. He will seek to deceive us through lusts. He may do so through one very close to ushusband, wife, father or mother. He may use a brother in the church to deceive you. There are many "unruly and vain talkers and deceivers . . ." (Titus 1:9). Don't feed on ashes! Don't grasp a lie in your right hand! Don't fall down to the stock of a tree!

TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 6, pp. 19-20 March 1966