Isa 2:22 Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?
Isaiah is one of the most sarcastic books in the Bible. Not that there is all that much sarcasm in the Bible but when we do find it, it seems it is usually the Lord speaking to man. I think we have a little bit here. To get the full force of the above verse I think it is good to see that he is referring to idolatry. One of the themes of Isaiah is God condemning the rampant idolatry in the nation of Israel and sometimes the Lord reminds them how silly idolatry is. We might say he speaks down to us as only he can. Chapter 44 is probably my favorite example:
Isa 44:14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Isa 44:15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Isa 44:16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, "Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!" Isa 44:17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!"
It oozes sarcasm. Here is a seemingly intelligent man who cuts down a tree and makes a fire to warm himself out of some of the wood, cooks some food and while he is eating he sees the stump just lying there unused and says, “Humm, I think I’ll make a god out of that stump so it won’t go to waste then I can fall down on my knees and worship it!” In any other setting it would be funny, but of course it is anything but funny because it has eternal consequences. The verses right after this get deadly serious when the Lord tells us that the reason one worships idols is because they are blind, Isa 44:19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, "Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?" It isn’t that he isn’t intelligent; it is because he has spiritual blindness because of his fallen nature.
The previous verse says that this blindness remains because the Lord won’t take it away, Isa 44:18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. And then finally he says that no man is able on his own to decide to not be blind and to believe the truth, Isa 44:20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?" It seems so simple to realize that something we make can’t possibly be worthy of our trust and love but until the Lord opens our hearts this is the plight of all the lost. The NT hammers this out and we will leave it there.
The first verse I quoted above, 2:22, I believe is a direct reference to idolatry because all idolatry ultimately is worshiping yourself rather than the true God. Whether it is a piece of rock or block of wood or your job or your family or whether the satisfaction in life is what you have accomplished with your hands; it is all the same. Chapter 44 makes it very clear that we either bow to the Lord or we turn our love to whatever we have done. Even if someone worships the Moon, his religion is a result of his rational (or better, irrational) thought; he had decided the Moon can somehow help him.
Okay, so how does all this apply to Isa 2:22 Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he? Here is one of the most profound statements in all of Scripture. The Lord, I think somewhat sarcastically, tells us that it is foolish to regard, to put before the Lord, one of his creatures that breathes! God created all things, he is eternal and self-sustaining. He doesn’t have to breathe because he does not need anything outside of himself.
We, on the other hand, are dependent upon the constant care of the Lord to live even a moment longer. If we fail to get another breath we cease to live. The Lord has made it so that we are reminded of our complete dependence on him to live. It is by causing us to have to breathe constantly. Every breath we take should be a continuous reminder that we are finite, needy and weak and we need the true God. We are of no account compared to the Lord and to regard ourselves, our wants, our desires, and our glory above the One who truly deserves it is the worst kind of sin.
The wise of our age consider the Bible to be out-of-date and ancient man to be unenlightened. But here Isaiah says one of the wisest things ever said and the wise of this world ignore it every day the Lord gives them!