Isaiah 41:5-7 (NIV): "The islands have seen it and fear; the ends of the earth tremble. They approach and come forward; each helps the other and says to his brother, 'Be strong!' The craftsman encourages the goldsmith, and he who smooths with the hammer spurs on him who strikes the anvil. He says of the welding, 'It is good.' He nails down the idol so it will not topple." (TM)
In verses 1 – 4, Isaiah is writing about how God is challenging everyone to come to a little contest, a contest to see which is the strongest of the gods: God, or all the idols made by man.
It's as though they can't resist, because here they come. They're scared to death – the end of verse 5 says that the ends of the earth tremble. You'd think they'd be caving in, trying to imagine what to say to God, or how to apologize to him for their failures in the past to acknowledge him as God.
However, that's not what's going on. They're encouraging each other, telling each other to be strong. "Hang in there!" they're saying. "It's going to be okay," they're telling each other, but that's hardly the case, and how could anyone think that it would be?
It's disturbing, this tendency we possess, to clench our eyes all the more tightly shut against what, in 20/20 hindsight, is so clearly the word of the Lord. At the same time, we clutch our foolishness closer and closer, as if it had life, as if it had some ability to help us.
In verse 7, we see the different crafts getting their heads together, working on the idol together, and encouraging each other in their work. "One more thing, boys," they say. "Let's nail it down real good, so that it won't fall over!"
How do you prop your idols up? What do you do to make sure they don't fall over 1) from their own weight, or 2) (the more obvious reason), because they can't stand on their own?
The Lord is calling us forward to a place where we'll compare the relative merits of all gods, great and small. The only greatness a "small 'g'" god can have is the greatness you give him by allowing him to dominate your life. Idols are already having a bad effect on you. Don't dig the hole deeper by propping them up, or by trying to "improve" them.