Who carries whom?

Bel bows down, Nebo stoops; Their idols were on the beasts and on the cattle. Your carriages were heavily loaded, A burden to the weary beast.
2 They stoop, they bow down together; They could not deliver the burden, But have themselves gone into captivity.
3 “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, And all the remnant of the house of Israel, Who have been upheld by Me from birth, Who have been carried from the womb:
4 Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.
(Isaiah. 46:1-4)

One of the greatest things you can do in times of distress and uncertainty is to learn who God is. And one of the best passages for that endeavor is chapters 40- 55 of Isaiah.

In the context, God has shown his prophet that Babylon will take Israel into captivity and scatter them throughout the world. But, God goes on to say, it will not be the end of his promises. God will provide a highway in the desert, a return to the land and he will bring judgment on his enemies. And then God gives his people assurances of his promise by reminding them of his almighty, everywhere-present power.

In the ancient world, a war was a battle between the gods of the nations. The context would be between Yahweh, the God of Israel, and Bel and Nebo, gods of Babylon.

That is the context of Isaiah 46. God shows Isaiah that this is no contest at all.

Bel and Nebo have to be carried from place to place. They not only are incapable of delivering their people when they go into captivity, THEY will go into captivity themselves. But they won’t even be able to walk into captivity. They will be loaded onto the carts and become a burden to the beasts who will struggle to pull them from place to place.

What good are gods that you have to help get from place to place? What good are gods that are powerless to save? What good are gods that require your sacrifice, and your efforts and your wisdom! What good are gods that require you to defend their honor, to fight their battles?

What good are gods that have to be carried from place to place?

In contrast, the true God, the God of Israel, the God who has become OUR God through Jesus Christ, carries US. We don’t carry him. He carries us.

He carries us from birth. He lifts us up through the hard times. He bears us when we are at our full strength. He carries us when we are young and strong. He carries us when we are old and grey.

He doesn’t decide we are too old to be valuable to him. He doesn’t decide that we can do this on our own now, for he knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.

He KNOWS that we are like flowers of the field. Strong one day. Fading and blowing away the next.

13 As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
  14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
  15 As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
  16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.
  17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, (Ps. 103:13-17)

And still, he carries us. We don’t die for him. He dies for us. We don’t carry him. He carries us. We don’t defend him. He defends us.

This is the God we serve. He is our God and we are his people.

Learning more about who he is will go a long ways towards our comfort.

As the old hymn says,

“E’en down to old age all my people shall prove

My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;

And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,

Like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.”

2 Comments

Filed under Church, theology

2 responses to “Who carries whom?

  1. Anu Riley

    Wow Pastor I hope this got more traffic on Facebook; this was a wonderful post, AND quite applicable to this day and time:

    My understand is that that idol worshipers were content to literally carry around their gods. It was a burdensome blessing: burdensome because of the weight, a blessing to be trusted with bearing their weight. Perhaps they will receive special notice or honor from their gods for being so willing and faithful to strain their bodies for their sake.

    Problem is, only the stronger, younger bodies can literally handle such tasks. Older or sick or weak or lame or anyone with any limitation could not be trusted with such a monumental responsibility.

    Even the strongest persons can stumble or trip without meaning to. If you shatter that statue, you shatter that god. The wrath and damnation from that so-called god and its worshipers would likely be a terrifying sight to behold.

    In this panic-stricken time, people are willing to break their own backs or walk over the backs of others in order to heft and carry as many items as possible—-all in the name of survival. SELF-survival, to be exact.

    These are the items that have the power to save you. They are not inert and inactive: if you take them home, they will protect you, sustain you, serve you. They don’t talk to you, but you will fight for them with your last breath.

    They’re not alive, but you will sacrifice what it takes to take them home with you. You’ll use your physical prowess and every ounce of your intellect.

    Idol worship tends to be competitive among its worshipers. You’re not equals with a mutual goal in mind. It’s more like survival of the fittest. You work and work and work not only to impress these lifeless statues, but also outwork anyone else that would dare to infringe on your territory.

    That only adds to the burdens of literally carrying them around. You are burdened on the inside in a way that defies human measurement.

    God cares that we are only dust. Idols only care about reducing us to dust. God cares about us at every age of our lives. Idols only care about those who are at the age of being useful. God asks us to let Him carry us. Idols demand to be carried.

    God dared to say He came to serve, not be served. Idols are contemptuous of their servants, and they never tire of being served. In fact, they demand it, expect it, and condemn those that dare to show signs of slowing down.

    With all that said, I DO understand the appeal of idol worship. The deception is real and quite riveting, and therefore hard to escape once you are trapped in it. How do you wiggle out of something you are so consumed by?

    God has a solution for that. Smash those idols. Throw them to the ground. They’re not alive so they aren’t going to feel hurt. YOU are the who is truly alive and the one who has been hurt enough already.

    This does NOT mean to hurt actual people, or actual items! In the Word, those idols were literally stone or wood or clay—and smash those away indeed. In our lives, they are likely not so physically manifested. Spiritually smashing them, however, is just as real and relevant. And you are just as free as if you HAD smashed them physically.

  2. Annette M Owens

    Sweet words of comfort for my weary heart this morning. Thank you.

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