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.
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.”