Friday, November 11, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 136

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 136

This morning Isaiah turns to a new subject as we begin Chapter 46: the gods of Babylon. By the time Judah will go into captivity, she will have descended far into pagan idolatry. But the land into which she is going is full of pagan idolatry too. Judah is not to simply switch the Canaanite gods for the Babylonian gods; Judah is to worship the one and only God, the One who makes beautiful promises in today's passage.

"Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden. The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary. They stoop and bow down together; unable to rescue the burden, they themselves go off into captivity." (Isaiah 46:1-2) Bel and Nebo are gods of Babylon. Bel means "lord" and is another name for the Babylonian god Marduk. You may recognize the name Bel because when a young Hebrew boy named Daniel was taken into captivity, his name (meaning "God is my judge") was changed to Belteshazzar (meaning "Bel protects his life"). We also see the prefix of Bel in the name of the Babylonian king who celebrated drunkenly in the palace, not knowing Cyrus of Persia was about to capture the city. His name was Belshazzar which means something like "may Bel protect the king". We find the name of the god Nebo included in the name of King Nebuchadnezzar, which means "Nebo protect my firstborn".  

These gods are incapable of moving themselves about, so their images have to be placed on carts pulled by animals during their processions through the city for festivals. They are a burden on the animals and on the people, for they are unable to do anything to profit anyone. Because they are useless, they are a heavy weight to be borne. These idols won't be able to rescue the people or themselves when trouble comes. And where are Bel and Nebo now? Does anyone anywhere on the earth worship them? Haven't they become relics of ancient religious history, artifacts of an empire that no longer exists? 

I don't know about you, but I've carried useless burdens from time to time. I've relied upon things or people that were of no real help to me instead of turning to my true Helper, the One who knew me and loved me before He ever formed the earth and put mankind upon it. When we carry our burdens ourselves instead of giving them to God, they tend to become heavier with every step, just as the burdens of the false idols became heavier with every step the animals took as they pulled the carts. I've been so burdened at times that it felt like I was trying to walk through quicksand. God never intended us to live like that! Instead the Scriptures proclaim this welcome message, "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." (Psalm 68:19) Have you ever gone through such a time that it seemed like when you woke up each morning you once again got into the yoke to drag your heavy burdens around all day long? This is what God is promising to do in our place. He wants to daily carry our burdens for us. 

Our God is not a god whose image must be carried about from place to place. He is a God who carries us! "Listen to Me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." (Isaiah 46:3-4) What an awesome contrast our God is to the useless idols! It was man who made the idols, not idols who made man. This means idols are incapable of saving the ones who carve them and who place them on carts to be dragged around the city. But our God is the God who made us! A God who created us is a God who can uphold and sustain us. We do not carry Him; He carries us. The Bible doesn't place emphasis on any particular words in this passage, but I can't help hearing the Lord say it like this, "I have made you. I will carry you. I will sustain you. I will rescue you." Our God does not need us to carry Him. We couldn't even if we wanted to. He wants instead to carry us, to provide for us, to comfort us, to sustain us in both good times and bad. The God who formed us out of the dust of the earth with His own loving hands wants to offer us salvation and "life more abundantly". (John 10:10) What did we ever create with our own hands that can do these things? Nothing! But the God who created us wants to give us life more abundantly here on earth and life eternal with Him. I'll take that deal any day over anything else that has ever been offered to me.

My heart is concerned about friends who are sick, about family members and friends who have suffered losses, and about the many cares of this world. There's nothing I can do but bring these burdens to the God who is able to carry them. I can't take anyone's grief away or heal anyone's body, but I can call out their names to a God for whom nothing is impossible. I lack the strength to drag a heavy cart of burdens behind me, growing weaker with every step, but I can do this one thing, "Cast all your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken." (Psalm 55:22) In my weakness the Lord calls me to obey this passage, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) In our world today, many people are brokenhearted about many things, and a great deal of these these cannot be fixed by human strength. I'm so thankful we can bring our burdens to One strong enough to carry them. 

Our worship song link for today is below. This song meant a lot to me during a troubled time. I hope it comforts you like it comforted me.

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