Isaiah 46

Isaiah 46

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The Idols of Babylon and the One True God

46   Bel bows down; Nebo stoops;
    their idols are on beasts and livestock;
  these things you carry are borne
    as burdens on weary beasts.
  They stoop; they bow down together;
    they cannot save the burden,
    but themselves go into captivity.
  “Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the house of Israel,
  who have been borne by me from before your birth,
    carried from the womb;
  even to your old age I am he,
    and to gray hairs I will carry you.
  I have made, and I will bear;
    I will carry and will save.
  “To whom will you liken me and make me equal,
    and compare me, that we may be alike?
  Those who lavish gold from the purse,
    and weigh out silver in the scales,
  hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;
    then they fall down and worship!
  They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it,
    they set it in its place, and it stands there;
    it cannot move from its place.
  If one cries to it, it does not answer
    or save him from his trouble.
  “Remember this and stand firm,
    recall it to mind, you transgressors,
    remember the former things of old;
  for I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me,
  declaring the end from the beginning
    and from ancient times things not yet done,
  saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
    and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
  calling a bird of prey from the east,
    the man of my counsel from a far country.
  I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
    I have purposed, and I will do it.
  “Listen to me, you stubborn of heart,
    you who are far from righteousness:
  I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off,
    and my salvation will not delay;
  I will put salvation in Zion,
    for Israel my glory.”


Isaiah 46 Commentary

by Hank Workman

As believers, Christ has promised to fulfill our burden. He rescues us. We are free to lay aside everything and pursue Him for every one of our needs. We have legitimate needs, but we tend to meet them in illegitimate ways. The freedom and power to choose Christ is ever before us! Lay down your idol and run to the arms of Christ!

Religion doesn’t save us.  It is a burden that is futile and leads toward captivity of thought and lack of freedom.  There is a sheer difference between being weighed down by religion and living actively within a relationship with our God.

Over and over again Israel had been drawn toward the worship of false gods.  These gods, according to their customs and depending on which one they were worshiping as the flavor of the month, required some form of sacrifice.  Yet, this religion of sorts was unfulfilling, weighed them down and caused to question when things didn’t work out as they had prayed for.  The reality was no god would ever save them.  They had no power.  Religion has no power either.

The only power that transforms our lives is the very power of God. This power is unleashed as we move into a deep relationship with Him. This is what He longs for.  This is on His heart.

God makes it clear the relationship He wanted with all humanity all the way back to before our birth. “You I have upheld since you were conceived and have carried since your birth.  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.” 

There is nothing we can devote ourselves to that can compare to the absolute involvement of God in our lives.  As the passage goes further, God reminds the reader He is God and He will accomplish what He has purposed in His heart.  He simply invites us to join Him in what He’s doing.  His purpose will stand.

Religion tends to feel safe at times.  It’s the check the box type of thing where we feel as if we’ve done our duty.  It may be safe but it’s empty. The relationship is far more fulfilling, but yes, also requires more of us.  God doesn’t want our actions He wants our hearts.  And when our hearts are in sync with Him, our relationship flourishes and the will He has is made clearer.  When our hearts are with Him our actions will follow.

Isaiah 46 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

The weight of holding onto our idols can be unbearable. Like a backpack full of bricks, the straps pull on our shoulders, twisting our back as we awkwardly try and move forward. With each step, there is seemingly never-ending pain. We desperately want to free ourselves from this baggage but we don’t know how. There is a reason Jesus says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Hold that thought.

In the opening verse of Isaiah 46, we read about Bel and Nebo. They were the false gods worshiped by Babylon.

Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over; Their images are consigned to the beasts and the cattle. The things that you carry are burdensome, A load for the weary beast.

Isaiah 46:1 NASB

Bel means “Lord” and was the official title of Babylon’s chief diety. Nebo was his “son” and was worshiped for his supposed influence in fate, writing, and wisdom. These heavy idols were carried in the annual New Year’s Festival procession in Babylon. This is not to be understood as a prophecy but as an illustration of the false power of these so-called gods.

Just like any other material possession, these heavy “paper weights” would be thrust over animals backs in order to be carried. If they are so powerful, why can they not carry themselves? Where are their fantastic powers and magnificent prosperity? In complete humiliation, they have been weighed and found wanting.

Even more humiliating is the humiliation of the people who walk beside them. They have given their entire lives to these idols which have crumbled before the One and Only God. What I find so ironic is that even in their humiliation, their pride will not allow them to throw the idols aside. They continue to move along with them strapped the backs of their animals. They continue to carry the weight even after being exposed.

They stooped over, they have bowed down together; They could not rescue the burden, But have themselves gone into captivity.

Isaiah 46:2 NASB

They could not rescue the burden. Here is the key phrase that really speaks to me today. Every idol we put into our lives (people-pleasing, food, addictions, popularity, comfort, sports, laziness, religion etc.) cannot and will not rescue the burden. It’s such a powerful phrase, yet, we continue to go back to these empty cisterns for our source of nourishment.

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