“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.” (Isaiah 46:1–4 ESV)
The primary message of Isaiah is God’s dominance over the nations and their idols. Israel was steeped in idolatry and the Lord repeatedly made fun of their idols and challenged their idols to do what only he could do. In our text, the Lord made fun of the Babylonian idols. Instead of saving their worshipers and carrying them through the day of trial, they needed to be carried, they needed to be saved from the coming invasion. Weary beasts bore them as heavy burdens. Even animals tired of carrying them! They were worthless. Their glitter was gone as they fell down before their captors.
How different is the Lord! The Lord God does not need to be carried. Instead, he is the one who carries. He had carried Israel from the time of their birth and would continue to carry them even to old age. Our God is the one who bears. He will always carry. He will always save.
How often do we weary ourselves in carrying similar burdens? How often do our lives become our burden? When we give careful thought we realize that these burdens are nothing more than the result of us wearying ourselves to protect the earthly things we value and grow them to greater prosperity. These are our idols, and we carry them as heavy burdens. The Preacher said, “Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep” (Eccl. 5:12).
For example, what is our reaction to this virus? We started with the fear of being infected. Then we feared not having enough food and supermarket shelves were emptied. Now we fear for the economy, our jobs, our mortgages, our homes, our prosperity, our retirement, and our comfortable lifestyle. Sure, we do not want to lose them, but if we are carrying them, if they are our burdens, they have become our idols. We are propping up “Bel” and “Nebo,” convincing ourselves that if we spend our lives protecting them, they will deliver us in the time of trial.
How foolish! I can see God shaking his head in dismay. When has he ever deserted his people? What biblical story exposes God’s failure? When has he ever not carried us! No, the opposite has been true: “But you have burdened me…you have wearied me” (Isaiah 43:24).
I am weary of carrying these burdens. I’m done with it. God has made his plea. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28, NIV). We find rest when we know that “those who wait on the Lord shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 49:23). When will we learn? “I have borne you from before your birth, carried you from the womb and even to your old age, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”