When I was young, there were some really great looking cars. Datsun had some pretty nice sports cars. Honda put out a CRX, which was a small, sporty car. Even Ford released the Probe which was pretty nice looking for Ford at the time that generally had boxy cars up to that point. The Mazda Miata became quite the rage. Do you remember when everyone wanted to own a Hummer? Why don’t young people want a Hummer now? Why do young people today not want a Ford Probe? Why don’t they want a CRX? I looked on AutoTrader online and found a 1991 CRX. I mean, it had a tape deck and manual roll up windows. It looked terrible. No one wants these now because they were unsustainable. There are new things now. No one younger than me knows what a Datsun is. In the same way, who cares about the gods Baal and Asherah? Who has heard of worshipers of Bel? Who has heard of worshipers of Nebo? These were the gods of Babylon. But no one cares because all idolatry fails. All idolatry is unsustainable. There is nothing of this creation that is sustainable. Everything fails. Everything perishes. Everything dies. Everything breaks down.
At the time, Israel was tempted to turn from the true and living God to the idols of Babylon. Babylon as the world power seemed to be the nation to which to align oneself. Since Babylon is the world power, maybe the people should worship their gods. Isaiah prophesies to the people why they must stay with the Lord and not turn to other gods.
False Gods Are Burdens But God Bears Burdens (46:1-7)
God describes the fall of Bel and Nebo. God pictures them being carried away as burdens on the backs of the animals when Babylon falls. Babylon is not to be trusted and faith was not to be placed in the gods of Babylon. Their doom was coming. Their gods are nothing. Idols cannot save. Rather, idols become a burden to those who worship them. The people must carry their idols that do not help.
This is the nature of idolatry. We think that if we will give our lives to these various pursuits in this world that they will carry us and help us. But it happens every time: the thing that we think will carry us, we end up carry it. The thing that we think will alleviate our burden now becomes the burden of our lives. People think sexual immorality will be ease their burden only to find the wrecked life and heavy burden that comes from such sins. People think alcohol and drugs will ease their burdens only to find these things to become addictions, burdens, and scourges upon their own lives.
But God says he will carry us. God has carried his people in the past and will carry them again (46:3-4). There is no moment that God is not carrying us along. This is exactly what God wants. God does not want us to become independent. Rather, God wants us to rely on him. God says even to our gray hairs he will carry us. He will carry and he will save. Yet we turn to idols to carry us which end up become our burdens. The world makes these idols look desirable. They seem to be delightful and the answer to our lives. But they are living with the pain of their decisions and are in need of rescue. We must not look at their decisions longingly. We must see that they need help and their foolish actions are a cry for deliverance.
Notice the sad picture of idolatry in verse 6. We take the wealth given to us by God and use it to make idols. We take the rich blessings of God and use them against God. We take the blessing of sex and turn it into sinfulness. We take the blessing of wealth and use it for sinful things. We take our wealth and make it our god, becoming that which matters most to us. We take the joys of life and make them the ultimate, rather than seeing these blessings as given to us from God and worshiping the giver of these gifts. As Hosea prophesied as a contemporary with Isaiah, “With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction” (Hosea 8:4 ESV).
The Patient, Faithful God (46:8-13)
God cries out to remember his covenantal faithfulness, you rebels and violators (46:8-10)! Our idols do not help us but burden our lives. Yet God patiently waits for us to recognize this reality and return to him. Isaiah focuses our hope on the sovereignty of God. God’s plans are always accomplished. This is why we can trust in the Lord to bear our burdens. This is why we must go to the Lord with our pain, suffering, and difficulties. God is sovereign. God accomplishes his plans and purposes. Notice our problem in verse 12. We have stubborn hearts. We refuse to listen and refuse to yield our lives to his purposes. God wants to carry us and help us. God will work his purposes through our circumstances. Consider Israel when they are in Babylonian captivity. God is going to use their capture to purify their hearts and create a remnant people for himself. God had not given up on his people. God is working his purposes through the difficulties they were going through. We know this is true on an individual level also. The books of James and 1 Peter tell that the purpose of suffering is to refine us for God’s glory. God can use any circumstance to bring about his own glory and plan.
Collapse of a Sinful Nation (47:1-15)
Now God reminds us that we do not want to be like Babylon because Babylon will be judged for its sins. Do not look longingly at the behavior of the world because God’s wrath will come upon their wickedness. God says that he will take vengeance for their sins and spare no one (47:3). In doing so, God is redeeming his people again. Depending on the Lord means not acting like the world. This message is alluded to in Revelation 18:4 when God calls for his people to come out from Babylon (the Roman Empire is the meaning of the symbol) lest we take part in their sins and take part in the judgments that fall. The warning is to look at God’s judgment, to come out from the world, and live differently. Let’s notice what sins Isaiah identifies in Babylon that God’s people must avoid that we our full dependence is on the Lord.
Lovers of pleasure (47:8). One of the sins of the nation is that the people are lovers of pleasure. How true is this label today! Everything people do today is all about pleasure. Pleasure and happiness is all that matters. People use God so that they can have happiness now. If we do not like it, then we will not do. If it is not enjoyable, then we will not participate. We spend our money so heavily on the pursuit of pleasure. Do we love the Lord or do we love pleasure? Which dictates the decisions of our lives? Which will we spend our time on money on — the Lord or pleasure? Our goal is to find the pleasure in serving Christ so that even the things that do not sound enjoyable become enjoyable because it is our service and worship to him.
Pride (47:8). The people are also full of pride. They say in their hearts, “I am, and there is no one besides me.” Notice that they are speaking as if they are gods. This is what God says about himself. God is the I AM and there is no one else but him. But we set ourselves up as gods. This is humanity’s downfall and the downfall of every nation. We have a saying that is increasing in popularity “The rules apparently do not apply to that person.” In other words, you are god. This is pride. All that matters is me and things that are important to me. Nothing else matters. The increase of selfishness is the increase of pride. We cannot allow ourselves to be consumed with thinking about ourselves. God teaches to think about others, not ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4).
Secure in sin (47:10). Thinking that we can commit sins and not receive consequences for our decisions. This is a symptom of pride. We think we can do what we want and be lovers of pleasure but not deal with the consequences of our choices. We feel secure in our sins. We think that we will not caught in sin. We think we that we are getting away with what we are doing. We think that we will not pay consequences now nor in the final analysis on the day of judgment before the Lord. How foolish we are to think that our sins will not catch up to us. Our sins always catch up to us, becoming burdens in our lives which only can be alleviated by God. God is our burden bearer.
What decision will we make for our lives? We can either continue to create more burdens for our lives, believing that decisions are going to help us and save us when they are hurting us. We can look to the Lord as the true Savior who relieves our burdens. The Lord is sovereign has rules over all the earth. We must put our lives in his hands. Let us not be sucked into these sins that bring the judgment of God. Pleasure is not the goal of life. Pride is not acceptable to our God. Our sins are not hidden from God’s eyes.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV)
We need to return to the Burden Bearer. Let him carry you in your suffering. Let him forgive your sins. Let him be the hope for your life.