“Bel bows down, Nebo stoops, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy laden; they are a burden to the weary beast. They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity. Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: and even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you. To whom will you liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?”
I love the book of Isaiah because it speaks to the heart where the rubber meets the road. Many of the other prophets speak of the same things Isaiah did, but this man had an incredible ability (under the Spirit’s inspiration) to not only speak of the future of Israel, but also address the “here and now.” He explains to Israel why she faces the future she does and he repeatedly gives her the opportunity to make things right.
As this chapter opens the prophet speaks of the pagan idols Bel (Baal) and Nebo, ascribing to them the ability to bow, stoop, and carry burdens. We know this was not literally possible for figments of man’s imagination carved from stone or wood. Nonetheless, to illustrate a point the Spirit directs this personification in order to make things clear. In essence Isaiah is telling Israel that as hard as her pagan idols might try to carry the burden of a needy people, they cannot. Israel can pray and fast all day, every day, and Bel and Nebo can do nothing to help. Their prayers will go unanswered, their troubles continue unabated, their sorrows multiplying with the dawn of each new day. Bel and Nebo are not real, you see.
By contrast, God then says Israel was born of his belly; they are his creation in other words. God will be their Creator even until their old age and eventual death because he is the Creator of all, period. As such Jehovah God easily carries the burden of all mankind, from Adam in the garden to the very last child ever to be born. Jehovah God is a real and living being. He’s not a stone or wood carving born of the wicked imaginations of the human heart.
As I ponder and meditate on this I am left with a sense of loss for my fellow creatures. We strive on a daily basis to get through the issues of the moment; always prepared for the worst it seems that things rarely get better. For most of mankind the world consists of a long line of “ifs”. If I can just do this or gain that, then my life will be better. If I can put this part of my life behind me I’ll be happy. If I can build a good nest egg and get the kids through college my mind will be at ease. If….if….if. The big problem with “if” however, is that what we’re hoping for almost never turns out as expected, leading to another “if.”
It saddens me to see men pouring their minds, hearts, and resources in to earthly things that cannot sustain them; to see them pursuing the ever elusive “fountain of youth” through drugs, surgeries, and all sorts of fad health kicks. It is a shame to watch the world pursue education and knowledge as though it were the be-all and end-all of our existence. My friends, none of these earthly things we pursue can carry the burden of humanity forever.
Education and knowledge eventually reach a tipping point when the selfish desires of individuals cause them to use their knowledge as a means of manipulation and control. Medical breakthroughs reach a tipping point when man endangers his own existence by assuming upon himself the authority over life and death. The accumulation of material goods reaches the tipping point when men realize their wealth does not make them happy, resulting in depression, gloom, and more unhappiness.
Dear readers, we were created by Jehovah God to bring him pleasure; a task that’s completed in many ways, the first of which is to surrender to the gospel message of Christ. The book of Hebrews tells us that without faith it is impossible to please him and that those who would come to him must first believe that he is. God can carry the entire burden of the world – your burden too – if we will just surrender to his holiness and grace. He will never let a man down who comes to him; he will never turn away the repentant soul; he will never throw off your burden and escape to a retirement home in Florida. He is Jehovah God; and he is love.
So what is it you are pouring your life into? Is it sports? Hobbies, perhaps? Maybe a political cause?
None of these things is evil in and of itself, but pursuing such things apart from a deep relationship with God is meaningless. You know it. You have experienced the let-down the day after the championship game. Your hobbies have grown old at times. Your political cause is sustained for a time but dries up and blows away with the winds of change. But come to Christ and develop a real relationship with the living God, and all those other things finally take on purpose and meaning. Then if your teams loses, your hobbies get boring, or your political cause blows away, you still have ways and means to please your God. In pleasing him you will also be rewarded.
Allow me to close this devotion by drawing your attention to the last part of today’s text where God asks the question, “To whom will you liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?” It’s a great question with a very simple answer: no one and nothing. Jehovah God is unique in all he is and does. There is none other.