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Understanding Isaiah 46:1-13

Isaiah 46:1-13

46 Bel bows down, Nebo stoops;

Their idols were on the beasts and on the cattle.

Your carriages were heavily loaded,

A burden to the weary beast.

2 They stoop, they bow down together;

They could not deliver the burden,

But have themselves gone into captivity.

3 “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,

And all the remnant of the house of Israel,

Who have been upheld by Me from birth,

Who have been carried from the womb:

4 Even to your old age, I am He,

And even to gray hairs I will carry you!

I have made, and I will bear;

Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

5 “To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal

And compare Me, that we should be alike?

6 They lavish gold out of the bag,

And weigh silver on the scales;

They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god;

They prostrate themselves, yes, they worship.

7 They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it

And set it in its place, and it stands;

From its place it shall not move.

Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer

Nor save him out of his trouble.

8 “Remember this, and show yourselves men;

Recall to mind, O you transgressors.

9 Remember the former things of old,

For I am God, and there is no other;

I am God, and there is none like Me,

10 Declaring the end from the beginning,

And from ancient times things that are not yet done,

Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,

And I will do all My pleasure,’

11 Calling a bird of prey from the east,

The man who executes My counsel, from a far country.

Indeed I have spoken it;

I will also bring it to pass.

I have purposed it;

I will also do it.

12 “Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted,

Who are far from righteousness:

13 I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off;

My salvation shall not linger.

And I will place salvation in Zion,

For Israel My glory.

God throughout the book of Isaiah shows the foolishness of trusting in idols instead of the Living God. Here the Lord begins through the words of Isaiah Bel bows down , Nebo stoops. Bel was the chief god of the Babylonians and Nebo was his son in the gods they worshipped. But here we see that these gods were no match to save the Babylonians from the coming invasion of Medo-Persia led by Cyrus. In the previous chapter the Lord spoke about raising up Cyrus as his anointed. To the Jews of Isaiah day it would seem ridiculous that God would use a pagan king to deliver His people. But because of the rebellion of Israel they went into captivity. It would require that God would use Cyrus to not only conquer Babylon, but to free the Jews and send them back to the land to begin to rebuild the temple.

God mentioning that the idols were on the beasts and cattle shows the Babylonians fleeing in retreat. In their retreat they grabbed their gods and they had to be transported on animals. The powerlessness of these false gods is on display for all to see. The Lord again says they stoop and bow down, a picture of surrender and defeat. They have been overcome by Cyrus who is empowered and anointed by the Lord. The Lord is simply demonstrating His greatness. Anytime in life we think that the situations we face are too much for God to handle, we simply need to look to His word. We need to stop focusing on external circumstances and instead focus on the Living God alone.

The Lord now addresses His people. He calls them the house of Jacob and the house of Israel. These are both terms of endearment and affection because it speaks of Israel being God’s covenant people. The contrast between the way God deals with those in covenant with Him and those who are not could not be more clear. Israel had a special relationship with Almighty God because God had chosen them and Abraham had responded in faith. The covenant was established with Abraham and based on to Isaac and Jacob.

It is God who has upheld them from birth and carried them in the womb. God alone is the author of life. It is God who created the nation of Israel. Before God came to Abraham the first time and began to speak to him the nation of Israel did not exist. But as Abraham walked with God and God introduced Himself to Isaac and then to Jacob, the nation of Israel was born. The twelve sons of Jacob would become the twelve tribes of Israel. But God makes it clear that the beginnings of Israel were found in God. It was God who created them. It was God who began them as a nation. God would never abandon Israel even though they continually walked in rebellion and unbelief before Him.

But the Lord says even to your old age, even to gray hairs, I will carry you. God is making it clear to His people that He has not abandoned them. Even though they would find themselves in exile in Babylon, He would never forsake or abandon them. His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness. God is faithful to His word. Faith is a journey of trust with the Living God. It is not based on feelings or emotions. There are moments in this journey that we can feel abandoned, forsaken, and forgotten. But the mature believer in Christ knows that our faith and relationship with God is not based on feelings and emotions. It is based on His unchanging word. His unshakable promises.

God promises to not only carry but also to deliver. Israel would not be in captivity and exile forever in Babylon. God has an appointed time when a season will begin and a season will end. But Israel’s captivity in Babylon was for a reason and purpose. God was fully putting to death their love and admiration for idolatry. God is jealous for the love and affection of His people. Anytime we allow anything to take the place He deserves it has become an idol. God allows hard and difficult seasons to come to strip us of things that hinder His purposes in our lives. He removes every desire for those things that would simply destroy us. But He never abandons us or forsake us. The key is fully surrendering to His will and purpose in our lives.

God asks the question “to whom will you liken me and make me equal and compare me”. God asks this question to reveal how ridiculous it is to trust in idols. Israel existed in covenant with the Living God. These idols were powerless to do anything. They could not speak nor answer prayers. Those who worship idols are simply deceived into believing that they will not only help them, but sustain them. Every time Israel chased after idols they engaged in greater sin which placed them in greater bondage.

The Lord now begins to show the process by which idols are made by human hands. He says “they lavish gold out of a bag, weigh silver on the scales, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god”. Idols were simply made by human hands. We may believe today that idols don’t exist. But the greatest idol today has become self. People worship technology. People worship government. The enemy has so shaped and formed the culture that many believe they can exist without a need for God and see no need to turn from him. God shows the foolishness of worshipping idols. After stating how they are made and established by human hands the Lord says “they prostrate themselves, yes, they worship”. These idols have no power. They are made by mere human hands out of things created by the Living God. Paul wrote how the wickedness of humanity and the wrath of God is a result of man worshipping creation over the creator (Romans 1:18-32). We must ask the Lord to search our hearts on a daily basis, to remove anything that would hinder our relationship with Him. Anything in this world can become an idol if we allow it.

The Lord shows once again the powerlessness of idols. They have to be carried on the shoulders of people, they have to be set in place by man, once it sets in place it cannot move. It cannot speak, it doesn’t have power, it is simply a deception and a lie. Through His prophet the Lord has shown the foolishness of those who would abandon the worship of the true Living God for idols made by human hands. What God truly desires is a living relationship with those He has created in His image. Lucifer when he was created was removed from Heaven because of His desire to be equal with God and to be worshipped. Still today He does all that He can to remove the worship of the true Living God and place it on anything else. God continually pursues people to save and redeem them simply because of His desire to love them and know them.

God says “remember this and show yourselves men”. In other translations it says to pluck up courage or stand firm. The Lord is calling the unbelievers in Babylon who were His people to stand firm in the promises of the Lord and His plan. God’s use of Cyrus makes no sense to the Israelites at this time. They are looking for a deliverer like King David, and instead Isaiah is speaking of God using Cyrus a Pagan King. The Lord also says to recall to mind and refers to the people as transgressors. God’s love is not dependent on our ability to walk in obedience. If it was, none of us would be able to receive or encounter His love. But God is love and His mercy and grace is extended to us and to the Israelites of this day because He chooses to do it. But in the following verses God will speak of how He is not only in control of what has happened in the past, but His plans and purposes will come to pass without fail.

The Lord tells the Israelites to remember the former things of old. God says He alone is God and there is no other. He alone is God and there is none like Him. Throughout this chapter the Lord has been showing the foolishness of idols and that He alone is the one true God. God speaks these words of comfort to encourage the people and to turn their hearts to Him once again. God is sovereign over creation. God has shown in the past His faithfulness. He has shown that He knows all by speaking through His prophets and bringing to pass His purposes in His time and according to His will. The thing we often struggle with as humanity is when we are in the middle of God working we can’t fully understand all that God is doing. We desire to see the end result. But through the process the Lord simply calls us to trust Him. To let go of all fear and unbelief.

The Lord declares the end from the beginning. Within the word of God the Lord has revealed His purposes throughout the course of human history. Human history is not happening by accident or by coincidence. It is happening according to the plans of God and His mighty hand moves throughout history accomplishing His will. We may not fully understand why God allows certain things to happen, but we must remember that we exist upon the earth and see things in the here and now. God stands outside of time and sees and knows all things.

The Lord has declared all to come to pass from ancient times. Long before an event happens, God speaks it into existence. Through His prophets the Lord reveals His purposes. It says in His word that God does nothing in the earth without first revealing it to His prophets (Amos 3:7). The counsel of the Lord will stand. His promises and His word are unshakable and unchanging. The Lord will do all His pleasure. He will do all things according to His will and His wisdom. The mind and heart of God are far above our understanding. His ways are far different than our ways. But thank God we can have an intimate relationship with Him. That as we walk intimately with the Lord, He reveals to us things He chooses to reveal and comforts our hearts showing us that He is solely in control.

The bird of prey from the east is Cryus. He comes from a far country. He is anointed by the Lord, He is empowered by Almighty God. He is a pagan king that fails to fully understand how much God’s hand is on his life. But the Lord says that he will execute His will. He will invade the nation of Babylon, the Jews will be taken out of exile, and eventually will return to Israel. All that God has promised and spoken concerning Israel will come to pass.

The Lord says He has spoken it, He will bring it to pass, He has purposed it, and He will do it. God’s word will never return void (Isaiah 55:11). God is showing throughout the book of Isaiah that He alone is sovereign over all things. He is the King of all creation. He alone is savior. One of the great mistakes Israel made throughout their history was turning to the worship of false gods and idols. There are moments when we may experience unbelief and doubt, but we must remember who it is we serve and who we have a covenant relationship with. Through the blood of Jesus we know God personally. We are able to draw near to His throne of grace with confidence and without fear. Everytime the enemy rises against us, the Lord desires for us to turn our hearts to Him, to cry out in prayer, and give the battle into His hands. The reason God allows us to experience hardships in this life is because through every trial and storm our trust and faith in Him will deepen and be solidified as we stand upon His word.

The Lord says listen to me you stubborn hearted. He is speaking to the Jews of the exile who were in Babylon who would refuse to leave the comfort of Babylon and return to the land of Israel. They were far from righteousness because of their unbelief. But God would bring His righteousness near or His salvation. It was not far off but it was very near. God would bring Cyrus to conquer the mighty Babylon and set the Jews free. If we ever believe a situation or circumstance is outside of the power and hand of Almighty God, we need to spend time in His word meditating upon His truth and His promises.

The Lord’s salvation would not linger. He will place His salvation in Zion. The Messiah will one day rule and reign from Jerusalem. Every purpose and plan will be fulfilled in His time. The Lord says Israel His glory because God is making it clear that He has not abandoned His people. We must remember these words were prophesied by Isaiah long before the people went into exile. The words of Isaiah would become a great comfort to the people of Israel. Showing that God had not abandoned or forsaken them. But in His time would bring His purposes and plans to pass.

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