ONLY THE TRUE GOD CAN CARRY HIS PEOPLE AND DELIVER ON THE PROMISE OF SALVATION
Some heavily promoted fights end up being huge mismatches. I didn’t stay up to watch the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout (couldn’t afford it anyway and Karen would have been disgusted with me) but I hear it ended up fairly one-sided. Both fighters are expected to make well over $100 million from the welterweight unification bout with 60 percent of the purse going to Mayweather and Pacquiao collecting the other 40 percent. A limited number of tickets in the over 16,00 seat arena —maybe only 500 – were made available to the general public — priced as high as $7,500 with the cheapest going for $1,500. At StubHub, a secondary ticket seller, a seat on the MGM Grand floor was listed at $128,706 Friday morning and the cheapest upper-deck seat was priced at $5,826.This fight was a pretty bid deal!
When the true God enters into conflict with the false gods of Babylon – No Contest. Talk about an undefeated record. Nobody can compare to the only true God – the God of Israel. That is the message that Isaiah has been trumpeting as he prepares God’s people to withstand the pressure of being corrupted by false gods when they are in bondage in Babylon. They need assurance that their God is able to judge their enemies and ultimately deliver them.
Where do you look for relief from the burdens of this life? Where do you find your fulfillment and your value system? Whose agenda are you pursuing with your time and your talents? When times get rocky, where is your anchor and solid foundation? False religions and the allure of idols can make a lot of promises about happiness and prosperity and pleasure and future bliss, but:
ONLY THE TRUE GOD CAN CARRY HIS PEOPLE AND DELIVER ON THE PROMISE OF SALVATION
I. (:1-4) FUNDAMENTAL CONTRAST
II. (:5-7) FUTILE COMPARISON
III. (:8-11) SOVEREIGN PURPOSE
IV. (:12-13) SALVATION PROMISE
Brian Borgman has some good material on this passage …
I. (:1-4) FUNDAMENTAL CONTRAST – WHO CARRIES WHOM?
– BURDEN CREATING FALSE GODS OF BABYLON . . . OR . . .
– BURDEN BEARING TRUE GOD OF ISRAEL
A. (:1-2) False Gods of Babylon Create Burdens
1. (:1) False Gods Are a Burden to Carry
“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.”
Constable: Bel and Nebo were the two chief gods of Babylonia. Bel (“lord,” cf. the Canaanite Baal) was the title of the father of the gods in the Babylonian pantheon, whose name was Enlil. Bel was also later the title of Marduk, the city god of Babylon and the hero of Enuma Elish, the Babylonian Creation account. Nebo was Bel’s son, and he was supposedly a wise administrator. The names Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar (“Nebo, protect the boundary”), and Nabonidus, among others, show reverence for Nebo, and the name Belshazzar (“Bel, protect the king”) honored Bel. Nebo was the god of learning, writing, and astronomy. The Babylonians carried images of these prominent gods in their New Year’s Day parades.
Isaiah envisioned Bel and Nebo as bending over as the Babylonians carried their images in procession (cf. 1 Sam. 5:3-4). These images rode on carts that beasts of burden hauled with some difficulty, evidently because of their weight. The gods, which the images both represented and contained, were a burden to these animals. Rather than lifting burdens, these idols created them for their worshippers.
Young: Nebo was god of writing [English majors] and divine interpretation and seems to have been an object of devotion on the part of the intellectual world.
Beall: Isaiah’s description is that of the Babylonian New Year festival procession, in which Nebo would be brought to Babylon from his temple in Borsippa. He notes that the gods were heavy, and in reality a burden for the people!
2. (:2) False Gods Cannot Relieve Any Burdens
“They stooped over, they have bowed down together;
They could not rescue the burden,
But have themselves gone into captivity.”
Ultimate fulfillment in the end times
Motyer: Cyrus’s avowal of allegiance to Marduk after he captured Babylon is as tongue-in-cheek as his devotion to the Lord in Ezra 1:2. It is the calculated pragmatism of a soldier turned politician, to whom religion was no more than another lever to power (like the sin of Jeroboam; 1 Ki. 12:25ff.)
Oswalt: His main point is that these beautiful images, so recently paraded with reverent pomp, are now a matter for oxcarts and donkeys. What a decline – how the mighty gods are humiliated and ashamed.
B. (:3-4) True God of Israel Bears Burdens
1. God’s People Need to Pay Attention
“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,”
2. God’s Track Record Is Consistent as the Burden Bearer
“You who have been borne by Me from birth,
And have been carried from the womb;”
God did not come late to the party as did these idols who did not even exist at the beginning; they were created at a point in time by men who were already fully grown; but God has been carrying His people since the womb … since their birth; every day of their existence – no small argument
Oswalt: At least three different images are involved her, as other references show: a father carrying a child (Deut. 1:31), a shepherd carrying a lamb (Ps. 28:9), and an eagle carrying its eaglets (Exod. 19:4; Deut. 32:11). The other reference in Isaiah (63:9), like this one, seems to partake of all of these.
Borgman: same images all through history of Israel: Ex. 19:3 – bears up His people on eagle wings; Deut. 1:30ff – carried you through the wilderness like a father carries his son; Is. 40:11 – like a shepherd … carry the lambs in His bosom;
Cf. famous poem Footprints – 2 sets of footprints and all of a sudden just one; that is not when I left you; that is when I carried you – really only one set of footprints the whole journey – carries us through the whole journey
3. God’s Future Performance Will Remain Consistent as the Burden Bearer
“Even to your old age, I shall be the same,
And even to your graying years I shall bear you!”
God proclaims that He will break the mold of normal practice; He will never change as the one who carries His people – How different from our family structure; parents carry their infants and then continue to support them during the transition to their independence; but as parents grow old and become tottering and feeble, they need the support of their now mature children; it will never be that way with God
4. Past Performance Is an Accurate Indicator of Future Results
“I have done it, and I shall carry you;
And I shall bear you, and [I] shall deliver you.”
Cf. all of those advertising caveats that appear in small print at the bottom of TV ads
“Past performance is no guarantee of future results”
Investment firms have to hedge their promises .. but with God there is complete boldness and confidence in His assertions
Constable: Addressing the remnant (house) of His people, Yahweh reminded the Judahites that He had carried Israel (as a burden sometimes) throughout her history (cf. 63:9; Exod. 19:4; Deut. 1:31; 32:11; Ps. 28:9), and He would continue to do so.
Beall: See Isa 63:9 for a similar thought of the Lord carrying His people. V. 4 repeats the separate personal pronoun “I” five times for emphasis! [personal pronoun omitted before the last verb.] God cares about His people personally!
Motyer: While the Lord is inflexible regarding what he has determined to do (10-11), he is also inflexible in his commitment to his people (3-4).
Oswalt: At least three different images are involved here, as other references show; a father carrying a child (Deut. 1:21), a shepherd carrying a lamb (Ps. 28:9), and an eagle carrying its eaglets (Exod. 19:4; Deut. 32:11). . . There will never come a time when we outgrow our dependence on God.
Illustration: Remember the mantra of Jesus that He did not come to be ministered unto but to minister – Mark 10:45; that was Paul’s testimony as a spiritual leader and example to those elders he was training up to take on the mantle of leadership – Acts 20:33-35 – I heard a sad testimony earlier this week from a home improvement contractor I had over to the house for an estimate on a job – He has been attending a mega church in the area for a long time – one that we would all know – his observation was that the leaders made a pile of money and didn’t seem overly burdened with the workload – how vastly different from the example that the great Apostle left for Christian leaders to follow – Have we been called to be a burden to others or to lift burdens off others and direct them to put their trust in the only one who can deliver?
II. (:5-7) FUTILE COMPARISON – GOD STANDS ALONE
A. (:5) Unique Glory of the True God
“To whom would you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me,
That we should be alike?”
How can we even describe and define God? Fortunately we can look to the Lord Jesus – God incarnate – who has come down from heaven and revealed the Father
The big fights make a big deal about the weigh-ins – let’s have the fighters come and look each other in the eye and step on the scale so all can see their measurable; Mayweather fight they sold tickets to just the weigh-in for
Get out your scales and weigh up God and the competition – No Contest!
B. (:6-7) Unproductive Glitter of the False Gods
1. Making of the Idol from Gold and Silver
“Those who lavish gold from the purse and weigh silver on the scale
Hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;”
2. Worship of the Idol
“They bow down, indeed they worship it.”
Young: When the work is completed and the dead gold that came from mines under the ground is made into a god, the worshippers engage in the act of supreme folly in that they bow down to what has just been created at their own expense. This is the fourth time that the making of idols is described (cf. also 40:19; 41:7 and 44:9ff.).
3. Lack of Mobility of the Idol
“They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it;
They set it in its place and it stands there. It does not move from its place.”
4. Ineffectiveness of the Idol
“Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer;
It cannot deliver him from his distress.”
III. (:8-11) SOVEREIGN PURPOSE – ACCOMPLISHING GOD’S AGENDA = ABLE TO CARRY HIS PEOPLE
A. (:8-9a) Memory Exercise Related to Sovereign Purpose
“Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
Remember the former things long past,”
Goal: to encourage and provide assurance to undergird the faith of His people
Addresses His people as “transgressors” – not exactly using flattery to attract a following; tells it like it is; no benefits flow to us unless we are willing to confess our sinfulness
God wants people to use their minds – not be driven by emotion
Look at the flim flam false prophets on TV – their presentation is all about emotion – setting the scene with the appropriate music and then trying to manipulate your feelings
God addresses His presentation to the mind – He wants our minds engaged
Talked before about sermon series on the great reminder monuments that God had His people set up throughout their history – don’t forget what God has done for us in the past
Oswalt: God is not to be known in the endlessly recurring cycles of nature, mind numbing in their glorious repetitions, but in his stark, unrepeatable intrusions into history. Remember those moments, say Moses and all the prophets, for as you do, you will see reality. You will see God as he really is and know that you can entrust yourself to him.
B. (:9b-11a) Declaration and Demonstration of Uniqueness Related to Sovereign Purpose
1. (:9b) Declaration of Uniqueness
“For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,”
2. (:10-11a) Demonstration of Uniqueness via Sovereign Purpose
a. General Demonstration of Sovereign Purpose
“Declaring the end from the beginning
And from ancient times things which have not been done,”
Not just knowing what is going to happen in the future because He sees the future … instead, He is at work to establish His agenda
Edwards: not only believe that God is sovereign but that He is always exerting His sovereignty;
b. Definition of Sovereign Purpose
“Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;”
Borgman: remember the judgments and deliverances = the mighty deeds of God; encourages us to hope and trust in Him today;
Plagues of Egypt and God’s mighty deliverance of His people – Why?? Ex. 7:5, 17; 8:10; 9:14, 16; 14:4, 18 – so all would know that God is the Lord; making His name known; God making a distinction between His people and the Egyptians
None of the gods of Egypt can do what the true God of Israel can do; tried to duplicate some of the plagues but forced to admit: “this is the finger of God”
c. Specific Demonstration of Sovereign Purpose
“Calling a bird of prey from the east,
The man of My purpose from a far country.”
Specific reference to calling of Cyrus from Persia
Beall: Cyrus is called “a bird of prey from the east” in v. 11 because of the swiftness and fierceness of his conquests (the term for bird, from the verb meaning “to scream”, is used also in Isa 18:6 [twice], and elsewhere only five times in the OT).
C. (:11b) Guaranteed Execution of Sovereign Purpose
“Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass.
I have planned it, surely I will do it.”
IV. (:12-13) SALVATION PROMISE – MAGNIFYING GOD’S GRACE AND GLORY
A. (:12) Proclamation to the Stubborn Wicked
“Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded,
Who are far from righteousness.”
Beall: Again, the Lord addresses Israel with an imperative, and again in uncomplimentary terms: here He calls them stubborn-hearted (lit., strong of heart) and far from righteousness. For these ones, amazingly, God declares in v. 13, that He brings His own righteousness near to them, and that His salvation will not delay: salvation will be placed in Zion; God will give His glory (or beauty) to Israel. As Young states, “the glory Israel possesses, it possesses not in and of itself but receives from its Lord as a gift” (3:229). While this salvation was seen in the incarnation of Christ, full salvation for Israel will not come until the Millennium and the final deliverance from Babylon.
B. (:13) Promise of Salvation Centered in Israel
1. Salvation is Near
“I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off;
And My salvation will not delay.”
False religions are all about works
With God it is all about grace
2. Salvation is Narrow – Centered in Israel
“And I will grant salvation in Zion,
And My glory for Israel.”
Constable: God would be faithful to His covenant promises and bring salvation to Zion (cf. 44:26-28; Rom. 3:21-25; 5:8; 1 Cor. 1:30). He would soon bring the righteousness that His people lacked. This deliverance would glorify His name.
Young: The glorious news those who are far from righteousness are to hear is that God has brought His own righteousness near. What must be noted is the divine action. Man is not commanded to obtain salvation or righteousness or to approach them. Rather, the emphasis falls upon what God has done; salvation is a gift from Him alone.
1 Pet. 5:6-7 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety [burden] on Him, because He cares for you.”
Ps. 68:19 “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation.”