Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 12 2019 - Isaiah 46 – Gods of Babylon

In the previous chapters of Isaiah we have seen that the God of Israel is the living God. He is sovereign over history and is working the events of history for the salvation and blessing of his people. This chapter begins with a very different description of the idol-gods of the Babylonians.

At the end of the previous chapter the Lord had declared that every knee would bow before him. But in the opening verses of this chapter we have a very different picture; two of the chief Babylonian gods, Bel and Nebo, are pictured as bowing down. They are merely idols and are being carried along by beasts of burden, perhaps as part of the New Year festival procession in Babylon. As the animals move forward under their heavy burdens, the idols lean first one way and then another, appearing to bow down towards the crowds of their worshipers. These are gods who are the creatures of those who worship them. They cannot offer any help to their people. This festival procession will soon become a procession of Babylonians being led off into captivity (vv. 1-2).

God's relationship with his people could not be more different. He is the one who has carried his people since the day of their birth and has shared and carried their burdens (v. 3). That was how he dealt with them at the beginning of their history as a nation when he rescued them from Egypt, and that is how he will continue to be their help and salvation:

Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (v. 4)

Those who know and worship the living God can depend upon him.

After the declaration that there is no other God like him, Isaiah once again paints a graphic picture of the folly of useless, man-made idols. Created gods are dependent upon their creators (vv. 6-7).

The chapter concludes by calling God's people to remember all that he has done for them in the past. His character has not changed and he remains faithful to his promises; he is the same God today and will soon come to their rescue as he did when they were slaves in Egypt:

I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away;
    and my salvation will not be delayed.
I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendour to Israel. (v. 13)

We also need to remember all that God has done for us in the past. He loved us so much that he sent his Son into the world to be our Saviour. Ours is no helpless god but the mighty God who came to our rescue. He has shown his power by raising the Lord Jesus from the dead, breaking for ever the power of sin and death. And Jesus who came to our rescue long ago is the ascended Lord of glory. He is the same yesterday and today and forever; he is ready to come to our rescue today and to carry our burdens:

Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

We can cast all our cares on him, knowing that he cares for us and has promised to bring us safe to glory. Jesus still invites us to come to him, weary and burdened, with the promise that he will give us rest. Unlike the Babylonians, our gods are not a burden to us; our God is our salvation, hope and joy. He leads us not into captivity but into freedom.

Father God, we rejoice in the freedom you have given us in your Son. Help us so to follow him in joyful obedience that others might want to leave their burdensome gods and join us in freedom's joyful procession to glory.

Peter Misselbrook