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Isaiah 46:1-7

Years ago, I received an early morning message that a beloved family member had succumbed to illness and was now with the Lord. That day was a difficult one for me. I was feeling very down, questioning God about why our prayers for healing had not been answered, and asking for a sign of His love. During my devotional time that morning I read Isaiah 46:3-4“Listen to me…you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray 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.”

I felt like God was taking my shoulders, giving me a little shake and saying, “Listen to Me…”

I met my husband for lunch, and we talked about how I might be able to get to the memorial service which was being held in a state far distant from ours. We had no money for a plane ticket and wrestled helplessly in trying to come up with a solution. Shortly after returning home, I received a call from a friend who had been in my small group Bible Study the week before as we prayed for my gravely ill relative. She told me that she and her husband both felt God was leading them to give me an airline voucher so I could fly out to be with my family. She did not know that my relative had just died that morning! The answer was settled and assured; I wept as I thanked God for His care and concern over every detail. It was as if He reached down, put His arms around me and said again the words of Isaiah 46—“Listen to Me! I love you and I’m still carrying you.”

In the first two verses of Isaiah 46, the prophet draws a vivid picture of the gods of Babylon, man-made idols, being carted off as Babylon prepares for invasion. “Their idols are borne by beasts of burden. The images that are carried about are burdensome…” A few verses later, Isaiah mocks, “Some pour out gold from their bags…they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it. They lift it to their shoulders and carry it.” (Isaiah 46:6-7)

Far from bearing the burdens of their people, the gods themselves became burdens that were wearisome, unable to rescue anyone. In dramatic contrast, verses 3 and 4 describe how the God of the Universe carries, and has always carried, His people. Various forms of the words for “upheld,” “carry,” and “sustain” are repeated five separate times in just those two verses to emphasize that our God is not a burden to be borne, but rather a Burden-Bearer. The worshipers of idols shoulder their gods to carry them; but the word “sustain,” used twice in verse 4, means literally that our God “shoulders” us. Also in that verse we read the forceful phrases, “I have made, I will carry, I will sustain…” which draws this observation from J. Alec Motyer in his commentary on Isaiah: “…all the pronouns I are emphatic, i.e. ‘I will myself’—a touching underlining of directly personal tender loving care.”

Today, we might not have physical idols of gold or silver that we cart around on our backs. But we do not lack for things that burden us and weigh us down; many times, modern “idols” of our own making. Author Jennifer Rothschild puts it succinctly: “An idol is anything that replaces or reduces God.” Possessions, habits, worries, attitudes…they can all become wearisome burdens that are powerless to comfort or sustain us in times of difficulty and loss. We wallow in self-pity, agonizing over the solution to our problems, while God is lovingly and patiently reminding us through His Word:

Listen to Me! ….I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you…”

God is adequate as our Keeper…Your faith will not fail while God sustains it;

You are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.

–J.I. Packer

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