Isaiah 46

Isaiah 46  •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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The opening verses of chapter 46 pick up the theme that runs through these chapters— that of the persistent idolatry of the people. Bel and Nebo were two of the idols of Babylon, and the prophet sees the images representing them placed upon beasts ready for flight, just as at the beginning of the last chapter he had seen Cyrus taking the city. The word translated “carriages” means “things lifted up to be carried”, not the vehicle on which they are placed.
So verses 1 and 2 are really ironical. The heavy images were placed on the backs of oxen, that staggered and finally collapsed, unable to deliver the gods into safety. Bel and Nebo could not even deliver themselves; much less anyone who trusted in them!
Hence the appeal of verses 3 and 4. It is made, notice, to “the house of Jacob”, in contrast to “the seed of Israel”, mentioned previously, even if amongst them were to be found a remnant of the house of Israel. In contrast to the Babylonian gods that had to be borne on the backs of weary beasts so ineffectually, here is One who would support and carry, from their birth to the gray hairs of old age, those who trusted Him; One who would never let them down but deliver them. How great the contrast!
The contrast exists around us today. It is still a pertinent question— Do you go your way, carrying the things that you idolize, or does your God carry you? The idols of the modern English-speaking world are not images but more subtle things, such as money, pleasures, lusts; yet as life draws to its end they let you down. The God, whom we know, revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ, carries us through to the finish, for we are in the embrace of the love that will never let us go.
Hence, as verse 5 declares, God stands out alone, beyond all comparison with any other. This fact is supported by a further reference to the follies that are inherent in idolatry. Here are men falling down and worshipping a god, fashioned by their own hands, which is a stationary object, unable to move or speak or save. And here is the true God, who acts and speaks, and foretells things that presently come to pass. The “ravenous bird [bird of prey] from the east”, is doubtless another allusion to Cyrus, whom He would raise up to execute His purpose in the near future. Then from that which was comparatively near the prophecy passes to the ultimate purpose of God, which was remote. At last God will place salvation “in Zion”, which speaks of His intervention in mercy, and the redeemed Israel, who will enjoy it, will show forth the glory of the God who has accomplished it.