Isaiah 46-48
(Carry You)
July 28th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

And I’ll keep on carrying you when you’re old.
    I’ll be there, bearing you when you’re old and gray.
I’ve done it and will keep on doing it,
    carrying you on my back, saving you.

- Isaiah 46:4 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

These three chapters conclude the section that prophesized the exile to Babylon and the deliverance from captivity through Cyrus, whom the LORD appointed.

In chapter 46, the prophet revisits the theme of the powerless idols. In this case he contrasts the helplessness of the false idols that have to be carried by men and beasts versus the unlimited strength and personal care of God. The LORD carries his people from birth to old age and beyond. The fake idols are a physical burden, but the LORD carries his people and their burdens to safety.

The author records God’s statement reminding the people that he is cognizant of the past, present, and future, and knows that he will summon “from a far-off land, a man (Cyrus) to fulfill his purpose (46:11 - NIV).”

Chapter 47 is a taunt by God directed at Babylon. The LORD depicts the nation as an oppressive queen accustomed to leisure:

    “Even on the aged
        you laid a very heavy yoke.
    You said, ‘I am forever—
        the eternal queen!’
    But you did not consider these things
        or reflect on what might happen.”

    - Isaiah 47:6-7 (NIV)

The LORD explains that Babylon will soon be dragged into forced labor. It will be a disaster that they don’t see coming, even with the advice of all of the sorcerers and astronomers: “Each of them goes on in his error, there is not one that can save you (Isa 47:15 - NIV).” Chapter 48 presents the summary and conclusion of this section of prophecy. The LORD reminds the people that the visions regarding Babylon and Cyrus were told long before they happened so that all would know who made them occur. He reminds his people that he has saved them in order to be praised, and that he is the Creator of heaven and earth and controls all events, including the use of a Gentile to save them: “The LORD’s chosen ally will carry out his purpose against Babylon (Isa 48:14 - NIV).”

Finally, he instructs the people that they would have had less suffering if they had followed him with their whole hearts. Nevertheless, he tells them to exit Babylon with “shouts of joy and proclaim it. Send it out to the ends of the earth (Isa 48:20 - NIV).”

The LORD saved one generation of Israelite people from Egypt and then saved a subsequent one from Babylon. But there will be trouble for those who oppose him. In the final verse, the LORD explains that “ ‘there is no peace for the wicked.’ (Isa 48:22 - NIV).”

Reflection and Application

This contrast of the false idols to the real God is a good one for our contemporary generation. The false idols that we create are also burdensome. It might be our possessions or our careers or something else, but in the end, we recognize that it takes work to create and maintain and protect these things. By contrast, God pre-existed before us, and he carries us.

    “Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob,
        all the remnant of the people of Israel,
    you whom I have upheld since your birth,
        and have carried since you were born.
    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.”

    - Isaiah 46:3-4 (NIV)

When I read the LORD’s quote saying “I will carry you,” I am reminded of a long ago era when our daughters were very young. As parents, we could sense when the girls were tired and would ask them, “Would you like to us to carry you?” They eagerly raised their arms and smiled as they settled securely in the arms of mom or dad. But sometimes they would ask before we offered, and would hold up their arms as they cried out, “Carry You!” When I heard this, I would silently chuckle at their interpretation of the English language but would sweep them up in my big arms without bothering to correct them.

God also offers to carry us, as recorded by Isaiah. If we don’t hear his offer, but need a hand with our many burdens, we might raise our arms and cry “Carry Me!” Our language does not have to be perfect. He understands our cries and groans, just like earthly parents understand the unique language of their children. Then, he will reach down and sweep us up into his giant arms and hold us forever and ever.

The verses in 47:6-7 that describe the yoke of Babylon may remind you of a quote from Jesus, as recorded by Matthew: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Mt 11:29 - NIV).” The concept of the yoke appears a lot throughout the Bible. In the example from Matthew, the offer from Jesus allows us to share our burden with him and let him guide us in the right path. This is another way that God offers to carry us. By contrast, the false idols don’t take any burden from us, but instead they weigh us down.

God can use any man, animal, or thing to achieve his purpose. The sorcerers and astronomers could not even get a whiff of what was about to happen to Babylon, but God saw the whole series of events that lay out in front of him, like a chess master that plans every move and knows every countermove.

One difference between the chess master and God is that God allows us free will; he doesn’t move us continually, like pawns on the board. Cyrus had the opportunity to turn down God, but responded with humility. By contrast, Sennacherib, as described a few chapters ago, got cocky when God used him, and even disrespected God, which led to his eventual downfall.

God’s command for the people to “send it (their shouts of joy when leaving Babylon) to the ends of the Earth (Isa 48:20 - NIV)" is a pre-cursor to Jesus’ final command on the day he ascended into heaven: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8 - NIV).”

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

Related Questions
  1. What were some of the unique family phrases that you used with your parents or that your children used with you?
  2. What are the burdens that are weighing you down today? When are you going to ask God to help you?
  3. We are called to bring the Word to the ends of the Earth and to tell the world how God has carried us. What can we do today to help achieve that?
Recommended Prayer
Father in heaven, we know that you are the real thing. Forgive us for burdening ourselves with false idols. Help us accept your gentle yoke.

Suggested Prayer Concerns

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow's reading: Isaiah 49-53 (The Suffering Servant)

Comments and Questions
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