Isaiah 46 – Dead Idols and the Living God
A. The idols of the nations are carried into captivity.
1. (1-2) The false gods are carried away on carriages.
Bel bows down, Nebo stoops;
Their idols were on the beasts and on the cattle.
Your carriages were heavily loaded,
A burden to the weary beast.
They stoop, they bow down together;
They could not deliver the burden,
But have themselves gone into captivity.
a. Bel bows down, Nebo stoops: Bel and Nebo were names of two false gods the idol-worshipping nations served. It is as if now God gets personal, “naming names” when it comes to idols; and now these false gods are brought low.
i. The names of the pagan gods Bel and Nebo are familiar to us in the names Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar.
ii. “In chapter 45 Isaiah declared that every knee will bow to the Lord, and here he pictures the gods of the great Babylon stooping low in humiliation.” (Grogan)
b. Their idols were on the beasts and on the cattle. Your carriages were heavily loaded: Isaiah pictures God’s people going into captivity, in a forced relocation. Loaded on to their beasts and carriages are their idols – even their idols are carried away into captivity, and loaded on the moving trucks! The bottom line is they could not deliver the burden, but have themselves gone into captivity.
2. (3-4) The LORD, the true God, will carry His people.
“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
Who have been upheld by Me from birth,
Who have been carried from the womb:
Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.
a. Who have been upheld by Me from birth, who have been carried from the womb: The false gods represented by silent and dead idols must be carried; but God carries His people. He carried them from before their birth, and He promises to continue to carry them (even to gray hairs I will carry you!).
b. I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry: This is the same Fatherly care Jesus spoke of in Luke 12:6-7: Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. When we understand that God has made us, and we are valuable to Him, then we can trust Him to carry us.
i. It’s a worthy question: do you have to carry your gods, or does your God carry you?
3. (5-7) The LORD can save His people when the idols are helpless.
“To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal
And compare Me, that we should be alike?
They lavish gold out of the bag,
And weigh silver on the scales;
They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god;
They prostrate themselves, yes, they worship.
They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it
And set it in its place, and it stands;
From its place it shall not move.
Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer
Nor save him out of his trouble.
a. They lavish gold out of the bag: Much money and attention are given to the production and care of our idols. Yet, though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer nor save him out of his trouble. Isaiah again exposes the ironic folly of idolatry.
B. A call to remember.
1. (8-10) Remember that the LORD knows the beginning and the end.
“Remember this, and show yourselves men;
Recall to mind, O you transgressors.
Remember the former things of old,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure.’
a. Remember this, and show yourselves men: We can gain the courage of men when we remember the things God tells us to remember. How much defeat we suffer in the Christian life through simply forgetting.
b. Remember the former things of old…there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning: God knows the end of every matter, of every course of circumstances, just as clearly as anyone else can see the beginning of it.
c. Saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure”: God knows the end from the beginning because He is much more than a passive observer of events. His counsel shall stand. His works and plans never fail, because He will do all His pleasure. God isn’t just watching the entire parade of history, He is directing the parade.
i. The essential point is that God’s people must remember this about the LORD – that He knows the end from the beginning and is in control over all things. When we remember this, we will show yourselves men. We can have tremendous courage in our God when we understand and remember who He is and what He does.
2. (11-13) Remember that the LORD will bring a deliverer to Zion.
Calling a bird of prey from the east,
The man who executes My counsel, from a far country.
Indeed I have spoken it;
I will also bring it to pass.
I have purposed it;
I will also do it.
Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted,
Who are far from righteousness:
I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off;
My salvation shall not linger.
And I will place salvation in Zion,
For Israel My glory.
a. Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel: This is another reference to Cyrus. God’s people need to remember that God always has a deliverer for His people, even if He has to find one among pagan kings.
b. My salvation shall not linger: God’s people need to remember that God’s timing is always precise and wise. When we are stubborn-hearted we need to listen to the LORD and remember He never delays and is never late. God always has His deliverer, and always knows exactly when to bring His deliverance.
(c) 2021 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com