Text: Isaiah 46
If I were going to give today’s teaching a title, it would be, “The Burdened Church.” False gods have no strength because they are not gods at all, so they bend over and stoop. And those who worship them and make idols to them become like them — they also have no strength, and bend over and stoop. They become burdened by what they worship — weary, bowed down and stooped over (Psalm 115:8)!
This is a prophecy of the LORD’s judgment of His people for their idolatry. He speaks again of the coming Babylonian captivity.
But it also applies to today’s church, where the god of self is worshiped and exalted by many churchgoers and exalted from many pulpits and by many leaders of today’s denominations. But the idol to the god of self, whose root is the sin nature, must be carried. It is a burden. It has no strength. It causes those who carry it to be weary, to bow down and stoop.
The LORD has asked me to speak boldly and bluntly to you today. O church, you have become what you worship! You have no strength, you are weary, you bow down and stoop!
Verse 1 —
NOTE: Bel/Baal/Marduk was the chief god of Babylon. Nebo was the son of Marduk.
Isaiah says, “Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over. Their images are consigned to the beast and the cattle (which must carry them around). The things carried by you are burdensome, a load for the weary beast.”
The LORD’s people — both then and now — do not see that these gods have no strength. They do not see they themselves have no strength because they worship that which has no strength.
They do not see that the idols they make to false gods are a burden that they must carry, because their false gods are not gods at all. They become weary from carrying idols to them, and put their idols on beasts.
Verse 2 —
Therefore, the LORD’s people who carry idols to false gods are stooped over, and have bowed down (stooped down) together; they could not rescue their burden, the idols to the false gods that they carry. But they have themselves gone into captivity.
They cannot rescue their burdensome false gods, nor can their false gods save them from going into Babylonian captivity. That is because their false gods are no gods at all! Today’s church is full of captives of their own sin nature and slaves to sin. Why? Few believe and teach the truth that Jesus Christ will set them free from slavery to sin (John 8:31-36), if they will ask Him to crucify their sin nature and fill them with the Holy Spirit.
Verse 3 —
So the LORD says, “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, you who have been borne by Me from birth, and have been carried from the womb . . .”
In contrast to idols to false gods, which must be carried and are burdens to those who worship them, the LORD has borne His people, and the LORD has carried them, even when they were still in the womb. He has not been a burden for them to carry, but He has carried them! O Christian! Repent! Throw away the god of self to the moles and the bats, and the Lord will carry you!
He speaks to the Israel which is in Judah. Northern Israel had already been judged for their idolatry, and were carried off and scattered across the known world by the Assyrians, never to be a nation again.
But the Lord clarified for me the reason why He refers to Judah as Jacob and Israel. Members of all 12 tribes resided in Judah. Why? Some of each of the 12 tribes could not bear to be in the midst of the wicked idol worship in northern Israel (which included child sacrifice).
Their hearts were set on seeking the LORD God of Israel. So, they fled from northern Israel when the Levitical priests were excluded by King Jeroboam from serving as priests there —
2Chronicles 11:14 For the Levites left their pasture lands and their property and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had excluded them from serving as priests to the LORD. 15 He set up priests of his own for the high places, for the satyrs (demons) and for the calves which he had made. 16 Those from all the tribes of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD God of Israel followed them to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to the LORD God of their fathers.
So in that way, Judah became Jacob and Israel. It was because members of all 12 tribes dwelled there. I thank the Lord for continuing to teach me, by His Holy Spirit!
Verse 4 —
Therefore, He promises to His repentant ones, “Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years, I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you, and I will bear you, and I will deliver you.”
Those who repent for their idolatry will be carried by Him all of their lives, even to the time they are old and gray-haired. They will be borne by Him. He has done it!
We did not make Him, but He made us. So to worship Him — instead of the false god of self, O church — is no burden. We are not bent down or stooped over, for we do not carry Him. He carries us!
Verse 5 —
Again, He asks His people — including today’s church —
“To whom would you liken Me, and make me equal and compare me, that we would be alike?”
There is no god like Him. All other gods are false, and are a burden that you carry. He is the true and living LORD!
Verses 6-7 —
The LORD continues, “Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh silver on the scale hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god. They bow down, indeed they worship it. They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it. They set it in its place and it stands there. It does not move from its place. Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer. It cannot deliver him from his distress.”
The gold and silver idols represented false gods who are no gods at all. Idols to them must be carried by those who worship them. But what is at the root of worship of false gods? The root is the god of self. And what is the root of the god of self? The sin nature we are all born with, as the offspring of Adam.
I speak frankly and bluntly to you, as I ought to speak, O believer. Paul asks the believers at Ephesus to pray for him to continue to be frank and blunt —
Ephesians 6:19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness (literally, frankly and bluntly) the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly (literally, frankly, bluntly), as I ought to (am required to) speak.
Again, today’s church panders to the god of self, worshiping and exalting it from the pews to the pulpits and even to the leaders of denominations! The god of self is erected in many church buildings and in the hearts of many infants in Christ, but it can do nothing but stand there. It cannot move, it cannot answer your cry. It cannot deliver you from your distress. It is false. It is dead.
God the Father sends distress upon you, O churchgoer, so your eyes may be opened to see that you are worshiping yourself! But the LORD is glad to deliver you from your sin nature, and from the god of self that is nothing but a burden that you must carry, one that makes you weary, one that makes you bend down and stoop over! But in what way does the god of self make you bend and stoop?
You make yourself bend and stoop under the weight of your own sin. You drag the full weight of your moral twistedness behind you, using the cords of lies. You pull your sin behind you with lies, as a cart is pulled with cart ropes. Woe to you —
Isaiah 5:18 Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood, and sin as if with cart ropes . . .
You have obeyed and followed false teachers, who have encouraged you to worship the god of self! “Believe in Jesus, and you will have your best life now — money, success, happiness! Believe in Jesus and He will affirm how good you are, He will stroke your ego! He will make you happy!” But they are teaching another Jesus (2Corinthians 11:4), not the real Jesus Christ. Woe to them! Woe to you, if you follow them!
The real Jesus Christ was sent to give you His life, in you, not “your best life now!” He came to take the punishment for your past sins upon Himself, and rise on the third day, so that if you believe into Him, you will be rescued from being under God’s wrath, and will have peace with God. He ascended and was glorified so your sin nature, which is the root of your idolatry of self, would be crucified, and so you could become a partaker of His divine nature (2Peter 1:4)!
But you do not want to feel bad about yourself. You worship yourself! You think you are not under God’s wrath, so you do not need to be rescued. You think that you are at peace with God! You are happy with teachers who falsely tell you that He took all your sins — past, present and future — because you cannot help but continue to sin. So, you believe that when you sin again and again, you will automatically be pardoned.
You do not want to hear that you need something you do not have. But you need a new heart!
But being told that you, O churchgoer, are still a sinner in need of a new heart does not affirm you, it does not promise you the things you lust after, it conflicts with your prayers (really, demands) that God give you what you want. So you reject the gracious gift of God — the real Jesus Christ!
You want, want, want. You lust after — you greatly desire — that which the world worships and lusts after. But you do not get what you want.
So you are crushed, you are disappointed with God, you are depressed and burdened and weary. But you do not see that your burden is self-made!
The Spirit-filled John writes this to the church —
1John 2:15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
How will the Father put His love in you? How can you know and do and be the embodiment of His will, so that you will live forever?
I tell you the truth, if you will ask your Father in heaven to fill you with His Holy Spirit, He will crucify the sin nature in you! Then His love will fill your heart to overflowing (Romans 5:5). Then Jesus Christ’s kingdom will be established in your heart. Then you will know and do and be the embodiment of the Father’s will. Then He will carry you, and you will no longer carry the burden of the god of self!
Verses 8-10 —
Remember! Remember! You have forgotten, O Christian, O people of Judah! When the LORD repeats something twice, it means that what He is about to say must be quickly acted upon. Why? Repeating means His judgment will come suddenly!
The LORD exhorts His people who rebel against Him and worship false gods, saying, “Remember this, and be assured (literally, act in a manly way), recall it to mind, you transgressors.”
He calls them out! They have forgotten that He is God alone! They sin against Him. They do not remember who He is and what He has told them He will do if they do not repent.
He continues, “Remember the former things long past. For I am God, and there is no other. I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose (plan) will be established (will stand), and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’”
He is God, and there is no other, there is no one like Him. He alone knows all that will happen, for He sits above time. And from that position, He declares what will happen, long before it happens. He is God. He will make His plan stand. He will accomplish (do) His good pleasure (what He desires).
In today’s church, idolaters of self often declare and decree, they try to make their own plan stand, they try to manipulate God to do what they desire. But only God can declare and decree, and only His plan will stand and be fulfilled.
Verse 11 —
What is the plan that the LORD has made, from long ago? It is not a man-pleasing plan, but a God-pleasing plan that is for His rebellious peoples’ own good!
He says He will call a bird of prey from the east, the man of His pleasure from a far country (King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, His servant, per Jeremiah 25:9). He is pleased to use Babylon to discipline His people, so they return to Him.
He says, “Surely, I have spoken, truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.” No one can thwart His plan from long ago. He knew you would go after the god of self. He allows Satan to sift you like wheat (Luke 22:31), so you will turn back to Him!
He does what He says He will do. If you are unfaithful, He will be faithful to do what He says He will do to the unfaithful, for He cannot deny Himself (see 2Timothy 2:13).
Verses 12-13 —
The LORD continues, “Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded (Hebrew-to-English, “mighty ones of heart”), who are far (standing far away) from righteousness!” Again, He calls out His people who rebel against Him! They think they are mighty, but they are not! They think they are right before God, but they are far away from righteousness!
Then He tells them what He will do if they repent, saying, “I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off, and My salvation will not delay (be late). And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel.”
The original Hebrew-to-English is much clearer than my NAS Bible translation —
“I bring near My righteousness. It shall not be far off, and My salvation shall not wait. I will place in Zion salvation, for Israel My glory.”
If they repent, He will bring near His righteousness. It is not far off, though they are far away from it. He will place in Zion salvation. By what means? By sending Jesus Christ, God the Son, to reconcile us to God the Father, and remove us from being under His wrath. His salvation will not wait, but will come suddenly —
Malachi 3:1 “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts.
Where did God the Father send Jesus Christ? To Israel. His ministry began suddenly. He was the messenger of a new covenant, in His blood.
Why does He call Israel “My glory?” First, you must understand that those who believe into Jesus Christ — the promised Messiah — are Israel.
Paul explains —
Romans 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel (that is, Jacob, Abraham’s grandson); 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but “Through Isaac your descendants will be named.”
What does that mean? Abraham was declared righteous by the LORD because He believed God. He had faith that the LORD would keep His promise regarding a son.
Isaac was the child of the promise — the one the LORD promised to Abraham and Sarah. Indeed, genetically, all Israel came from Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, just as the LORD had promised Abraham. But Jacob was a natural offspring. And the Spirit-filled Paul says genetics do not determine who is Israel. Faith determines who is Israel. Both Jews and non-Jews who come to faith in Jesus Christ become children of God (John 1:12). Thus, they are Israel.
That does not mean the church replaces Israel. That is a false teaching that ignores Romans 11, especially these verses —
Romans 11:17 But if some of the branches (Jews) were broken off (by their unbelief), and you (non-Jew), being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.
Romans 11:22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
But all Jews from Israel who believe into Jesus Christ — now and when the Lord removes the spirit of stupor (sleep) that is upon the Jews, are Israel. And all non-Jews who believe in Jesus Christ are Israel.
When does the true Israel become His glory? When Jews and non-Jews who believe into Jesus Christ obey His commands to stay and wait to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5)!
Then they are filled with the very glory of God, His Holy Spirit, and become Jesus Christ’s witnesses here — that is, they become living representations of Him (Acts 1:8)! For that, the Father and the Son receive praise and honor and are glorified, for those that are filled are radiant proof that the Lord keeps His promises!
Beloved, I am a watchman who will not keep silent, nor will I give the Lord rest until all believers become a praise in the earth —
Isaiah 62:6 On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; 7 and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem (and the church) a praise in the earth.
Lord Jesus, may Jews and non-Jews see and believe into You, and may they be filled with Your Holy Spirit so they become “Israel, Your glory.” Let it be so, I pray. Amen.