Isaiah 46 Visions of God’s Greatness WC McCarter
I am God, and There is No Other
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
They Could Not Deliver (1-2)
Bel and Nebo are the most famous Babylonian gods. Those titles are versions of the names for Marduk and his son, Nabu. These, of course, were fictitious gods that the Babylonians had created. It is said that Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had a temple for Marduk near his great palace.
The people of Judah had turned away from the Lord their God and began worshipping the idols of the foreign nations. Their rebellion is what brought about their captivity in Babylon. The Lord warned them through the prophets to repent from their wicked ways and come back to the Lord, but they did not heed those warnings. They trusted in the false gods, and, ultimately, the people were taken into captivity along with their idols.
What is the point of the first two verses? The point is exactly what we saw last week in chapter 44. Idols are useless. They cannot save. They cannot deliver anyone from their burdens but are in fact burdens themselves because they load down the carriages and the animals. The message to Judah was that if they wanted to follow their false gods, they could follow them all the way to Babylonian captivity, and that is exactly what happened.
Listen to Me, O House of Jacob (3-5)
This is the first of two times in the chapter that God says, “Listen to Me.” Here He wants to speak to the remnant of Israel. From the beginning of their existence the Lord had taken care of them. The Lord had carried along the people from their conception as a nation and promised to do so even to their old age. Like any good parent, the Lord says in essence, I made you, so I am responsible for you. I will carry you, sustain you, and deliver you.
For this reason, among many more reasons, there is no one who compares to our God. He has no equals. Even while the faithless people of Judah were carrying their idols, God was carrying them from before they were a people until the present day. He was going to send them into exile, but He would carry them back. He tells them these things even before they happen so that when it did happen they would know that He alone is God.
While the idols of the people had to be carried by animals, God had been the one to carry the people all along. The Lord wants them to see the irony in this fact. Israel never had to carry their God but had instead been upheld by Him.
It Cannot Answer Nor Save (6-7)
In verses six and seven, the Lord returns to the discussion of the uselessness of idols. Folks would buy up some gold and silver, they would weigh it out and determine what kind of god they would have the metal worker fashion. The people would bow down and worship what was previously a hunk of metal without any shape. A material that could be dug up from the ground was something to which they prostrated themselves.
Idols were something that people carried around because they could not move themselves around. Once it was taken out of a back-pack, it would be stood somewhere, and from that place it would not move. The absurdity of idols is voiced once again because people would cry out to the idols for salvation, but there would be no answer. There would be no salvation. They were lifeless, statues of human imagination.
Remember This (8-11)
In verse eight the Lord says, “Remember this” to draw the reader’s attention. The phrase “show yourselves men” has a long history of disputed meaning. It could mean “show yourselves men” or “stand firm.” It could also mean, “be ashamed” or “be alarmed.” Either way, the Lord wants His people to remember who He is. It is not so much about them, although they must admit that they were transgressors, and so are we, but it is all about God. The Lord basically says, Think back and remember all that I have done for you. At this point, the Jews could think back to God’s creative work; His promises of a remedy for the sin problem; His preserving a righteous line; His choosing and blessing Abraham who would be the father of the nation and the father of faith; His redeeming work in the Exodus; His conquering and giving to them the Promised Land; and so much more. They needed to remember things from long ago. If they would, they would realize that He is God and there is no other, that there is none like Him, there is no comparison.
What makes the Lord so unique? Well, many things declare God’s distinctiveness. For example, in verse ten we are told that God declares the end from the beginning. What idol can do that?
Another more specific example of the Lord’s matchlessness, in verse eleven, is how he raises up kings/empires for His good pleasure. We have already seen in chapter 44 that God called Cyrus by name, the king of the next world empire, Persia. The “bird of prey from the east” and the “man” here in 46:11 is Cyrus the Great. The Lord predicted and purposed his reign over the Persian Empire, and the Lord brought it about. The Lord would bring a remnant of Israel back to the Promised Land, and He would use Cyrus to accomplish that plan. Like a hawk flying high in sky and swooping down on a helpless rabbit, Cyrus and the Persian Army would come onto the world stage and quickly destroy the Babylonian Empire. He would then decree that all captives return home.
Listen to Me, You Stubborn-Hearted (12-13)
The Lord has not been shy in calling the people for what they are. He has called them weak in the sense that they needed to man up, He called them transgressors, and now He calls them stubborn-hearted and far from righteousness. What is “righteousness?” It is right-thinking. It is to be in the will of God. It is to follow His standards. Sadly, there are many Christians today who are also far from righteousness, although this is what we have been called to in Christ. But, you see, Christ died for the ungodly. He did not come to save the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. Let us draw close to Him because He has come close to us, even becoming a man, even dying a substitutionary death on the cross.
Although the Lord is harsh in telling them the bitter truth, He is also sure to make promises that He will be their Helper. The people are far away from righteousness, but the Lord promises to bring His righteousness near to them. The point of verse 13 is that God will save them. Of course, there is no clearer time in history for verse 13 to be fulfilled than in the crucifixion of Jesus. It was then, at the time of His crucifixion, that God brought His salvation near. It was there, at Zion (Jerusalem), that God placed His salvation. That was how His glory was made known in Israel and for the whole world.
Conclusion and Christian Application
One commentator has summed up nicely the point of C46, “Isaiah claims that the evidence for the uniqueness of God . . . rests on his ability to predict novel turns of history in advance, an ability the idols and their technicians do not have. Specifically those predictions included Assyria’s all but total conquest of Israel and Judah, Assyria’s failure to capture Jerusalem, the fall of Assyria, the fall of Jerusalem and Judah to Babylon, the exile, the fall of Babylon to Cyrus, Cyrus’s proclamation of freedom and encouragement to rebuild, the return of a remnant, and the establishment of a messianic kingdom” (Oswalt, 192).
From all of the information, we can confidently say that these predictions were made long before the events so that when the events took place they served as confirmation that the God of Israel is the only true and living God.
(1) If you are trusting in anything other than the Lord, it cannot help/save you.
(2) God is the beginning and end, the alpha and omega, the first and last, the author and finisher of our faith. He redeemed you in the beginning of your Christian life in the new birth, He has carried you all this time, and He will save you at the end of your life. Continue to trust Him. Put Him in His proper place as God and King of your life.
(3) Remember what God has done. God calls on the Israelites to recall the things of old. If they would, then they would remember His blessings, providential care, and saving works. You can/should do the same.