They say two things are certain in life – death and taxes. It seems taxes are, can’t tell from personal experience about death yet. Think there’s at least one more thing to add to list: burdens we are required to bear. Start out life as burden for someone; they call it child-bearing for a reason! Then children learn to carry things – in hands, backpacks, on heads if from different culture. Athletic training, military life, the workplace: all have associated burdens needing to be carried. Pick up other sorts of burdens as we go along – emotional burdens, baggage of experience, burdens of others we help to carry. Then there are burdens that take priority over others, getting in way of our carrying other things: changes that come with advancing years, declining health and diminished strength. Can’t get away from them, can we?!
Comes a time when we trust the carrying of our burdens to something else. Things always go easier on wheels: wagons, wheelbarrows, shopping carts, two-wheelers, “raspberry racers”. In each case we trust the device will carry the load without failing. But what about the burdens we can’t delegate to someone or something else? Those things that are ours to carry, regardless of where we are in life. The things that are more than we can bear. What then?
Isaiah points to the only one who can be trusted in all circumstances. Just in case you wondered, Gospel is good news for everyone, saved or lost, young or old, spiritually mature or just beginning. Gospel is about far more than simply being born again; that’s where it begins, doesn’t end there. Good news includes God’s comprehensive plan to accomplish his purpose in us, preparing us for life to come. Covers whole range of life: birth, rebirth, end of life, eternal life. Focus of text: what God will do for his people in future, what he has done in the past, what he presently is doing.
A. what God will do v.4
Time was coming when God’s people would be deported to Ground Zero of idolatry – Babylon. Yeah, I know, not all Israel did worship right; but the remnant did, all lived in nation known (at least some of the time) for its fear of God. How would that remnant retain and maintain their cultural identity in midst of another society? A good identity, btw, as “people of God” not just Jews. Drift is easy when don’t have working effective anchor; could quickly begin to acquire Babylonian ways of doing things, start trusting in wrong things.
Would be especially disheartening for parents – going into exile with children, knowing they wouldn’t live to return home in 70 years, fearful they wouldn’t succeed in passing values along to next generation. Heavy load to carry, not only their own faithfulness but their children’s future as well. In anticipation, God gives warning and encouragement. Begins by painting ludicrous picture of Babylon’s idols and what will happen to them.
Headline from 07/05/2005 AsiaNews: “Green light to rebuild Buddhist temples in post-tsunami Sri Lanka – Reconstruction of 197 tsunami-hit temples will begin this month”. Bel and Nebo would understand, they couldn’t prevent disaster either. In fact, pretty pathetic as gods – couldn’t even provide their own transportation (1); couldn’t protect their worshipers or themselves from being carried off by invaders (2).
God says “Listen up.” (3) He is the one responsible for their very existence, no need for him to be carried around on pack animal, In fact, He will continue to carry them, until they get old; that means, for the rest of their lives. (4) He warns them against falling for Bel and Nebo, no comparison to him (5); He is not a god that can be made or imaged (6); is not immobile, impotent, unresponsive like idols (7). This God unlike any other will carry his people and their burdens great and small for the duration. Unlike us, never gets tired, never puts us down, never expects his people to walk on their own carrying all their burdens without help.
Henry Moorhouse, 19th century English Evangelist, greatly influenced D L Moody. When engaged in a work that seemed to call upon him for a more than usual exercise of faith, received what seems like a most tender answer from God:
His little daughter, who was a paralytic, was sitting in her chair as he entered the house with a package in his hand for his wife. Going up to her and kissing her, he asked, “Where is Mother?” “Mother is upstairs.” “Well, I have a package for her.” “Let me carry the package to Mother.” “Why, Minnie, dear, how can you carry the package? You cannot carry yourself.” With a smile on her face, Minnie said, “Oh, no, Papa; but you give me the package, and I will carry the package, and you will carry me.” Taking her up in his arms, he carried her upstairs – little Minnie and the package, too.
B. what God has done v.9
Remember father of demon-possessed boy, how responded to Jesus: “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) He believed a little, had an intellectual grasp of some truths, needed some confidence building. Believing that something is possible, having confidence it will happen for you often miles apart. “Lord, I know you can do it; I’m just not sure you will or want to do it for me.” God recognizes that need in his people, goes to great lengths to give us hope for future based on his actions in past.
Remember, think about it, remember! (8) Graciously God doesn’t expect us to take leap of faith, leap in dark, trust in unknown. Far from it. Faith is response to revelation. God has revealed, will remind his people of what he revealed and did. Think back over history, remember what God promised and then what he did. (9) God doesn’t expect his people to trust him without evidence of his trustworthiness; he declared truth about himself, demonstrated the reality of that truth, then challenged his people to exercise faith.
God not in business of writing book of the world as he goes along; wrote first and last chapters from the start! And all that comes in between. Didn’t reveal it to his people all at once, gave them portions over time as suited his purpose. But basic theme of last chapter was revealed while first chapter was being lived, when there were only two people. (10) God graciously included summary of all intervening chapters as well.
“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”(Gen. 3:15)
Time passed, God revealed more of his purpose, followed through on carrying out every detail of his plan right up to their day and time when Cyrus would come at God’s command. (11) Would continue to do so until Satan’s head was bruised, once and for all, when sin and Satan and death are confined to their eternal prison along with those who die in their sins. God has his Plan A, is carrying it out right on schedule, will do so to the end; you can take that to the bank! (11)
C. what God is doing v.13
Finally, God challenges his people to listen up again. An “in your face” kind of statement: calls them stubborn, hard-hearted, far from God and his righteousness. (12) Get the idea they liked it that way, willfully trying to keep safe distance between them and God. Once again God shows he is not like us; if cantankerous people want to keep their distance, we’re good with that, let ’em be that way if they want. Not so with God; contrary to what these people want God calls them to repentance, brings his righteousness near to them. (13) That’s a good thing.
If God gave what they wanted, would never give them salvation: don’t want it, especially on God’s terms, don’t think they need it. Instead God gives what they need, bringing salvation near to those who need it, knowing that on their own they won’t try to find it. Here we see heart of God and heart of the Gospel – if were up to us to manufacture righteousness so we could approach God, would never happen. We are naturally without righteousness and have absolutely no way to get it. If we are to have any, must come from one who is righteous and has some to spare. Same need exists whether nice person from middle-class white America or Arab Muslims on a Hajj or Buddhists following the Noble Eight-fold Path. Or anyone else, for that matter. Only hope for that is God.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”(2 Cor. 5:21)
Also not up to us to maintain some predetermined level of righteousness in order for God to accept us. God expects his children to do right, to want to do right, to have our wanting and doing fueled and strengthened by Him. God expects us to moment by moment depend on him to support and carry and encourage and strengthen. He is right there, ready to supply as we need. That’s the good news of the Gospel for the Christian.
Some of firsts that go in baby book: first smile, first tooth, first word, first steps. Those first steps mean we won’t always have to carry child; they can get themselves around. We eventually look forward to time when kids leave home. For good. We train them, and rightly so, to live independently of parents. Heavenly Father never does that – trains his kids to be increasingly dependent on him – for salvation, for sustaining every step of way on our journey. God can be trusted, absolutely, to bring us out of sin’s darkness and into kingdom of his dear Son, then safely home.