If idols of all the nations had Yahweh’s attention, those of the future Babylon would draw special attention since Judah’s exiles would be surrounded by them. Bel is also called Marduk, the highest god. Nebo was the Babylonian god of knowledge and literature. He announced fates of the coming year (46:1a). Rather than people bowing before idols, Isaiah pictures them and the beasts carrying them bowing down, and not arriving where they are honored. This is something like exile in reverse (46:2).
In contrast to the idols that must be carried by beasts of burden (46:1b), Yahweh has carried all of the faithful people of Israel since they came to trust in Him (46:3). He promises them that He will not change; He is their Savior at every moment they need Him (46:4). Rather than demanding to be served, the true God is marked by grace. There is nothing to compare to Him (46:5). Those who worship the work of their hands must bear the weight of their idols, maneuver them into place, and speak for them, for idols cannot answer (46:6-7). God and idols are mirror opposites in their relationships with their worshipers.
No idol could prophesy the liberation of a people, and no idol can call its worshipers to task for their sins. Yahweh can, however; He will hold transgressors accountable because He has made known His will and purpose since the beginning (46:8-9). What He ordained in days past “will be established” and accomplished (46:10). His purpose will come to pass by “Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country,” referring to Cyrus the Persian (46:11; 44:28-45:1-7). Worshipers of idols may speak for them and prophesy all manner of things to come, but only God can plan an action AND make it happen. In that case, whom should Israel trust?
Still, there will be many in Israel (“you”) who doubt God and thus prove themselves “stubborn-minded” (46:12). In a positive sense this word can mean mighty or valiant, but here this quality is turned in the wrong direction to become hard-hearted or obstinate. That they are stubbornly rebellious is noted by being “far from righteousness.” Grace is grace, and is not limited by stubbornness, so God will bring His righteousness to Israel. His character of grace overrides Israel’s character of rebellion (46:13). And still does.
Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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