Reading through the Bible together
Bel was one of the principal gods of the Babylonians. Bel, like Baal, means “lord,” and was the title applied to Bel, to their main god, Marduk (Jer. 50:2), and to his son Nebo who was the god of knowledge and literature. The Babylonians used to make a pilgrimage to Bel’s city, at the beginning of each year, carrying the images on carts pulled by animals. But the whole point, of course, is that these gods could not prevent the fall of Babylon (v. 2).
Even though there is no evidence of this imagery being played out at the time of Cyrus’ take-over of Babylon, a careful student could discover that this very thing had happened a century before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem. The Assyrian king Sennacherib had destroyed Babylon and carried away the idol of Marduk as a spoil of war. God is saying: it happened before, and He will make it happen again.
By contrast between the incompetent gods of Babylon and the wonderful God of Israel goes further. While the heathens’ gods need to be carried on wagons, God Himself carries His own worshippers from birth to death! “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,” God said, you “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.” (vv.3-4).
Have you heard of the poem Footprints? Surely you have. “One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord…” At times, the author (whoever it was) could only discern one set of footprints on the sand, and it bothered him because he imagined the Lord had left him to walk alone during the most trying period of his life. Finally, the Lord whispered: “When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
How hard it is for us to deal with the silence of God! How natural it is for us to give in to discouragement when things around us seem to go wrong, when the dark night of the soul appears to have taken residence in our heart. God, through His servant Isaiah, reminds us that making gods of God’s creation is not the answer (vv.5-7). Only focusing our thoughts on Him who declares “the end from the beginning” (v.10), will bring about the assurance that His salvation “shall not linger” (v.13). Let us daily concentrate on God and remember that his deliverance is near.
Ron E M Clouzet
NAD Evangelism Institute Director
Professor of Ministry and Theology
Andrews University Seminary