In Isaiah there is a word picture that tells us exactly the difference between false gods and the true Lord. It’s a difference that affects us all, and which should delight us.
“Bel bows down, Nebo stoops, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages [ie. things carried] were heavy; they are a burden to the weary beast.” (NKJV)
In the late Babylonian period, to which Isaiah’s prophetic vision refers, Bel and Nebo were the two principal gods, worshipped by Nebuchadnezzar and Neriglissar. The “bowing” and “stooping” of Bel and Nebo tells of their overthrow by the conquering armies; but it includes also the idea of the fall of the gods themselves in the estimation of men.
The Chaldean images generally – not just the two mentioned – were to be torn from their shrines, and placed upon the backs of beasts of burden, to be carried off by the conquerors. This contrasts with the light-hearted festive carrying of the images in worship , and their slow transport to foreign lands on the backs of heavy-laden weary beasts.
“They have no knowledge, who carry about their wooden idol and pray to a god who cannot save.” (Isaiah 45:20)
One commentator says, “They – the gods – who should have been your carriers (as God is to His people) are instead become your burdens”.
Isaiah 46:2-4 gives us the contrast:
“They stooped over, they have bowed down together; they could not rescue the burden, but have themselves gone into captivity. 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; 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.”
What a difference!
On the one hand we see graven images, gods who can neither see, hear, speak nor deliver, who stand immobile in their temples aloof from all interaction with their worshippers, and who have to be carried around on beasts or on the shoulders of men.
On the other hand we see the Lord Jesus who has carried His sons from birth.
Jesus The Humble Servant
In the world men carry their heavy idols, burdened by them. In the Kingdom, God Himself carries men!
He promises to take our burdens, not load us down with them. God humbles Himself to be a beast of burden to fallen mankind. That is the astounding difference between the true God and idols.
Isaiah 40:11 says “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”
There is more love and tenderness in the heart of Jesus than can be found anywhere on earth. He takes responsibility even for the weak and incapable, carrying those who cannot cope next to His heart, keeping them safe and warm.
The caring earthly shepherd carried the lambs on his shoulders, or any sheep who was weak or injured. Jesus promises to help along the way anyone who is limping, hurting or malnourished. He leaves no sheep behind, indeed he goes out of his way to seek and find the hurting ones!
Luke 15:5 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'”
Have you fallen? Are you weak?
Do you feel like you have been abandoned, and can’t find your way home? Never believe that God will forsake you, because he will seek you out and restore you with rejoicing. There is no grudging task of having to waste time looking for you; it’s a pleasure to restore the fallen. There is a party in heaven because you are back in God’s pastures.
All the things that we cherish so much, that have become idols and gods to us, are worthless burdens holding us back.
We carry them around – sometimes possessions and physical things, sometimes people like friends and family, or addictive pursuits that seem so very attractive; and even our secret sins that the bible says “weigh so heavily upon us” (Psalm 38:4 and Hebrews 12:1). We bear them on our backs like those false gods, stooping down because of their weight.
Yet Jesus is the one who offers to remove the burdens, and exchange them for a light and EASY yoke: Matthew 11:29-30 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Not No Yoke But His Yoke
Here Jesus isn’t offering to remove the yoke of the devil from your life just to set you free to please yourself. He replaces the heavy yoke of the devil which is altogether too drastic for any person to bear, with His own LIGHT yoke by which He can steer, guide and use you in His own work.
The devil’s yoke binds you to a cart that drags along all the useless heavy loads of the world. In the world, men are like the beasts that are trying to carry Bel and Nebo.
God’s alternative is a light and easy yoke that binds you to HIS wise and just rulership, being guided in all things by God. And if you falter or are heavy-laden He promises to CARRY YOU.