Isaiah chapter 46. Now in Isaiah 46 we get a short contrast between God, the true and the living eternal God that created the heavens and the earth, and the false gods that these people were worshipping. And the tragic thing is these people were the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They had turned to idolatry. And as you read the prophecy of Isaiah and of Jeremiah, they are crying out against the idolatry of the people, warning them that their continued idolatry would bring upon them the judgment of God. Using Babylon as His instrument of judgment, and that they would be going into captivity as the result of their idolatry. You remember Jeremiah cried out, “For My people have committed two sins; one, they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and they have hewn out for themselves cisterns, cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
Men will worship something. Men will believe in something. They must. Every man has a god. But there are some religious systems that hold no water at all. They just do nothing for the people who believe, but bring them into captivity. And so God’s cry against the people.
Now it is interesting in some of the most recent archaeological excavations there in Israel, above the springs of Gihon on that section of the hill that comes down that was known as Ophel, which was the site of the ancient city of Jerusalem in David’s day and on through to Hezekiah’s time, there in the houses that have recently been excavated by the archaeologists, houses that were actually destroyed by the Babylonian army. Houses that have laid in ruins for 2,500 years. As they uncovered the stones and the rubble of these houses, within the houses they have found multitudes of little pagan gods, the gods that the people had worshipped, the gods that the people had turned to. And thus, we find actually by the archaeologist’s spade just tremendous confirmation to what Isaiah is saying, as he is rebuking the people for their worship of the false gods.
Now he speaks concerning two of their false gods, and they had many.
Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth; their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy laden; they are a burden to the weary beast. They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity (46:1-2).
And so he speaks of their worship of these false gods. But he points out a great truth here, and that is, their false gods became a burden. Even the cattle strain under the load of them. For as was the custom, the false gods would be brought out of their temples or out of their centers of worship, placed upon carts and driven through the streets on the various festivals and holy days in which they worshipped those particular gods. Sometimes they would be borne by the men on a platform as they would walk with the poles on their shoulder.
Now, these things are not totally uncommon today. There is a holiday in Mexico for the Virgin Guadalupe and you can go down on that holiday and you can see them as they take the statues of the Virgin Guadalupe and put them in these glorious chariots or carts and all, and they’ll carry the Virgin Guadalupe through the street as the people kneel and bow and genuflect and so forth and worship the Virgin Guadalupe. So these things are not totally unfamiliar even in our day. But they were very common in those days. And here the people of God, who should surely know better, have turned to the worship of Bel and of Nebo. But in reality, the worship of these false gods constituted an interesting study, because these gods couldn’t even carry themselves. They had to be carried by man. And in man carrying them or in the beast pulling them, they became a burden and they bowed down and stooped those who tried to carry them or bear them along.
Now in contrast to that, God declares,
Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel (46:3),
Now here is an interesting verse because the remnant of the house of Israel would have been those from the Northern Kingdom, who, when the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom, fled down into Judah. So there was a remnant when the Northern Kingdom fell, there was a remnant from each of the tribes that escaped and came down to Judah and became a part of the Southern Kingdom at that time. The rest of them were dispersed by the Assyrians into the various parts of the world. But many of them from the various tribes came and settled in Judah after the Assyrian invasion.
the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me (46:3)
In contrast to these people bearing their gods or carrying their gods, God declares, “I am carrying you.”
and I’ve carried you from the womb: And I will carry you till you come to the grave; until your grey hairs, your old age. I am he that carries you: for I have made you, and I will bear you; and I will carry you, and I will deliver you (46:3-4).
And so the true and the living God, rather than having to be carried, will carry you; rather than having to be supported, will support you. So it all depends on what kind of a god you want. Do you want a god that you have to support? Or do you want a god that will support you? You want a god that you have to carry? Or do you want a god that can carry you? You want a god that will bring you into captivity, or do you want a god who is able to deliver you? And this is the contrast that has been made between the false idols that the people had turned to when they had turned away from God and the true and the living God.
Now God said,
To whom will ye liken me (46:5),
Now, they had made their images of their gods. They had carved or they had made their molds and poured in the hot metals and had their molten images, or they had carved the likenesses of their god. Now God said, “If you were going to carve a likeness of Me, what would you make Me like? What kind of a figure would you make? What would be the likeness? What would you liken Me to?”
[or to what would you try] to make me equal, or to compare me, that we may be like? (46:5)
What kind of a comparison can you make with God? That is, anything that we know on the human level. What are you going to make Him like? If you’re going to start to carve Him out, how and in what? Are you going to carve Him out like a man? When God is a Spirit, where do you start in carving the likeness of a spirit? Now he again speaks of how they had made their own gods in various…and have you seen some of the idols of these gods? These carvings that they made and said, “That is god.” These carvings that they bowed down to and worshipped. These carvings that they have built great temples for. Have you ever seen idols of Diana? She is supposed to be god. Many people worshipped her. The multi-breasted Diana, breasts all down the front of her. And she is god. The nourisher of life in a symbolic form. And so they say, “That’s god.” And so they worship this image or idol of Diana or Astarte.
So God said, “What are you going to make Me like?” Now he is talking about their making gods.
For they lavish gold out of the bag, and they weigh silver in the balances, and then they hire a goldsmith; and he makes it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship it (46:6).
Now, he was made by a man, and yet the people are so foolish as to fall down and worship it. Imagine, he makes a god. Men make their own gods.
Somehow within the consciousness of man, innate within, there is the consciousness of God. And it is just a part of man’s nature to worship. So that you’ll find in every culture, even the most primitive cultures, there are forms of worship of God or of gods. And in most cases, men have made gods after the projections of themselves. “If I were God, this is what I would do. This is how I would do it.” And so they make up their legends of their gods. And they have super power in hunting and great cunning abilities. And they worship that.
Down in the jungles of South America where the primitive people do not wear clothing, and when the storms come their bodies are cold and shivering, some of them do not make permanent dwelling places but are nomadic. Now, these people in their minds think, “If I were God I would live in that tree because it’s so big and strong and when the wind comes and the rain descends, it doesn’t seem to be affected. It doesn’t shiver with the wind like I am shivering. So if I were God, I would be in that tree and I would live in that tree.” And so you find them worshipping a tree and they have trees that they’ve set out for special worship. That’s god.
Or the full moon that gives light in the jungles at night. And so you’ll find them out in the full moon, arms around each other, in a circle as they do their little dance and then their little chants as they are worshipping their god. For, “If I were God I would ride there in the moon and I would give beautiful light at night, the silvery light through the jungles and so forth.” And so they worship the moon.
Now the Greeks had interesting concepts of God. And they’re expressed in, “If I were God I would live on mount Olympus and I would look down and I would see these men down below. And those earthlings, those mortals would not have a chance with the beautiful maidens that are there, for I would use my supernatural powers to charm them and to bewitch them and I would take advantage over those mortals.” And so you have your various concepts of God that men have created in their own mind.
So here is the interesting thing. He makes a god. And then the people bow down and worship it. And then,
They bear him on their shoulders (46:7),
This is our God.
they carry him [on their shoulders], and they set him in his place, and he stands in his place; and he doesn’t move from it: yes, they will cry unto him, yet he can not answer them, nor save him out of their trouble (46:7).
And yet people worship these things that cannot move, cannot respond, cannot talk to them, and they worship them in lieu of worshipping the true and the living God. That’s the tragedy. People say, “Well, I don’t believe in God.” Well, they don’t believe, what they mean is, in a God who created the heavens and the earth and everything that is in them and sent His Son to die for man’s sins. They don’t believe in the true and the living God, but they believe in god. And they have a god. But they refuse to worship the true and the living God who is able to help them and respond to their needs. And instead they are worshipping gods that cannot be of any help to them whatsoever, but will only bring them into captivity. They worship, really, the gods of pleasure so many times. But you give your life over to pleasure and you’re going to end up with lust. So many people worshipping the god of the intellect. You give yourself over to the god of intellect and you’re going to end up with pride. So many people are worshipping the god of power and their whole life is dedicated to the power principle and they end up with greed. So God speaks out about these false gods. They cannot answer you. They cannot move. They cannot even carry themselves.
Remember this, [God said] and show yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none other; I am God, and there is none like me, For I have declared the end from the beginning (46:8-10),
There is no God that is able to declare the end from the beginning. There is no religious system outside. Well, there just is no religious system really that has been predicated upon the ability of God to declare from the beginning what the end of the matter or a situation is going to be.
and from ancient times the things that are not yet done (48:10),
At that time of Isaiah’s writing there were prophecies that still had not been fulfilled.
saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do my pleasure (48:10):
So God has already established what shall be. That cannot change. God said, “I will do My pleasure.”
And now He refers back to chapter 45 where He said that Cyrus the king of the Medo-Persians would be His instrument in releasing the children of Israel from their Babylonian captivity. Now that’s a hundred and fifty years before Cyrus was born. That’s why God is declaring, “There’s no God like me. I’m declaring to you before it happens what’s going to happen. I’m naming the fellow before he is ever born. He doesn’t know Me, but I’m calling him by his name. And his name is Cyrus and he’s going to allow you to be released from your captivity.” And so referring back to that prophecy of Cyrus, He said,
Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executes my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, and also I will do it (46:11).
Now you go ahead and read the history and you’ll find that God did do it. He purposed it. He did do it. And Cyrus was the name of the Medo-Persian king that gave the decree that the children of Israel might return from their captivity in Babylon. Giving unto the children of Israel that permission to go back and to rebuild the temple.
Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness: it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory (46:12-13).
And so God promises that their salvation, their righteousness will be placed in Zion.
Now in chapter 47, God speaks of the judgment that is going to come against Babylon. Now this is before Babylon ever conquered them. But God has declared that Babylon shall conquer them, but because of the treatment that Babylon gives to the people of God, she herself, though used as an instrument of God in judgment against His people, will also be brought into judgment by God.
Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate. Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers. For thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: and I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man (47:1-3).
He’s going to meet them as a God in judgment.
As for our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel. Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms. I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into your hand: but you did not show them mercy; upon the ancient (47:4-6)
That is, the very old men.
you have laid a very heavy yoke (47:6).
So the Babylonians were not really kind to their captives. They were very hard on the people of Israel when they took them captives. And even upon the old men they laid very heavy burdens, made them bondslaves and made them work hard. And so because of their treatment, He said,
You have said, I shall be a lady for ever: so that you did not lay these things to thy heart, neither did you remember the latter end of it. Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwell carelessly, that say in your heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children: But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of your sorceries, and for the great abundance of your enchantments. For you have trusted in your wickedness: and you have said, None seeth me (47:7-10).
Now God speaks of the judgment that is going to come against Babylon because of their treatment of His people. You remember Jesus spoke when He returns to the earth, He said, “Then will I gather together the nations for judgment and I will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And to those on the right hand I will say, ‘Come ye blessed of the Father, inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you from the foundations of the earth. For I was hungry, you fed Me. Thirsty and you gave Me to drink.’” And so forth. “’Lord, when did we see You hungry? When did we see You thirsty?’ Inasmuch as you did it unto My brethren, the least of My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:32-40). And so the nations will be judged for their treatment of God’s people, the Jews. Be careful about speaking against the Jews. For God has chosen them and God has said, “I will bless those that bless thee, and curse those that curse thee” (Genesis 12:3). “For those on His left He said, ‘Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity, into everlasting judgment that was prepared for Satan and his angels. For I was hungry, and you did not feed Me; thirsty, and you did not give Me to drink; naked, and you did not clothe Me; in prison, you did not visit Me.’ ‘Lord, when did we see You and not help You out?’ ‘Inasmuch as you did it not to the least of these My brethren, you did it not to Me’” (Matthew 25:41-45).
Now here because of the ill treatment of His people, though God was angry with the Jews and had a cause against them because they had polluted the name of God by their false worship, yet though He gave them over in the hand of the Babylonians, they did not show them mercy. And thus, God’s judgment and heavy hand. Now one of the things the Babylonians were saying, notice here, is that our kingdom is going to last. “I will be a lady forever. The Babylonian kingdom will endure forever. We will never be widows. We will never lose our children. Our husbands will never be slain in battle. We’ll never have to face widowhood.” And God said, “You’ve said these things and you’ve lived in pleasure and you’ve lived carelessly. But in a moment, in one night, you’re going to be both, the loss of children and become widows.”
Now you remember when Nebuchadnezzar had this dream that troubled him. He could not remember the dream. He felt it had significance and so they called in all the wise men and astrologers, soothsayers and so forth to interpret for him the dream. These astrologers were very active in Babylon at that time. In fact, we get a little kick against them down in verse 13. Astrology was a very popular thing. They had those that could tell your horoscope and tell you when to do what according to the influence of the stars upon your life. And finally, Daniel was brought in.
And Daniel said to him, “Now the other night before you went to sleep in your mind you were wondering, ‘What is going to happen to my great kingdom and what is going to happen to the world?’ And so the God who dwells in heaven has shown unto thee what is going to happen to your kingdom and what is going to happen to the world. For in your dream, you saw this great image that had a head of gold, chest of silver, stomach of brass, legs of iron, feet of iron and clay, with ten toes. And as you watch this great image, there came a rock not cut with hands. It hit the image in its feet and the whole image fell. It crumbled and there grew from the rock. The rock grew into a mountain that covered the whole earth.” He said, “God has shown to you the kingdoms that are going to rule over the earth. And you, Nebuchadnezzar, are the head of gold. But your kingdom is going to be replaced by an inferior kingdom, as silver is inferior to gold. That kingdom will be replaced by a yet inferior kingdom, the stomach of brass, as brass is inferior to silver. And that will be replaced by iron, which is hard and stamps everything to pieces. And the final kingdom will be of ten kings, as iron and clay are mixed together. It will not have the power of the iron but they will be mixed together and it is during the time of these ten kings that the Lord of heaven shall come and set up a kingdom that shall never end.”
Nebuchadnezzar said, “I proclaim that there is no God in all the earth like the God of Daniel that is able to reveal dreams and secrets and tells things that are going to be” (Daniel 2:47). Acknowledged God, but turned right around and he commanded that they build a huge idol, ninety feet tall, of all gold. Now that huge idol of all gold was a direct defiance to what God had just declared.
Now there are a lot of people who proclaim there’s no god like the God of heaven, and then they go do their own thing or they defy Him. And he was defying God with this huge idol. And as Isaiah declared here, their attitude here is, “Babylon will live forever. Babylon will never be destroyed. Babylonian will never be conquered. It’s the eternal kingdom. It will rule forever.” But the prophecy is here, is in a moment, in a day, the kingdom will fall. And Babylon fell in one night as Daniel came in before Belshazzar and interpreted to him the writing that was on the wall. “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. For your kingdom has been weighed in the balances, you’re found wanting. And this night, thy soul shall be taken from thee and your kingdom will be divided among the Medes and the Persians this night” (Daniel 5:26-28). And that night, Cyrus the king of Persia came under the walls of Babylon where they had diverted the river Euphrates up into the city. And that night, Belshazzar and all of his lords were slain.
Now Isaiah here is talking a hundred and fifty years before the king Cyrus was born. He’s talking, really, well in advance of the attitude that would prevail in Babylon. Declaring that they would not have mercy on the people of God. Thus Babylon was to be judged, and in a moment, in one day, they would experience the loss of their children and widowhood. “For they shall come upon thee,” the Lord said, verse 9, “in their perfection for the multitude of your sorceries, and for the great abundance of your enchantments. For you have trusted in your wickedness. You have said, ‘No one sees me.’”
So many times we think that our sin is done in secret. We say, “Nobody sees me.” But when Nebuchadnezzar was walking through the garden, he heard a voice and it said, “The watchers have been watching you and you’ve not been behaving yourself. And you’re going to get cut off.” And he came to Daniel and said, “What’s this all about?” And he says, “Walk carefully, O king, you’re in a bad way. Because of the pride of your heart, you’ve exalted yourself against God.” You see, he made this golden idol. He was defying God. He was lifted up with pride and so he said, “Walk softly before the Lord that you might continue your days upon the earth.” And for a year he behaved himself and he walked softly. But at the end of the year as he was walking through the hanging gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, he said, “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built?” And he heard that voice, for the watchers were still watching. And they declared, “Because you have been lifted up in pride, you are going to be driven forth with the wild beasts for seven seasons until you know that the God in heaven rules over the earth and He sets into the kingdoms those whom He will.” And Nebuchadnezzar went insane and lived with the animals out in the field like a wild beast until his hair grew like feathers and his nails grew like claws until seven seasons have passed over him until he knew that the Lord of heaven reigns over the earth and set up the kingdoms and set on the kingdoms those whom He would. You say none sees, but there are watchers. God sees.
Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and you’ve said in your heart, I am, and there is no one beside me. Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it rises: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon you suddenly, which you will not know. Stand now with your enchantments, and with the multitude of your sorceries, wherein you have labored from your youth; if so be that thou shalt be able to profit, if so be that you may prevail. For thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels (47:10-13).
Now you remember Nebuchadnezzar calling the counselors, the wise men, soothsayers, astrologers and so forth, and here again.
Let now the astrologers, and the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee (47:13).
I am really amazed in a world of science in which we live where we have made such positive scientific advancement and we’ve come to know so much about the universe in which we live. I am amazed that in this world of modern technology, that most of the newspapers publish a daily horoscope, which is superstition and comes from the ancient religions in Babylon. The charting of a person’s life, the monthly prognosticating of a person’s highs and lows and positive signs and so forth. All has superstitious origin as though the stars and the position of the stars has some kind of a mystic influence over our lives. Some people seek to govern their activities by the position of the stars in heaven. How ridiculous can you be? And yet, people have to believe in something and it is amazing the foolish things that people believe in when they’ve rejected the truth of God.
You see, the Bible declares that, “Professing themselves to be wise, they’ve become fools” (Romans 1:22). The minute you rule God out of your life, you are open and susceptible to every foolish thing. And men can believe the most stupid things when they once reject God. For the Bible speaks that, “God will give them over to a delusion that they may believe a lie rather than the truth” (II Thessalonians 2:11). You don’t want to believe in God? All right, Mr. Wise Guy, we’ll show you how wise you are. And God lets people believe in such stupid, foolish, ridiculous things once they’ve rejected Him. And I look at these. What can you say that won’t get you into trouble? These professed wise people and I read of some of their actions and activities and all and I think, “And they are supposed to be so smart.” But it’s because once you have put God out of your life, you are open and susceptible to every kind of gimmick, religious or otherwise. And so people are looking into psychic phenomena and into the occult and so forth.
Having rejected God they’re open, they’re susceptible to anything. And they’re gullible. Ready to believe anything. And professing themselves to be wise, God has allowed them to become fools. “For their foolish minds are darkened. And because they do not want to retain God in their minds, God gives them over to minds that are reprobate and void of God” (Romans 1:21,28). So that men end up in the pit.
Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it. Thus shall they be unto thee with whom you have labored, even your merchants, from your youth: they shall wander every one to his quarter; none shall save thee (47:14-15). All of these wise men and astrologers, they won’t be able to save themselves, much less you.