Have you ever looked back at your life and thought, “What if?”. You usually think about those forks-in-the-road where you made a life-changing decision. What if you took the other road? I have 2 of those that I think are significant. The first one was when I was in 3rd grade. My parents told me to decide if I wanted to take piano or dance lessons. They couldn’t afford both. I chose piano. What if I had chosen dance? I think I’d be a choreographer on Broadway or something like that. I’d also be skinny! The other big decision in my life happened soon after college at age 21. My parents were selling our house in NY and moving back to Puerto Rico. I had just gotten accepted in to the management training program at K-Mart and assigned to a store in New Jersey. I had to choose between beaches and palm trees or K-Mart in the snow. Guess which I chose. Had I stayed up north, I probably would have gotten my Masters Degree in communication and ended up an advertising executive on Madison Ave.
What has this got to do with today’s lesson? Well, in these next chapters, God laments to Israel, “Oh, had you listened to my commands!” Which brings up another “What if?” question for me. What if, when a friend of mine told me that she — who was also raised Catholic — had become born again, I had asked her about it? I may not have been a prodigal for so many years, as far from God as I could get. (Check out my testimony at the bottom.)
God has a lot to tell us in these next chapters. Let’s dig in…
Isaiah 46 – False gods
Bel and Nebo, the gods of Babylon,
bow as they are lowered to the ground.
They are being hauled away on ox carts.
The poor beasts stagger under the weight.
2 Both the idols and their owners are bowed down.
The gods cannot protect the people,
and the people cannot protect the gods.
They go off into captivity together.
3 “Listen to me, descendants of Jacob,
all you who remain in Israel.
I have cared for you since you were born.
Yes, I carried you before you were born.
4 I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.
5 “To whom will you compare me?
Who is my equal?
6 Some people pour out their silver and gold
and hire a craftsman to make a god from it.
Then they bow down and worship it!
7 They carry it around on their shoulders,
and when they set it down, it stays there.
It can’t even move!
And when someone prays to it, there is no answer.
It can’t rescue anyone from trouble.
8 “Do not forget this! Keep it in mind!
Remember this, you guilty ones.
9 Remember the things I have done in the past.
For I alone am God!
I am God, and there is none like me.
10 Only I can tell you the future
before it even happens.
Everything I plan will come to pass,
for I do whatever I wish.
11 I will call a swift bird of prey from the east—
a leader from a distant land to come and do my bidding.
I have said what I would do,
and I will do it.
12 “Listen to me, you stubborn peopleIsaiah 46 NLT
who are so far from doing right.
13 For I am ready to set things right,
not in the distant future, but right now!
I am ready to save Jerusalem (Zion)
and show my glory to Israel.
Points to Ponder
- Bel – is short for Beelzebub, aka Satan, whom Jesus mentioned in Luke 11.
- “Nebo” means “speaker” or “prophet”. The pagans expected their fake gods to actually talk to them and tell them what to do. Like a piece of wood, or chunk of stone could talk! How silly!
- The Babylonians carried their gods. Gee, just like Catholic processions! The tweet below is from La Palma, a tiny island off the coast of Africa, in the Canary Islands that belong to Spain. They have a volcano that’s erupting and they took out a doll of Mary, called the Virgin of the Pine, in hopes that she can stop the volcano. This tweet was Oct. 19, 2021. It’s still erupting.
Pastor Sandy Adams brings up a great question…
“Is your religion carrying you or are you carrying it?” For some folks Christianity is a burden they carry. It’s a duty. It’s rules to keep and expectations to meet. There’s a pressure to perform. Realize, Christianity is not what you can do for God, but it’s what God has done and can do for us! It’s not us carrying God – what a silly thought. It’s God carrying us.
Living in Christ without the Holy Spirit is like lying on a raft stuck in the sand. But when you’re filled with the love of Christ, the tide rolls in, and carries you out to sea. You’re now riding on the resources of another.
Christianity is trusting not toiling – resting not rowing. I love the poem by Hudson
Taylor, “Bear not a single care thyself, one is too much for Thee; the work is Mine, and Mine alone; Thy work – to rest in Me.” Is your religion carrying you or are you carrying your religion?
Notice the kind of god idol-makers create…
It’s a god they buy. They weigh silver on the scales.
It’s a god they design. They hire a certain goldsmith.
It’s a god they support. They bear it on their shoulders.
It’s a god they establish. They put it in its place.
And notice he says, “it shall not move.” It stays in its set spot.
There are people today who attend Christian churches, and claim to worship the one true God, but in reality they’ve created their own god – its nothing but an idol. They buy its loyalty with their tithes or good deeds.
They design it around a lifestyle comfortable for them. They keep it up on the shoulder of their own service. It never moves from the place they’ve designated. It’s sad, their god is one they own, and create, and keep up, and relegate to a manageable place in their lives.
Whereas, the true God is bought off by no one. He owns us … He’s not created in our image, we’re made in His… He doesn’t need our support, we need Him … And rather than tucked away in a relegated spot, God’s jurisdiction spills over into every area of our lives…
It may be true that a self-made god is easy to manage, but when you’ve got a problem expect no help from him (or her). Only the true God can answer and save us from trouble.Sandy Adams
So, I ask again, “Is your religion carrying you or are you carrying it?”
Isaiah 47 – Babylon Will Fall
“Come down, virgin daughter of Babylon, and sit in the dust.
For your days of sitting on a throne have ended.
O daughter of Babylonia, never again will you be
the lovely princess, tender and delicate.
2 Take heavy millstones and grind flour.
Remove your veil, and strip off your robe.
Expose yourself to public view.
3 You will be naked and burdened with shame.
I will take vengeance against you without pity.”
4 Our Redeemer, whose name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
is the Holy One of Israel.
5 “O beautiful Babylon, sit now in darkness and silence.
Never again will you be known as the queen of kingdoms.
6 For I was angry with my chosen people
and punished them by letting them fall into your hands.
But you, Babylon, showed them no mercy.
You oppressed even the elderly.
7 You said, ‘I will reign forever as queen of the world!’
You did not reflect on your actions
or think about their consequences.
8 “Listen to this, you pleasure-loving kingdom,
living at ease and feeling secure.
You say, ‘I am the only one, and there is no other.
I will never be a widow or lose my children.’
9 Well, both these things will come upon you in a moment:
widowhood and the loss of your children.
Yes, these calamities will come upon you,
despite all your witchcraft and magic.
10 “You felt secure in your wickedness.
‘No one sees me,’ you said.
But your ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’ have led you astray,
and you said, ‘I am the only one, and there is no other.’
11 So disaster will overtake you,
and you won’t be able to charm it away.
Calamity will fall upon you,
and you won’t be able to buy your way out.
A catastrophe will strike you suddenly,
one for which you are not prepared.
12 “Now use your magical charms!Isaiah 47 NLT
Use the spells you have worked at all these years!
Maybe they will do you some good.
Maybe they can make someone afraid of you.
13 All the advice you receive has made you tired.
Where are all your astrologers,
those stargazers who make predictions each month?
Let them stand up and save you from what the future holds.
14 But they are like straw burning in a fire;
they cannot save themselves from the flame.
You will get no help from them at all;
their hearth is no place to sit for warmth.
15 And all your friends,
those with whom you’ve done business since childhood,
will go their own ways,
turning a deaf ear to your cries.
- Like before, we have the prophecy of Babylon’s fall in 539 BC and a future Babylon. We find that in the Book of Revelation 17 and 19.
- God also forbids astrology. Yes, even reading your horoscopes every day. I used to be so into that in high school and college. I could have gone down that dark road, but God stopped me somehow. Why go to the stars when you can go to the Son?
- Pastor Sandy Adams has another good point. He stated…
In fact, Revelation 17:5 gives Babylon the name “mother of harlots.” The book of
Revelation teaches that in the last days there will be a revival of the old Babylonian-ism – the ancient paganism and idolatry.
Ironically, for years it was Roman Catholicism that kept much of this paganism alive. It was incorporated into the worship and practices of the Church – the veneration of Mary, the celibacy of priests, the worship of the saints…
Today, the paganism and idolatry of Babylon lives on not only in Romanism, but in Eastern and New Age religions. It’s really a lot more prevalent than you think.Sandy Adams
Isaiah 48 – Stubborn People
“Listen to me, O family of Jacob,
you who are called by the name of Israel
and born into the family of Judah.
Listen, you who take oaths in the name of the Lord
and call on the God of Israel.
You don’t keep your promises,
2 even though you call yourself the holy city
and talk about depending on the God of Israel,
whose name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
3 Long ago I told you what was going to happen.
Then suddenly I took action,
and all my predictions came true.
4 For I know how stubborn and obstinate you are.
Your necks are as unbending as iron.
Your heads are as hard as bronze.
5 That is why I told you what would happen;
I told you beforehand what I was going to do.
Then you could never say, ‘My idols did it.
My wooden image and metal god commanded it to happen!’
6 You have heard my predictions and seen them fulfilled,
but you refuse to admit it.
Now I will tell you new things,
secrets you have not yet heard.
7 They are brand new, not things from the past.
So you cannot say, ‘We knew that all the time!’
8 “Yes, I will tell you of things that are entirely new,
things you never heard of before.
For I know so well what traitors you are.
You have been rebels from birth.
9 Yet for my own sake and for the honor of my name,
I will hold back my anger and not wipe you out.
10 I have refined you, but not as silver is refined.
Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.
11 I will rescue you for my sake—
yes, for my own sake!
I will not let my reputation be tarnished,
and I will not share my glory with idols!
Freedom from Babylon
12 “Listen to me, O family of Jacob,
Israel my chosen one!
I alone am God,
the First and the Last.
13 It was my hand that laid the foundations of the earth,
my right hand that spread out the heavens above.
When I call out the stars,
they all appear in order.”
14 Have any of your idols ever told you this?
Come, all of you, and listen:
The Lord has chosen Cyrus as his ally.
He will use him to put an end to the empire of Babylon
and to destroy the Babylonian armies.
15 “I have said it: I am calling Cyrus!
I will send him on this errand and will help him succeed.
16 Come closer, and listen to this.
From the beginning I have told you plainly what would happen.”
And now the Sovereign Lord and his Spirit
have sent me with this message.
17 This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is good for you
and leads you along the paths you should follow.
18 Oh, that you had listened to my commands!
Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river
and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.
19 Your descendants would have been like the sands along the seashore—
too many to count!
There would have been no need for your destruction,
or for cutting off your family name.”
20 Yet even now, be free from your captivity!Isaiah 48 NLT
Leave Babylon and the Babylonians.
Sing out this message!
Shout it to the ends of the earth!
The Lord has redeemed his servants,
the people of Israel.
21 They were not thirsty
when he led them through the desert.
He divided the rock,
and water gushed out for them to drink.
22 “But there is no peace for the wicked,”
says the Lord.
Again, God states that He is the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. God is the architect of the universe and He is not bound by time. And all of his predictions have 100% accuracy!
Next let’s see what Jesus has to say…
Listen to me, all you in distant lands!
Pay attention, you who are far away!
The Lord called me before my birth;
from within the womb he called me by name.
2 He made my words of judgment as sharp as a sword.
He has hidden me in the shadow of his hand.
I am like a sharp arrow in his quiver.
3 He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel,
and you will bring me glory.”
4 I replied, “But my work seems so useless!
I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.
Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand;
I will trust God for my reward.”
5 And now the Lord speaks—
the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant,
who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him.
The Lord has honored me,
and my God has given me strength.
6 He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me.
I will make you a light to the Gentiles,
and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
7 The Lord, the Redeemer
and Holy One of Israel,
says to the one who is despised and rejected by the nations,
to the one who is the servant of rulers:
“Kings will stand at attention when you pass by.
Princes will also bow low
because of the Lord, the faithful one,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
Promises of Israel’s Restoration
8 This is what the Lord says:
“At just the right time, I will respond to you.
On the day of salvation I will help you.
I will protect you and give you to the people
as my covenant with them.
Through you I will reestablish the land of Israel
and assign it to its own people again.
9 I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out in freedom,’
and to those in darkness, ‘Come into the light.’
They will be my sheep, grazing in green pastures
and on hills that were previously bare.
10 They will neither hunger nor thirst.
The searing sun will not reach them anymore.
For the Lord in his mercy will lead them;
he will lead them beside cool waters.
11 And I will make my mountains into level paths for them.
The highways will be raised above the valleys.
12 See, my people will return from far away,
from lands to the north and west,
and from as far south as Egypt.”
13 Sing for joy, O heavens!
Rejoice, O earth!
Burst into song, O mountains!
For the Lord has comforted his people
and will have compassion on them in their suffering.
14 Yet Jerusalem says, “The Lord has deserted us;
the Lord has forgotten us.”
15 “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?
Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
But even if that were possible,
I would not forget you!
16 See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.
Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins.
17 Soon your descendants will come back,
and all who are trying to destroy you will go away.
18 Look around you and see,
for all your children will come back to you.
As surely as I live,” says the Lord,
“they will be like jewels or bridal ornaments for you to display.
19 “Even the most desolate parts of your abandoned land
will soon be crowded with your people.
Your enemies who enslaved you
will be far away.
20 The generations born in exile will return and say,
‘We need more room! It’s crowded here!’
21 Then you will think to yourself,
‘Who has given me all these descendants?
For most of my children were killed,
and the rest were carried away into exile.
I was left here all alone.
Where did all these people come from?
Who bore these children?
Who raised them for me?’”
22 This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“See, I will give a signal to the godless nations.
They will carry your little sons back to you in their arms;
they will bring your daughters on their shoulders.
23 Kings and queens will serve you
and care for all your needs.
They will bow to the earth before you
and lick the dust from your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord.
Those who trust in me will never be put to shame.”
24 Who can snatch the plunder of war from the hands of a warrior?Isaiah 49 NLT
Who can demand that a tyrant let his captives go?
25 But the Lord says,
“The captives of warriors will be released,
and the plunder of tyrants will be retrieved.
For I will fight those who fight you,
and I will save your children.
26 I will feed your enemies with their own flesh.
They will be drunk with rivers of their own blood.
All the world will know that I, the Lord,
am your Savior and your Redeemer,
the Mighty One of Israel.”
We have here a foretelling of…
- Jesus birth – Matthew 1
- Jesus grew up in the shadow of God’s hand.
- He will be a Light to the Gentiles. Salvation is not just for the Jews, but for the WHOLE WORLD. See the Book of Acts.
- The day of Salvation, verse 49:8 was quoted by Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:2.
God is a Father with a Mother’s heart. God could never forget you! Are you a child of God?
Does Jesus have YOUR NAME written
in the palm of His Hand?
Did you catch that “What if” question. If they had obeyed His commandments, they would have peace like a river! There is no peace apart from Jesus! You can come out of the strain and stress of the “doing” of good works and sacraments and land immediately into the peace of the “done”. Jesus did it all on the cross! All you have to do is…
Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.
- Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
- Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him.
- Be Baptized — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
- Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.
Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!
Peace Like a River
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