Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over;Which of our sins cannot be understood in terms of idolatry? That is, if our definition of "idolatry" isn't overly narrow. I understand myself to be committing idolatry whenever I put anything in the place of God; making a golden or wooden statue and bowing to it and praying to it would certainly qualify, but aren't really necessary. I could, for example, spend my time, or money, or energy, on something that has the effect of moving me farther from God, or displeasing Him. I do things of that sort every day -- sometimes knowingly, because my will is corrupt, and sometimes through lack of awareness, because my mind's asleep.
Their images are consigned to the beasts and the cattle.
The things that you carry are burdensome,
A load for the weary beast.
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 shall be the same,
And even to your graying years I shall bear you!
I have done it, and I shall carry you;
And I shall bear you, and I shall deliver you.
"To whom would you liken Me,
And make Me equal and compare Me,
That we should be alike?
Those who lavish gold from the purse
And weigh silver on the scale
Hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;
They bow down, indeed they worship it.
They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it;
They set it in its place and it stands there.
It does not move from its place.
Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer;
It cannot deliver him from his distress.
"Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying 'My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all in My good pleasure;'
Calling a bird of prey from the east,
The man of my purpose from a far country.
Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass.
I have planned it, surely will I do it.
"Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded,
Who are far from righteousness.
I will bring near My righteousness, it is not far off;
And My salvation will not delay.
And I will grant salvation in Zion,
And My glory for Israel."
Now idolatry is a species of wickedness, and it ought to horrify us -- certainly, it would if our consciences responded to our deeds in a truly ordinate way. But it strikes me in this passage, and many others in the Scriptures, that God makes a very down-to-earth and -- in a strange way -- humble objection to our idolatry: simply that it doesn't work. An idol, as He points out here, is a burden that we must bear. By contrast, He, the true and living God, carries us, and hears and helps us in our distress. This Old Testament utterance from God has, to me, a strong flavor of "gentle Jesus, meek and mild." Since Jesus is, in fact, God, I suppose that's very fitting.
Click here for more Words for Wednesday.