May 22, 2021
"Bel crouches; Nebo cowers. Their idols are consigned to beasts and cattle. The images you carry are loaded, as a burden for the weary animal."
“Bel crouches; Nebo cowers. Their idols are consigned to beasts and cattle. The images you carry are loaded, as a burden for the weary animal. The gods cower; they crouch together; they are not able to rescue the burden, but they themselves go into captivity. ‘Listen to me house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been sustained from the womb, carried along since birth. I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will bear and save you.’” Isaiah 46:1–4
Having been reintroduced to the figure of Cyrus, now in chapters 46-47, we are taken a little beyond that horizon to the eventual downfall of Babylon itself. Behind Babylon’s collapse lies her idolatry. Idolatry and collapse are always intimately bound together.
The kingdoms of this world are notoriously unstable. Babylon’s power was awesome, but it disappeared in a moment. Perhaps, this is also a warning to our United States. We should take heed, lest we stray from the reality that Jesus is Lord, and the truth that apart from God, there is no salvation, revelation of spiritual truth, or true justice. Man’s empires exist only so long as God allows.
In a sermon titled “God’s Providence”, C.H. Spurgeon said, “Napoleon once heard it said that man proposes and God disposes. ‘Ah’ said Napoleon, ‘but I propose and dispose too.’ How do you think he proposed and disposed? He proposed to go and take Russia; he proposed to make all Europe his. He proposed to destroy that power, and how did he come back again? How had he disposed it? He came back solitary and alone, his mighty men perished and wasted, having well-nigh eaten and devoured one another through hunger.” Man proposes and God disposes (Proverbs 16:9).
It is true that Babylon was given power over Israel for a time. God was angry with His people and He wanted to teach them a lesson. But Babylon showed no mercy and failed to recognize that God must be worshipped exclusively (not worshipped alongside idols); therefore, Babylon received no mercy. Babylon’s arrogance is captured by the striking similarity of her boast, to that of God Himself.
“I am, and there is none besides me.” Isaiah 46:9 (Compare to Isaiah 47:8, 10)
Moving to today’s passage, everything to which this world’s kingdoms are devoted is unstable. This applies not just to idols in the sense that we normally think of them, but also to such idolatrous things as ambition, power, fame, and materialism. The same truth is taught in the apocalyptic vision of Daniel 11. Kingdoms, void of a true foundation, are bound to crumble. Ultimate success is only guaranteed to the kingdom of God.
It is good for us to ask the Lord to reveal those things in our lives, to which we have ascribed worship and honor, attributes that belong only to the Lord. Once revealed, we must destroy those “idols” and restore proper worship to Him only. As enticing as some worldliness may seem on the outset, it has a horrible, predictably ruinous end.