As I did my regular Bible reading last night, I got stuck. Sometimes a verse will do that. Though you’ve read it many times before, you suddenly see it in a new light. For me, a small section toward the end of Isaiah did this for me:
“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.” (Isaiah 46:3–4)
Isn’t it beautiful? From cradle to grave, God is the one who carries his people. Actually, it’s more intense than that. Before they were even born, God had taken his people into his arms, ready to carry them through every moment of their lives. He made them; he carries them. From the bald head of infancy to the gray head of senility. (In my case, it’s bound to be a bald head on both ends of the timeline.)
Beautiful as these verses are in themselves, the context makes them even more profound. Leading up to Isaiah 46, God’s people have taken a verbal lashing because of their idolatry. Their judgment was secured because they refused to follow God. These are not the proverbial righteous people who will receive God’s blessing. In fact, the two verses immediately preceding these call Israel out for idolatry and form a fascinating contrast:
“Bel bows down; Nebo stoops;
their idols are on beasts and livestock;
these things you carry are borne
as burdens on weary beasts.
They stoop; they bow down together;
they cannot save the burden,
but themselves go into captivity.” (Isaiah 46:1–2)
Here God condemns his people as idol carriers. These stupid idols you’ve been worshiping, says God, they don’t even transport themselves. You pack them on donkeys. They can’t even save themselves. And yet you carry them with you.
And yet it’s these people—these idol carriers—that God carries from cradle to grave. And yes, Israel was indeed stupid to worship idols. How could they possibly have worshiped objects of stone and wood? How gracious of God to carry them still.
But never forget that you are an idolater to the same degree, bowing down and worshiping the created world rather than the Creator (Romans 1). You carry your idols in your pockets, you park them in your garage, you tuck them into bed at night. And even when you’re able to let go of all these external idols, you’re still carrying yourself from place to place. Yourself, the most persistent idol you will ever worship. Yourself, the idol you will spend the rest of your life trying to let go of. Yet God carries you all the same, from your first to final breath. How gracious of God to carry us still.