Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Burden Of False Religion

Isaiah 45:20-46:13
“Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.  Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.  Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:20-22)

God has delivered Israel from other nations and is promising to deliver them in the future.  Those other nations have been totally destroyed because they depended on gods they had made, that had no power.  God had set Israel up as a witness to them of his power, and commands them to tell those other nations about Him.  While he has made a special covenant with Israel, he will do the same for anyone who turns to him.  Whether they realize it or not, he is only God who can help them. 
“I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.  Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.  In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” (Isaiah 45:23-25)  

God has set things up so that ultimately every living being will acknowledge him as God, and that plan will not be changed.  In that day, they will acknowledge that it is because of God they have any value or goodness, and come to him to make things right.  Those who reject him will recognize how stupid they have been and Israel will trust in God rather than their ability to follow the law to make them righteous.  That is totally different attitude than we see in Israel today, as Paul explains in Romans 10:1-3.  “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”  In that day they will give up their pride and submit themselves to God. 

“Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; 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.” (Isaiah 46:1-2)

Religion has a tremendous impact on people’s lives.   The expense and effort involved in maintaining their religious facilities and observances have kept entire countries in poverty and turmoil for centuries.  The most elaborate and beautiful temples and churches and the richest and most powerful religious leaders are usually found in the most repressive and poverty stricken nations.  While they promise liberty to their followers, they lead to increasing enslavement, exhausting even their livestock to fulfill the demands of their religion, as can be seen in countries around the world.  Israel had repeatedly gone after those other religions. 

“Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” (Isaiah 46:3-4)

Though they might not realize it, Israel was as dependent on God for their existence as a baby is on his mother.  While they are in the womb, they are dependent for everything, but even after birth they depend on their parents for everything.   God promises to maintain that same relationship until they are old and grey haired, if they will just listen to him. 

“To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?  They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship.  They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.” (Isaiah 46:5-7)
No religion compares with God.   People bring gold and silver, and hire gold or silver smiths to make it into idols that they worship.  They have to carry them from place to place because the idols are unable to even walk around under their own power.  When they talk to him and ask favors, he has no ability to respond to them or to resolve their problems. 

“Remember this, 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 else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:8-11)

Israel needed to remember that they had to do everything for those gods because they were incapable of doing anything for themselves.  If they couldn’t even take care of themselves, how could they do anything for their worshippers?  If they would remember the things God had done in the past, predicting the future and making things happen, even to the causing another country to do what he said, they would realize he was the only God they needed, because he could do anything they needed. 

“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.” (Isaiah 46:12-13)

Israel had determinedly gone their own way, ignoring God’s commands.   If they would just turn to him he would make them as righteous as they thought they were, and would deliver them form all their troubles,  they would know God’s power and his salvation.  

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