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To Carry or Be Carried

Being a mother,  I am also a sherpa. I may not appear strong, but on any given walk from the car to the house, I can become as strong as an ox. I can simultaneously carry a backpack, a lunchbox,  a random shoe, and two grocery bags, along with my Mary Poppins purse which has bandaids, mints, pens, Nerf bullets, Hotwheels and other necessary items.

In addition to these physical weights,  I have the uncanny ability to carry the unnecessary emotional and spiritual weight of idols. I usually don’t realize that I am carrying these unnecessary burdens until my soul begins to ache and revolt.

Thankfully (and yet sadly), I am not unique in this idiocy. Unfortunately, since our foremother and forefather traded created things for the Creator in the place of preeminence, we have passed down the unnecessary weight of idolatry.

This past week, the Lord convicted me through a study of Isaiah 46, revealing to me that I have been lugging around the added weights of impotent idols.

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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. 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.

“To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike?  Those who lavish  gold from the purse,  and weigh out silver in the scales, hire a goldsmith; and he makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship! They lift it to their shoulders; they carry it, they set it in place and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble” (Isaiah 46:1-7).

The tongue-in-cheek nature of this indictment of fallen humanity is obvious even if we are not familiar with the original context and language. However, a deeper study only  highlights this reality.

Bel (Baal) and Nebo were two of the most common Babylonian and Chaldean gods. Baal was the Babylonian equivalent of Jupiter, the King of the Gods in Roman mythology. Nebo was his right hand god, the scribe of the heavens.

Here, the prophet Isaiah, speaking through the inspiration of the Spirit, depicts these supposedly powerful gods as silly statues being lugged around as burdens on the back of donkeys.

These gods, which were supposed to carry and deliver the people who worshipped them and looked to them, ended up becoming extra weights that had to be lifted and borne. They were impotent. Not only were they unable to relieve the burdens of the people who had fashioned them, they became an added burden to their backs (or the backs of their beasts of burden).

While I have not crafted a molten idol of Bel or Nebo, I have my own carefully crafted idols that I have been carrying around with me. The idol of success, which promises to provide relief, becomes an additional burden to be born, one that weighs me down with fear and steals my freedom as a child of God. Rather than freeing me to walk in confident obedience, this dumb, ubiquitous idol of America, makes me afraid to fail  and thus afraid to risk. And as a mother, I don’t just carry the idol of my success, as a sherpa, I carry the idols of success that I have crafted for my husband and my three children.

I could go on and on, emptying my over-filled bag of idols, but I would rather juxtapose those dumb weights that must be carried and cared for with the Ever-Living God who carries and cares for us.

The same Hebrew word used in Isaiah 46 to describe the burdens of idols is used in Psalm 68.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death (Psalm 68:19-20). 

Here, we see the Living God carrying our burdens, not adding to them.  Idols (success, comfort, beauty, significance) require our constant attention and doting care for upkeep and maintenance.  They add burdens to our already-burdened and heavy lives.  However, our God is the burden-bearer who not only carries our burdens, but also carries us as His children.

Rather than weight us down,  He lives the weights from our necks and replaces them with His yoke which is easy and light (Matthew 11:28-29).

He can do this for us, because He Himself, the Creator, was lifted up on a cross of wood  for His impossibly idolatrous creations. The One who now carries our burdens was first crushed by them at Golgotha. He who delivers us from death allowed Himself to be delivered over to death on our behalf.

Oh, that we would stop carrying the idiotic weight of idols and be carried by the One who conquered over the Cross!

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