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Isaiah 46:1-4 – I Will Carry and Will Save

Summary

Though the idols cannot save the burdens they try to carry, God can. God carries and God saves.

Analysis

The promise of Isaiah 45:22 falls within a longer argument about who can carry and who can save. The idols cannot; indeed, they themselves must be carried by beasts and cattle (46:1-2). But God can carry and will save (46:3-4).

"Carrying" becomes equivalent to "saving" in this passage. To be saved is to be carried. Throughout the Bible, God is pictured as one who carries--as an eagle (Exodus 19:4), a mother (Isaiah 66:12-13), a shepherd/warrior (40:10-11), a bearer of sin (53:12), even here in this passage as a beast of burden. God carries the people whom God governs on God's own shoulder (9:6); people and beasts must carry the idols, but God carries all.

The New Testament continues this theme with the announcement of Christ who came to "bear the sins of many" (Hebrews 9:28). German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes the same point: "God is a God who bears" (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003] 90).

Isaiah 46:1-4

46Bel bows down, Nebo stoops,
   their idols are on beasts and cattle;
these things you carry are loaded
   as burdens on weary animals.
2 They stoop, they bow down together;
   they cannot save the burden,
   but themselves go into captivity.


3 Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
   all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from your birth,
   carried from the womb;
4 even to your old age I am he,
   even when you turn grey I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
   I will carry and will save.

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10 February 2011

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