A question worth asking yourself as we commence a new year is this: Will you bear the burden of your god in 2013, or will your God bear your burden? It’s important to know the difference.
It’s a difference that is graphically highlighted in Isaiah 46. Have a read of these words:
Bel bows down; Nebo stoops;
their idols are on beasts and livestock;
these things you carry are borne
as burdens on weary beasts.
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 before your birth,
carried from the womb;
4 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.
It’s a marked contrast isn’t it? The false gods, or idols, need to be carried. They can do nothing for themselves and all they are good for is becoming a burden to those required to carry them. What a contrast to the one true God who, he says, has borne Israel from birth and will continue to bear, carry and save. The key difference of course is that the idols are made, whilst the one true God is maker.
What idols would threaten to be a burden to you this coming year? Are they surreptitious, sneaky idols? Ones that your friends, family or spouse would be surprised or shocked by? Or are they acceptable, dare I say it, required idols? A certain understanding of family relationships that stridently demands less and less time with God’s family ? An ever increasing desire for financial security that eats into your time and energy? A love of pleasure and leisure that our culture virtually foists up on us? Whatever it is, the double-edged truth about an idol always holds; What promises to bear your burdens, increasingly becomes a burden: What promises to give to you increasingly takes from you.
The sheer folly of idolatry is demonstrated in verse 7:
They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it,
they set it in its 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.
We have no idea what 2013 holds, no idea at all. Fiscal cliffs, family cancers. Global terrorism, greedy tyrants. We have no way of knowing what trouble will come our way. No way of predicting the car crash, relational breakdown, long term illness. These things come upon us suddenly. When they do, the only prerequisite of the god in which we have invested our time and lavished our attention is that he/she/it will hold us up. Now it would seem pretty clear already that if your god is not the God of Israel, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, then it will not suddenly cease to be your burden and suddenly lift your burdens. Indeed such gods will not only seem heavier, they will crush you. For example, an illicit relationship that keeps you going and excites you when times are good, will look tawdry and evil should tragedy strike your family – indeed you will shrink from it in shame and horror. And a love of money will not sustain you should your mental health crumble. In fact you would trade it all for a few days of sanity.
Whatever you propose for 2013 the key is not to turn over a new leaf. The key is to cease to be a carrier of a god and learn to be carried by God. To trust him with the unknown (to us at least) future, and to bow in awe before the one who says of himself:
“Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
9 remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’