Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Isaiah 46:4 (NIV)
Reading: Isaiah 46:1-13
Consider: In Isaiah 46 the gods of Babylon are contrasted with the one true God. In this chapter Isaiah mentions Bel and Nebo. Bel (Marduk) was the chief god of the Babylonians, whose name meant ‘lord’, or ‘master’. Nebo was the god of science and learning. Isaiah is not very complimentary of these Babylonian gods. He points out that these so-called gods are powerless to save themselves (v2), let alone rescue the people from destruction. He is disparaging of gods that need to be ‘… borne by beasts of burden’ (v1). In fact he describes these idols as ‘burdensome‘ and ‘a burden for the weary’ (v1).
In contrast Isaiah 46:3-4 uses God’s words directly to the Israelites to remind them that he has been with them since birth and will still be with them even when they are old. In other words, there has not been a time, nor will there be a time, when God will not be with them.
Notice the use of the words ‘carry’ in verse 3 and ‘sustain’, ‘carry’ and ‘rescue’ in verse 4. Think of a baby and how helpless it is and how dependent it is on parents to care for it and tend it. This is what the Israelites are being reminded of. Before they had the strength to care for themselves, God was already caring for them. In verse 4 the emphasis changes to adulthood, in fact later adulthood (old age). While the newborn baby cannot look after itself, here the image is of someone growing older and their strength failing. Old age is often characterised by an increasing dependence on others for help and assistance. God promises to sustain his people – to strengthen and support them. God also promises to carry them, perhaps at times when the pressures of life become too much to bear (this reminds me of the well-known poem Footprints). Lastly, God promises to rescue his people. In this context ‘rescue’ could also be rendered as ‘ provide a means of escape’.
Are you getting the idea? God is and will be with us at every stage of our lives. Sometimes we will be conscious of his direct intervention in our lives, while at other times he will be carrying us, even though we might not be conscious of his hand upon us.
While many people fear becoming older, this passage should give us all encouragement and put old age into perspective.
This is how Isaiah 46:3-4 is rendered in The Message:
Listen to me, family of Jacob, everyone that’s left of the family of Israel. I’ve been carrying you on my back from the day you were born, And I’ll keep on carrying you when you’re old. I’ll be there, bearing you when you’re old and gray. I’ve done it and will keep on doing it, carrying you on my back, saving you.
Pray: Father, we thank you that you are a God who expresses his love for his people by sustaining, carrying and rescuing them throughout life. We also thank you that we have nothing to fear from old age, as you will be right there with us. Amen