Hardly an original thought, but it struck me again reading Isaiah 46 the other day - God carries us, and we do not carry God.
Everyone has a functional deity, even the most ardent atheist. Everyone has something, or someone, for which they live. Everyone has that place to which they go for security, meaning, identity. Even if the nature of that god is pretty hazy, it is always there.
The claim made by Yahweh, the God of Israel, is not that he is the only god per se, but that he is the only living god, the only god who acts and intervenes, the only creator and sovereign. Therefore all other gods are mere idols, things of human invention and bereft of life and power.
In Isaiah 46, the case is proved by carrying. Here are the idols of Babylon:
Bel bows down; Nebo stoops;
their idols are on beasts and livestock;
these things you carry are borne
as burdens on weary beasts.
Idols are carried along, because they can't carry or save themselves. Babylon, says the prophet, will fall, and when it does people will scramble to save their gods, the gods who could not save them or themselves... It is a pathetic picture, but of course it makes sense. These gods cannot save human beings; they are themselves the products of human beings.
Yahweh. on the other hand:
“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 grey hairs I will carry you.I have made, and I will bear;God created Israel, and he will carry Israel. He will save.
I will carry and will save."
It seems a key diagnostic question: in my relationship with my god, who does the heavy lifting?
Perhaps this is easier to get wrong than we think. In our lives, do we expect to find God carrying us, or do we expect to have to carry him? In our Bible reading, do we mainly look to be 'challenged', rather than comforted or encouraged? (An aside to preachers: it is a cheap win for us, 'challenging' people. People naturally feel both guilty and like they need to fix it; are we encouraging them in that? When did we last preach purely to comfort people? When did we last end a sermon by proclaiming peace rather than activity?) In all our living and doing, are we prepared to lean on him, the God who carries us?