Some verses don’t need much explanation, like the one below.
Isaiah 43:11 – “I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.”
Isaiah was prophesying about the future Babylonian Exile about 200 years away from that point. Being deported from home, becoming captives, being forced to learn a new language and a new way of life, all of those things sounded pretty terrifying to the Israelites. Think if that happened here with us.
All seemed lost to the Israelites. No one was coming for them. Except God, and that is what He spent the entire chapter telling them — that He would redeem them again like so many times before. Eventually, he winded up with the verse above. There are no other saviors. The idols of the Babylonians are empty. No army is strong enough. No one cares for the Israelites. Except God.
As history would have it, God did save Israel. He put them back right where they were taken from. No other way saved the nation of Israel except the way of Yahweh. All right, that was pretty cheesy…
As old as this verse is (written at about 700 BC), it directly connects with the exclusive claim made by Jesus in John 14:6 (“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life…”). What an exclusive claim that verse is! However, flipping the verse’s meaning around parallels it directly with Isaiah 43:11. In fact, Erwin McManus said something similar a few years back: by claiming He was the only path to God, Jesus was stating that there are no other paths of life. No one else is coming for you.
The money we seek for security. The sexuality we seek satisfaction. The ‘good things’ we pat ourselves on the back for doing. All of them are empty saviors. We may not be enslaved by an army like the Babylonians, but we are still enslaved by sin without Christ.
The unique connection of these passages makes complete sense, too, for two reasons:
1. Jesus is the way to God. Since everything is marred by sin, even our ‘good works’ can’t buy salvation. It’s all by grace (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 5:6-8). Jesus also really is the truth, because he fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Him (Luke 24:44-47). Lastly, Jesus is life, because sin is death. Therefore, a man without sin can only be life. And since God is life, Jesus is therefore God. Since God is the only one who knows no sin, God is the only one who can truly give us life to the fullest, which is what Jesus came to do anyway (John 10:7-10).
2. A few chapters later in Isaiah (ch. 46), God makes it clear that idols are carried by us. Why? Because there is no life in them. They cannot save, and they cannot give us life. The very fact that we carry them shows that they never came to rescue us in the first place. This rules out any possibility that they are saviors, because that’s what saviors do — they come to the rescue. God, on the other hand, carries us. He tells the Israelites (and us) that from the time we are conceived to the time we have “gray hairs” He carries us along in life (vv. 3-4). He came to us first. He rescued us. He rescued you.
The common trend here is that we carry these idols along for ourselves. We live like they are our functional saviors, but it’s not because we are enamored with them or love them. It’s because we only want them to do something for us (ever notice how many different idols we pick up throughout life?). But God is different. He loved us first and carries us despite our shortcomings. For Christians, he fulfills our deepest needs and gives us a life and purpose before we can even ask for it. Even when He knows of our sin.
Do you see it yet? Carrying our own idols reveals our selfishness, but seeing a God that carries us no matter how hard we writhe and fight Him shows selflessness. What would you rather worship? If we’d stop fighting we wouldn’t have to search for life. Even Christians have seasons where they feel purposeless and unhappy. When we learn to let God carry us and take comfort in Him, we can live the life He has already set before us.
I don’t know what idols you’re carrying around, but you’ve got to let them go. Whether it’s a harmless hobby or a painful addiction, realize that it will never bring you life. Only God can. And for His children, He already has. It’s not even about letting Him carry you — He’s already been carrying you. It’s time to stop resisting and find life in His arms.