About a year and a half ago Isaiah 46:4’s doctrinal and practical implications impacted my life with a very personal message. This text comes in the second half of the Book of Isaiah (chapters 40–66), which deals with Yahweh’s Salvation. Chapters 1–39 focus on Yahweh’s Judgment. Chapters 40–66 addresses the topics of Yahweh’s Servant (chaps. 40–55) and Yahweh’s Kingdom (chaps. 56–66)
Within chapters 40–55, we can identify:
- Yahweh’s Book of Comfort (chaps. 40–42)
- Yahweh’s Book of Redemption (chaps. 43–53)
- Yahweh’s Great Invitation (chaps. 54–55)
Our text, therefore, makes its appearance in a section of prophecies dealing with redemption. It begins in 43:1b with the declaration:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine. (ESV)
From 43:1 we understand that Yahweh is addressing Israel with these words of comfort and encouragement. Haven’t we all thrilled at the words of 43:2?
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you;
when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame will not consume you.
In 44:22 Yahweh reminds Israel once again,
I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.
A change comes with 44:28–45:1, when Yahweh’s attention turns to Cyrus, whom He identifies approximately 150 years prior to his birth. By 45:22 Yahweh has summoned Cyrus to deliver His people Israel and issues a call to all people:
Turn to Me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
Continuing the global reference to all people, chapter 46 opens with Yahweh’s revelation that the idols of all those nations cannot accomplish anything of value: instead of lifting burdens, they must be carried as a burden and instead of bringing captives out of captivity, they go into captivity themselves (vv. 1–2). Then Yahweh announces the greatest comfort Israel can experience—indeed, the greatest comfort anyone can experience. He Himself bears His people’s (Israel’s) burdens and carries them even from the womb (v. 3).
Now we come to our text in verse 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.”
When God speaks to Israel, He speaks to His people whom He has loved and chosen. He has entered into a covenant relationship with them. A Christian’s relationship to God is much the same. The Church is not Israel, but both are God’s people—the same God, who desires all of His people to be holy, perfect, forgiving, and loving like Him. His people reflect His communicable attributes, whether they are believers included in Israel or in the Church.
Therefore, the following truths convey theological and devotional implications for our own redeemed lives:
We change; He does not.
We age; He does not.
We will die; He will not.
The Lord is the one unchanging person in our lives. Other people come and go—especially when we’re older and our mentors, companions, friends, and spouses die. But, here is One who “will never leave you nor forsake you” (Josh 1:5 quoted in Heb 13:5; see also Ps 37:25 and 2 Cor 4:9). Did you note that God gave this promise to both Israel and the Church?
Second, “To gray hairs I will carry you”: When we are old and cannot do the things we used to do, He will “support” us (perhaps a better translation than “carry,” since “bear” in the next line has the idea of “carry”). His strength never wanes, no matter how great the burden. Nothing we face can exceed His power to conquer nor exhaust His strength that He imparts to His people, so we can carry on.
Third, “I have made”: The Lord made us, so He knows each one of us intimately. He knows our needs, our weaknesses, and our strengths. In old age we face many challenges with the aging process and with declining health, physically and mentally. But God formed us in our mothers’ wombs and put our parts together (Ps 139:13–16). Thus, nothing happens to us in aging that He has not programmed into our bodies from the start of our existence.
Fourth, “I . . . will save”: The Lord not only supports us and carries us, He will deliver us through any and every circumstance. He is the Savior of our souls and of our lives. The Hebrew word for “save” can be translated “rescue” or even “bring into a state of rest” (freed of burdens). In other words, redemption results in rest both now and when we leave this earth. Interestingly, in Isaiah 43–53 (Yahweh’s Book of Redemption), the primary Hebrew word for “redeem/redemption/Redeemer” is ga’al (the concept of kinsman redemption) 13 times (43:1, 14; 44:6, 22, 24; 47:4; 48:17, 20; 49:7, 26; 51:10; 52:3, 9) and padah (the concept of a purchase) only twice (50:2; 51:11). Yahweh is our Kinsman-Redeemer—that makes our relationship all the more personal, intimate, and caring.
In 46:4 Yahweh refers to Himself with the emphatic first person personal pronoun (“I”) five times! There is no one else who will do these things for His people—no one! He alone will support and carry. No one else can; no one else will. No one can replace Him. His statement is intensely personal. His involvement in our lives makes each of our lives incomparable.
Verse 5 caps off this amazing text:
To whom will you liken me and make me equal,
and compare me, that we may be alike?
He is absolutely incomparable—a truth repeated over and over again from 44:6–8 to this text (see also 45:5–6, 14, 18, 21–22; 46:9). Such emphasis demands a response from His people. The Lord should be the focus of our lives in every aspect—in youth and in old age.
These truths echo down through the pages of Holy Writ. Jesus Himself said to His disciples,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt 11:28–30)
What a Savior! What a God! Getting older is all the more precious, because He is more precious than anything this world has to offer. For His people, the Lord becomes more and more precious every day. The incomparable God makes our lives incomparably blessed and joyous.