Bel and Nebo, the gods of Babylon, bow as they are lowered to the ground. They are being hauled away on ox carts. The poor beasts stagger under the weight. Both the idols and their owners are bowed down. The gods cannot protect the people, and the people cannot protect the gods. They go off into captivity together. (Isaiah 46:1-2 NLT)
When we think of idolatry, we think of ancient people who bow down to statues. We think that man is too intelligent and cultured to fall for such nonsense.
But in fact, there are many idols that are worshipped today: Money, pleasure, wisdom, appearance, substances - anything that holds a position of prominence in someone’s life could be an idol.
Bel and Nebo, mentioned here, were the gods of fertility and abundance (Bel or “Baal”), and wisdom (Nebo), and these gods are still worshipped today, only in different ways (worshipers build mansions instead of statues.)
But Isaiah 46 points out two problem with these idols:
#1 - The idol lays a burden on the worshiper
Placing our faith and trust in an idol, say money for instance, may seem like a prudent plan. For instance, a person might think “Money will insure my well-being and comfort, it’ll give me security.” But in fact, the more a person focuses on creating and maintaining wealth, instead of being a blessing, it becomes a burden.
Time and energy must be spent managing and protecting the wealth. Wealth is subject to market and business fluctuations. People treat you different when you have money. You become skeptical of people’s motives. The thing that was supposed to set you free becomes your prison.
#2 - The idol cannot protect the worshiper
No matter how rich, popular, fit, or wise a person becomes, in the end that person will die and face God. What will be the response to the question “Why should I let you into heaven?” “I was very rich… nope.” “I was the most famous person… sorry.” I was very fit and healthy… not good enough."
See, the only thing that will matter when we meet the Lord will be “what was my relationship to Christ?”
Sadly there will be many people on that day who would be willing to give up all that they had worked for in exchange for one thing: A relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19-20)