Sunday’s Scripture ~ Isaiah 46:3-13
PSA: If I could only preach out of one book of the Bible for the rest of my life, it would be the book of Isaiah. Good stuff. Snuggle up.
My husband, Andrew, was a state-championship weightlifter in high school and continued lifting through college and post-graduate studies. He loves it. And because he loves it, I learned all about it.
In high school weightlifting competitions there are several lifts that the athletes complete: dead lift, clean-n-jerk, snatch, bench press, and others I cannot remember right now. At the collegiate level the focus is on the clean-n-jerk and the snatch.
The mechanics are (in great generalization):
- Clean-n-jerk – lift (or clean) the bar from the floor to your collarbone in one fluid motion; pause briefly at your collarbone; then jerk the bar over your head and plant your feet in a half-split position.
- Snatch – lift the bar from the floor to over your head in one fluid motion without stopping.
I remember Andrew’s first competition while at Emory. He had completed his snatches successfully and was on his last round of clean-n-jerks at his heaviest weight…some number north of 300 pounds. He was worn out but adrenaline was helping him push through…but on his final lift…he ended up doing a front flip instead…
Andrew moved to clean the bar but his legs gave way under him. The bar thudded back to the floor with his arms underneath it. Don’t worry! He wasn’t injured, but the force of the weight dropping pulled him over the front of the bar into a flip! I was traumatized…Andrew was laughing.
The judges gave him all 10s for his dismount.
Our Scripture for this week describes how God’s people are being crushed under the weight of idols that they have cast and are carrying. Isaiah 46:1 reads, “Bel bows down, Nebo stoops, their idols are on beasts and cattle; these things you carry are loaded as burdens on weary animals.” Bel and Nebo are names of Babylonian gods. The Israelites are deep in the throws of idolatry as they have created figures of these gods to worship, when they are to worship only the one true God! The prophet Isaiah observes the heavy load these idols present and then the voice of God speaks.
“Listen…Remember…Listen” God says.
God sees the burden of the people and reminds them that because of what God has done they are not to be a people of burden any longer…yet the people have now created opportunity for burden through these idols.
These idols are lifeless but are somehow able to suck the life and vitality from the people who made them.
These idols are dragging down God’s people just as that bar dragged Andrew to the floor. And just like Andrew, if God’s people don’t recognize what’s happening – and quick! – they, too, will end up on the flat of their backs.
Our relationship with God is crucial, it’s serious, it’s fundamental to who we are. These attributes can make our relationship seem heavy when in actuality there is a lightness and freedom to this relationship. This does not mean our relationship is carefree. In fact, our relationship with God is the most intentional and intimate relationship we will ever share! God made this so from the time of creation, continued it in the Incarnation of Jesus, and fosters it still today.
When we get mixed up with other things – former things – sin – that’s how and where the weight that drags us down creeps in, but calling on the name of the Lord, repenting, that is where we experience freedom.
God says, “I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4b). Let go of the weight that’s holding you down. Allow God to bring God’s true intention about in your life. And then share that freedom with others.
Prayer: Let my people seek their freedom in the wilderness a while, from the aging shrines and structures, from the cloister and the aisle”: so the Son of God has spoken, and the storm clouds are unfurled, for God’s people must be scattered to be servants in the world. Amen. (From Let My People Seek Their Freedom, United Methodist Hymnal, 586, vs. 2.)