It is market day in our town, the perfect time to load up on apples for the two grown children of ours we’ll visit this weekend. I always buy a basket of Gala seconds, for hard-to-beat combo of price and taste. These have a crisp sweetness that only a recently picked apple can bring.
Despite the sturdy bag around the apples, I decide to lower them into my backpack – all fifteen pounds of them. For Isaiah, yet again, has slipped into my thinking. And I want to be reminded of what it feels like to lug something around.
Here’s my inspiration:
3 “Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob,
all the remnant of the people of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
and have carried since you were born.
4 Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (Isaiah 46:3-4)
This metaphor of God carrying his people is painted more fully in the original Hebrew. Upheld, in verse 3, is literally loaded up. So, this verse could read, “…you who have been loaded up on me since your birth.” Later, the word for sustain means to shoulder.
God tells his people that when they were born, he hoisted them to his shoulders and has carried them. And he promises to continue to bear them even through their final leg of life’s journey.
My load didn’t last very long. I walked a half mile back home from an errand without much of a bother. But sitting at my computer on a Zoom call (the straps of the backpack looking vaguely like old-school suspenders), I began to feel the strain.
That’s the sneaky thing about weight. (Even the wimpy fifteen I added.) It grows on you. I remember tackling a section of the Appalachian Trail once with a backpack I had filled with no understanding of serious hiking. The forty pounds – including a jar of peanut butter! – became a torture after only a few days on the rocky path.
Just before these verses, God calls out foreign gods for being nothing more than dead weight.
The images that are carried about are burdensome,
a burden for the weary.
I think, again, about my own false gods – systems I’ve set up to give myself self-worth. Like my phone: light in my pocket, but heavy on my mind, needing constant placating and feeding. As I photograph it, the camera focuses on the clouds reflected in the dark glass, blurring the bag. Social media gives the promise of greater purpose and belonging but more often is just a burdensome distraction.
But God lovingly chooses to shoulder us. Jesus tells a parable of a shepherd that goes to look for his lost sheep. He tells us, “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.” (Luke 15: 5-6a)
And I suppose, that’s the point. God carries us because he’s taking us someplace. We’re going home – to a kingdom where Christ reigns with no rivals to distract and deceive us. Where we matter because he says so.
A home we never could have gotten to on our own.
Lord, you have carried us thus far, we trust you to bear us the rest of the way. We lay our own burdens at your feet, including those weights we thought would buoy us up. Jesus, you are the lift that we need!
Reader: How do you like them apples?