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Sermon Date

Aug 19, 2018

Bible Passage

Isaiah 40:12-31

Author

Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.”[1] (A.W. Tozer)

Our idea of God is the most important idea we possess. Our idea of God makes its way into who we are. Our idea of God directs and guides what we say, how we think, and how we live.

If our idea of God is that He is the Judge of the universe and able to casts souls into hell, then we will live a life of obedience to Him. If we live a life of disobedience to God, our idea of God is that He cares not about sin and He is not to be feared as the God who holds the keys to eternity.  

If our idea of God is weak, we will not follow Joshua in a march around Jericho believing God will make the walls tumble. Conversely, if our idea of God is that He is our mighty Protector, we will be like David and face Goliath saying, “how dare you to blaspheme the God of Israel.”

If our idea of God is that He is not sovereign, and things happen outside of His control, then fear of the unknown rules our lives. Every evil event, or possibly evil event, brings anxiety and angst. We are consumed with worry.

But, if our idea of God is that all things are taking place as part of His divine plan, then we have faith and believe He is working out all things for good, even when circumstances indicate otherwise.

If our idea of God is that He is not the source for all we need for life, then we will look to Wall-Street financing to ensure we will live comfortably and despair when the markets crash. Or, we will put our trust in the world’s educational institutions to tell us how to live. But, if our idea of God is that He is all-wise, His word will be our primary source for education. We will trust His word to teach us and give us knowledge.

God wants us to look at our situation and circumstances and know that everything is under His control. Even though we are living as aliens in Babylon, it is God’s Babylon and He is the ultimate authority of all that is taking place.

Today, God wants us to know that our situation is temporary. We are pilgrims journeying through this world and our ultimate destination is to one day live forever in His perfect kingdom. Should the bottom fall out on society, it’s not the end.

God is saying, comfort, o’ comfort My people. God is speaking kindly to us so we are encouraged and find hope and comfort even though we may find ourselves under severe persecution. If the going is difficult, God says, it will not always be this way. If our bodies fail, we can know that He is working all things for good and He will one day restore us to perfect health.

Our idea of God is the deciding factor of whether we survive and persevere in difficulty or that we lose hope and find ourselves in despair.

If we know God, we will have the faith to believe He loves us and He is completely capable to one day bring us home where we will live in Mount Zion in perfect peace and safety.

God’s word is given to us to open our eyes to see a glorious, all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect God who cares for His people. Because we know God through His word, we always have hope, comfort, and the strength to persevere through the most difficult of circumstances. God wants us to know there is nothing able to stand in His way and thwart His purpose and plan.

His ultimate plan is to restore us and make us perfect through salvation offered freely by His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Who is Like God?

God wants us to have the right idea of who He is. He wants to expand our understanding of Him through a series of rhetorical question. The first rhetorical question in verse 12 is a five-part question about Creation being able to size-up the universe.

God asks, who has measured the waters of the earth in the hollow of his hand? The hollow of our hand is the cup we make with our hand. We might be able to hold a quarter cup. When we are thirsty, getting a drink from the amount of water that fills the hollow of our hand is not getting very much. God claims that He may hold all the water of every river, lake, pond, stream and every ocean is the hollow of His hand. 

Who marks off the heaven using a span? In the ancient world, measuring with a span is common. A span is a distance from the tip of the pinky finger to the thumb when the hand is extended. The average span is around 10 inches (generous). If seven billion people in the world were to put their spans together, it would reach a distance of 92,000 miles. The distance to the Sun is over 92,000,000 miles. Together, the span of people covers less than 0.01% of the distance. God claims His span reaches across the universe (God is not a liar).

The question continues with talk about calculating dust and weighing all the hills and mountains. To us, the universe is incredibly huge. It is difficult to contemplate all the dust or how many gallons of water there must be on the earth. The point of speaking about God’s physical capabilities is clear. We are small, and God is bigger than we may imagine.

God moves on from talking about His physical presence to getting us to think about His brain power in verses 13 and 14.

When we are born, our brains are empty. We need counselors to teach us and fill up the empty space between our ears. Nobody survives in this world without the help of another person who will give consultation.

But, what about God? Who is His counselor? Who told God how to make a tiny mustard seed become a small tree which extensively covers the land? Who told God about what is right or wrong and good or evil? There is no question God may not answer. There is no mathematical equation He may not solve. He knows the inner workings of quantum physics because He is the Creator.

To us, the universe is incomprehensible. All the minds of people combined do not know the answers to every question. God knows every answer, and nobody teaches or instructs Him. The Universe is completely comprehensible to God. There are no mysteries to God.

Again, the point of the rhetorical questions is to make sure our idea of God is right. 

God continues expanding our idea of His power by talking about His worth. To people, nations are mighty and powerful. But to God, the nations are like a speck of dust on a scare or a drop from a bucket. Imagine being thirsty and there is only one drop of water in a bucket. By the time we try to drink the water, the drop will disappear before it reaches the tip.

All the cedars of Lebanon heaped up in a pile to burn with all its beasts are not worthy as a burnt offering.

When our idea of God is as big as this passage of Scripture makes Him out to be, we have to answer the question God asks us? To whom then will you liken God?

When our idea of God is in keeping with the reality of the God of the Bible, we see how utterly foolish it is for people to make idols from gold, silver, or wood. It is one of the most ridiculous things a person may do.

Have We Not Heard?

God asks very important questions to His people in Babylon and us today. He asks, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?”

From the very beginning, God makes it known to His people His nature and His awesome power. We only need to look at His Creation and know our idea of God needs to be in keeping with what He reveals.

God does not dwell with us. God is holy and set apart. His dwelling place is above. He sits above the circle of the earth. God lives in the stretched canopy of the heavens. We live like grasshoppers on the earth in comparison to God’s dwelling place.

Furthermore, God is sovereign over all the grasshopper people. When people raise up elected officials or if someone is made a king, it is meaningless to God. The Bible says the heart of the king is in His hand and He shapes it as He wishes (Proverbs 21:1). God has a purpose and a plan with every ruler of government. He raises them up, and He sets them down. Every king is God’s king. Every governor is God’s governor.

When Pilate told Jesus that he has the authority to release Him, Jesus responds by telling Pilate that if he has any authority, it is from God (John 19:11). Pilate’s decision is part of God’s perfect plan.

When God finishes with the rulers, He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble.

In light of this, God again asks us, “To whom then will you liken Me that I would be his equal?”

Let’s extend our idea of God’s sovereignty way beyond the rulers of the earth. He is sovereign over every power and energy in the Universe. God tells us to lift up your eyes on high and see who has created the stars. The most powerful entities in the universe are under the control of the Creator. He leads every star and planet, He calls them all by name; and because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.

We must ask ourselves, does our idea of God come close to God’s word?

Wait On God

What is God’s purpose in asking these questions? Does He have a point? Are we to think big of God and go about our day?

We find the answer in verse 27. God changes the focus upon illuminating His nature to His people and redirects it to the words He hears His children say while they are held in Babylonian captivity. Their words have not escaped God’s notice.

God asks: "Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God'?" (Isaiah 40:27)

God’s purpose in His word is to awaken us from a sleepy faith and instill in us an unwavering trust and hope in an incomparable, almighty, omniscient, and loving God. How can the Israelites possibly assert that the injustice the Babylonians are committing escapes God’s notice?

Do they believe the nations are a drop in a bucket to God, except Babylon? Do they believe God can blow away all the rulers of the earth, but not Nebuchadnezzar? Do they believe God is ignorant and unaware of their captivity? What part of verses 12 through 26 will make them think God is unable to deliver His people?

God once again asks His people, “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” The everlasting God doesn’t become weary or tired. In other words, He is not taking a break, so that He may catch His breath; then He will be able to help. The understanding of God is inscrutable. God is not ignorant of the situation of the Israelites.

Why is it that God is coming to the aide of His people? It’s not a matter of God being incapable or weak. It is not because God lacks understanding on how to help. It’s because, in God’s wisdom, He is not acting on their behalf because it is not time.

God is making it very clear. If we have the right idea of God, we do not lose faith, but we will wait upon the Lord. If we know God, we know He is working all things for good, and we will wait for Him to act. We wait because we trust God’s timing. If we know God, we know He can bring the universe to a halt, correct any wrong, punish every evil being, and restore all things to perfection.

What does it mean to wait for the Lord?

Waiting for the Lord is to wait for His help. It means that we trust in Him to deliver us from difficult circumstances. Isaiah spoke about this earlier in chapter 25. In the context of Isaiah, the meaning is that we will wait for God to deliver us. We wait for His salvation at the end of the age.

To wait on the Lord is to wait for Him to put an end to death, wipe away our tears, and remove our reproach. It will happen, “in that day.”

“That day” is the day of God’s choosing. It will happen in due time. It is a day chosen perfectly by God. Until then, we wait for the Lord.

When we are living in Zion at the end of the age, we will look upon Christ and say, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation." (Isaiah 25:9)

It is very important not to take waiting on the Lord out of the context of Scripture. We are not to apply “waiting on the Lord” carte blanche. In other words, we don’t hold a blank check from God, and we wait for Him to give us our every whim and desire. God doesn’t say, just wait, and you will get that job, or wait and you will get that dream spouse. The Bible doesn’t say, have faith and just wait, and you will get the shiny new car. God is not a heavenly vending machine dispensing the world’s goods.

We need to understand what we are to wait for according to God’s word. It’s like telling our kids; I never said just wait and I will give you ice-cream. What does God say about waiting? We need to wait in the same way we need to pray.

What we do wait for are the three things God promises will take place.[2]

  • Wait for God to glorify Himself.
  • Wait for God to glorify His Son by putting all things under Jesus’s feet (King of kings and Lord of lords). We wait for the supremacy of Christ.
  • Wait for God to glorify His people by delivering us from this world and bring us to live in the Kingdom of His Son. All creation waits for the revealing of the sons of glory. We are being changed from one degree of glory to another by being conformed to the image of Christ. Those who God foreknows, He predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies.

Wait for glory!

The people of Israel are in Babylon waiting for God’s deliverance, but it hasn’t taken place. They begin to lose faith. They begin to mumble and complain about life. They are giving up. They are losing hope. They think God has forgotten and abandoned them.

They forget God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign over the rulers of the earth and the stars of the heavens. They forget God never lies but is abounding in truth; therefore, God’s promise to deliver His people will come to pass. God is fully capable of saving them. All they need to do is wait.

What about us?

What about us? “Do we not know? Have we not heard?” If we know and we’ve heard, how can we possibly complain, grumble, or murmur in life? Do we believe God is sovereign over all things except our situation? When we grumble or complain, we are complaining about God’s purpose and plan in our life.

If we know and we’ve heard, how can we possibly have despair or be faint-hearted? Do we not believe God will deliver us? If we are a people filled with anxiety filled thoughts and words, we are not trusting God to work all things for good.

There is a theology of the mind and a theology of the heart. There is what we believe in our head and the practicing of what we believe demonstrated by our hands, feet, and mouth. We need to have the theology of our mind be in unity with the practical theology of our life. We need to have faith that God is working all things for good, and our thoughts, words, and actions need to reflect our faith.

Wait. One day all flesh will see the revealing of God’s glory.

Wait. One day all things will be under the authority of Jesus.

Wait. One day we will live in joy and gladness in Zion.

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. It may bring fortune and prosperity, or it may bring poverty and shame. Tomorrow may be the day our child gives their life to Christ. But, it may not. Tomorrow may be the day when our sickness goes away, or it may be the day we die. All these little things in life are unpredictable. But, we may bet our life that tomorrow, everything will be part of God’s purpose and plan. Everything tomorrow has in store will bring us one day closer to the revealing of God’s glory, to Jesus having authority over all things and our living in joy and gladness in Zion.

Fear not people living in Babylon.

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31)

 

[1] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperCollins, 1978)

[2] See this sermon regarding these three goals which God is zealous to achieve: The Zeal of the Lord of Hosts