Salvation in Isaiah 40 (2)
We could spend 5 or 6 sermons in Isaiah 40! There is so much about God in this passage that it will be hard to know when to stop or how even to divide the material into understandable portions.
Many preachers have tried down the centuries – not just in the Christian era of 2000 years – but Jewish preachers too. But because of the vastness of the being of God there is before us a sense of the inexhaustible!
So we will scratch the surface a little – and still find much to educate and stimulate our minds. We will find much to move our emotions when, with breathtaking descriptions, we consider the vastness of the creation. And we will find much to challenge our souls with the awesomeness of God’s saving love!
In verse 12 Isaiah starts with creation – a very good place to start – at the beginning. We are used to thinking about creation in terms of the immensity of the universe, the greatness and majesty of the created world in which we live and the intricacy and sheer brilliance of design of ourselves and all the flora and fauna of the living world.
But this is NOT Isaiah’s intention by speaking this way about measuring the waters, determining the dimensions of the universe, planning the exact amount of dust and grains of sand on the earth and weighing the mountains and hills. His intention is to emphasize the greatness of the Creator Himself rather than the glorious creation! God is much greater than His creation! That is Isaiah’s message. We are in danger of using our imaginations to marvel at the world and universe around us, and about the glories of our human nature and concentrating on THEM – rather than allowing our minds and souls to be pointed towards the One who spoke them all into existence! The greatest things in the material world are nothing to God!
Verse 13 – 14 No one taught God to make the creation. No one taught God to be just, to be wise or to plan such a huge universe. Every time the BBC announce a new scientific discovery which proclaims that the universe is much bigger than everyone previously thought – we should be able to say every time – “Yes and God is bigger still!” Indeed when we come to Jehovah God we have reached the absolute – the infinite – he is absolute in wisdom, power and knowledge. He needed no one to show Him the way of understanding.
In the last book of the Bible we find elders singing a song of creation –
Revelation 4 v 11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Here we reach the ultimate – the creation is the product of God’s own purpose, plan and execution. He made everything all by Himself. He had no counsellor. His universe must be regarded as an expression of Himself. His laws are the revelation of Himself. And the greatest minds in the spiritual universe are nothing to God.
My friends this is the supreme and Holy One in whom His creatures should trust. Do you trust Him my friend tonight? Do you believe in Him? Do you believe that He is indeed the creator and the only ultimate being that exists in and of Himself, independent and sovereign?
The noble and learned theologians who brought together the statements of faith in the Westminster Confession, on which our Baptist Confession is based, were led to produce 2 catechisms – a larger and a shorter. They had been meeting together for 5 years to complete this great task – from 1643 to 1648. The Confessions are man’s attempt to summarise and crystallize the teachings of the Scriptures.
One of the questions they struggled with was this WHO IS GOD?
Three words comprising 8 letters – WHO IS GOD?
Finally and prayerfully they came up with a magnificent scriptural answer.
“God is a Spirit, in and of Himself Infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth.”
A Catechism is a device by which we remember important scriptural truths. Every one of these listed attributes of God can be traced to scriptures which teach them. In other words God in His word has made sure that there are Bible verses which speak of Himself in order that we may know what He is like and ultimately know Him!
Do you know Him my friend?
BEHOLD! says the prophet in verse 15. Which means sit up and take notice! Look – see! Give your attention.
He spoke to all men who could hear him when he spoke in his own day – and he speaks through this preserved word to us today. Are we listening?
Verse 17 – The nations are utterly insignificant! As insignificant as a drop of water that drips down the side of a bucket that has just been emptied of water.
The nations are no more than dust which blows away in a puff of wind. They are utterly powerless in comparison to Him! The might and strength of armies are as nothing to God. Nations have risen in history, exulted in their glory and then vanished. Where is Assyria? Babylon? The Roman Empire? The Greek Empire? The Prussian Empire? The British Empire? God and His power remain undiminished while the nations decrease and fail. Yes and even America will one day lose its power – but God never will lose His! The greatest institutions in human society are nothing to God.
Where is our strength and security based my friends? Are we trusting in the fact that we have a nuclear deterrent that will fend off attackers of our shores? Is our confidence based on the relative wealth and economic stability of Britain compared to their poorer nations? Christians should be trusting primarily in the mighty power of God the Lord. Things can change over night in world affairs – but God never changes! Once He has declared Himself on our side nothing will change at all! Do we believe this?
So Isaiah asks another question – verse 18 –
To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?
Now Isaiah asks a religious question – is He like other gods? Is there a contest between the Lord God and the idols of men’s making?
One of the most effective weapons is scorn. Here God laughs the idols, those who make them, sell them and those who bow down to them, into oblivion.
The foolishness of it all. How can a man made an image represent God? God is a spirit. When did you or I see a spirit? My friends we can only see each other, the real people that we are – our souls, our spirits, because God has chosen to clothe us with bodies. But God does not have a body – God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and with truth!
But men love their idols. Speaking on God’s behalf Isaiah uses a keen irony to describe an idol in verse 19 and 20.
A craftsman – takes metal, melts it down in order to make an image – casts silver chains – overlays it with gold – all the work of men’s hands.
But if a man is poor and cannot afford such an idol, then he takes some wood and gets a workman to carve an image from that. There is an absurdity in this that should not go unnoticed. The wood referred to here is a stump of a tree still rooted deeply into the ground. The poor man who cannot afford a portable idol here has an idol that cannot be moved – Verse 20.
The absurdity continues. The man cannot create the gold or silver from a which an image is made – neither can he create the tree stump from which his wooden idol is made. All these substances – precious metals and wood have been made by God. Yet man fashions images from these materials and worships them!
The greatest productions of human labour are nothing to God.
Isaiah contrasts man’s feeble attempts to make gods to worship with the nature of God who is a Spirit.
The tree stump god who cannot be moved is contrasted with the Omnipresent Spiritual God – because He is Spirit He can be everywhere.
How pathetic are the Buddhist Temples with their myriads of fat gilded figures and their shrines and temples when compared to the Majesty of the unseen God who is all-powerful Spirit!
How trivial are the little things that occupy our minds and hearts belonging to the material world – possessions – houses – cars – collections of this and that – when compared with the awesome might and power of the God who is Spirit?
We cannot compare God with anything or anyone! He is unique. He sits (verse 22) on the circle of the earth.
In passing when Isaiah wrote in 600 BC scientists were not aware of the shape of the world – but God told them – it is a globe – the circle of the earth. He was the maker after all. God inspired Isaiah to use the Hebrew words that indicated the earth is a sphere.
Moving forward to verse 25
To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
The prophecy so far has been a contrast between human frailty and God’s awesome power and might. There is NO creature or being in the universe with whom God can be compared. He is in a class all of His own. This is Isaiah’s message – and God’s message to us through Him.
He is greater than His creation.
He is greater than the nations.
He is greater than any ruler, President or human sovereign.
And man’s idols which are shaped out of the things that God first created are powerless nonentities.
There is only One being in the universe who is worthy of man’s worship and devotion.
And that being is God Himself – as He has manifested Himself in the person of His Messiah – His sent one – the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we demean God when we bring Him down to our own level. We think of the Lord Jesus Christ as a man. We think he is like us from our point of view – weak and helpless.
Yet He thinks of us from His point of view. He became like us in every way – except one – and it is a vital difference – he came as a perfect human being – growing and developing as a righteous individual. Preaching and teaching with Divine authority because He is God.
“He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all!”
He did this because He is able to do anything! Because He is God He can do what He pleases. Because He is God and all powerful He can save whom He pleases – and we dare not question Him – after all He is the creator – we are the creatures!
He came down to save the undeserving.
He came down to challenge the unbelieving.
He came down to love the unlovable.
He came down to die for those who were dead in their sins – yet who wanted life desperately.
He came down to blast through men’s idolatry and appeared to them so that they may see that HE AND He alone was the only one worthy of true human worship.
He came down to bear the sins of people who deserved to bear it themselves. By substituting for them, this Messiah bore their burdens, took their sins and paid for them completely. He died on the cross to do just that.
And now, having done all this, this incomparable God calls all men everywhere to repent and to believe His gospel. He calls them to turn from their sins, however heinous, and receive His mercy and pardon.
But he does not merely call men in the general sense – He calls you in a specific sense – you who can hear with your ears about this saviour – Jesus Christ – God almighty – who is infinite, eternal, unchangeable in His being, wise, powerful, holy, just good and full of truth.
And most of all he came to seek and to save that which was lost! Are you lost tonight my friend?
Turn to Him while you can – this offer of mercy will not always be open – as we thought this morning Christ is coming again – and then it will be too late!