Isaiah 40 Visions of God’s Greatness WC McCarter
The Everlasting God
Have you come to hear a word from the Lord? I hope that you have and that you do every week. Yes, the Lord will use me to declare His message, but my continual prayer is that I will allow the word of God to speak for itself.
Let’s not focus this morning on what is happening in the culture, but let’s set our minds on what is not happening in the church: We do not have a true vision of God’s greatness. We are caught up in self-help concepts instead of the doctrine of God. Isaiah 40 is not a vision in the sense of what we have seen in chapters two and six. Although, it is a picture of God, a vision that we should grasp of God’s greatness. As we work through our passage today, you will notice two things: (1) God is the Creator/Ruler of all things, and (2) God can be trusted to take care of His people.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Comfort for Jerusalem (1-2)
Although judgment must fall on the unrighteous, there has been and always will be a people of God, and He comforts His people. The reference of this passage is to the Jewish captives in Babylon, the people of God outside of the land that God had promised them. It is sad, depressing, and prospects are bleak. The word that will be delivered to them may not be well received. Yet, through the miserable circumstances, God speaks, and He no longer speaks a word of judgment but one of hope and restoration. God’s mercy and grace are never far from those who are willing to repent, turn from the evil ways and trust in Him. That was true for the Babylonian captives who thought they would never be saved from their captors, and the same is true for us today.
The grammar conveys that God is continually saying, “Comfort.” The Lord certainly makes unbelievers uncomfortable (and even believers who need it), but the Lord offers comfort to those who belong to Him who are in need of it. “Speak comfort” should literally read “speak to the heart” meaning the inner most parts of the people. It is fear that grips the heart. It is depression that grips the heart. Hopelessness eats at the soul. So, the Lord says, “Speak to the heart.” It is the heart that needs a word from the Lord. It is the heart that needs to hear words of hope, restoration, and comfort.
“Warfare” refers to a period of distress; the Babylonian captivity will come to an end (43:14). “Iniquity is pardoned” rests upon the promise that the Servant of the Lord will bruised for the sins of the people (52:13ff). The Lord does not allow His people to suffer forever. Yes, He does discipline His people when they fall into sin, but those who persevere, trusting in Him, will be restored.
The Glory of the Lord (3-5)
Things may not be in the best shape now, but the Lord is coming. Some have said that this refers to the people’s return to Jerusalem from Babylon, but the language is more of a town going out to prepare the way for a dignitary to make his way to town. The Lord’s messenger announced His coming, and the people were tasked with making the way easy and quick to navigate.
The Lord delights in making His glory known in dire circumstances. He uses the weak and lowly things to reveal His glory. Why does He do this? He does it this way to make clear that it is He who is acting; it is He who is most glorious.
Of course, we know that the New Testament uses this paragraph of Scripture in reference to the preparatory work that John the Baptizer did before the Lord Jesus Christ came on the scene. He was the prophet who began to teach the people to repent because the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. The Lord was going to make His grand entrance onto the scene. Of course, as is common with the Lord, Jesus was meek and lowly. He was not what mankind expected. The Lord chose to reveal Himself in flesh and blood, move into the neighborhood, live in poor conditions, and be crucified on the cross. No one automatically thinks, “Glorious!” when they see Jesus on the cross.
The Word of Our God (6-8)
We are told twice in this paragraph that we are like grass. The preacher says in verse six, “All flesh is grass, even the flowering grass.” Then, verse seven, explains how that is so. Just as grass withers and flowers fade, so, too, are all people. The fact that grass is short-lived serves as a great illustration, especially for us at this time of year. We are already seeing the grass begin to fade away as the seasons change. It will not be long and it will all be brown and dead. Like grass, we are here one day and gone the next. We do not live forever. We are not dependent upon ourselves. God is the giver and taker of life. He alone is the everlasting God. We are physically fragile. I often meditate on the reality that our physical lives are fragile. On the one hand it seems as if it is very difficult for someone to lose one’s life, but, on the other hand, it seems almost too easy. We are also morally fragile. We are susceptible to the wiles of the devil, the fallenness of this world, and our own selfish desires.
Let me assure you of something, people come and go. Like grass, we spring up for a time and quickly die. Yet, the word of God stands forever. When God speaks, the matter is settled for eternity. The everlasting God speaks everlasting words.
Behold Your God (9-11)
There’s nothing more assuring than knowing that God is here. Verses nine through eleven are just as much a valid promise for us today as it was for the people of God 2,700 years ago. Verse nine makes clear that what is about to be said is worth proclaiming. This message is worth sharing.
Jerusalem is pictured here as a preacher who hears the message and runs to tell other towns the announcement. This is a message that is worth announcing. This is a message that must be proclaimed.
Creation Does Not Compare (12-17)
Have you ever seen someone that does his/her job so well that you have said, ‘He does that effortlessly’? Well, you could say the same of God in relation to His creative activity. God is the sole Creator of all things, and He almost effortlessly makes sure that all things work well.
Most of ancient mythology said that the gods, even the creator-god, had to take consul from other gods, but our God, the true and living God, works with unaided wisdom.
We could combine all of strength of all the nations, and they would not compare to the God of heaven and earth. God is unique in dignity. All of our wealth combined is as a drop in the bucket in comparison to Him. All of our strength combined does not rival the Lord’s. All of our wisdom is like dust on the scales in comparison to the weightiness of our God.
Let us also take note that, yes, the Lord is delighted by our praise, and it helps to make His glory known, but the Lord does not need our worship. Under the Old Testament law, the chief form of worship was the sacrifice of animals. Here, in verse 16, the Lord makes clear that all the trees of Lebanon and all of their livestock is not sufficient for a burnt offering. That worship, although the Lord may have accepted burnt offering in the past, does not do justice to His unequaled importance and value.
Humanity has great value in the eyes of God. It is only in comparison to God that we are seen as less than flattering. We are the chief, the crowning jewel of God’s creation, made in His image and likeness, but in comparison to Him, we are nothing.
Idols Do Not Compare (18-20)
To assure folks that idols are nothing, it is discussed how the Lord is the Creator of all things, and idols are only a creation of humanity. The Lord created man, and man has created idols. Idols do not even compare to humans, much less to God. You can see how far removed false gods are from the real thing. God is the Creator of all things while idols are only made from the substances of God’s creation.
The only “value” that an idol can have is in the cost of the materials used to craft it. Even a poor man will have an idol crafted, and it will only be worth the few cents that he can pay to have it built.
Governments Do Not Compare (21-24)
The questions of this paragraph could be asked in another way, Where in the world have you been to not know these things? People have great value in the economy of God, but in comparison to God, we are only like grass and grasshoppers. In the same way that you pull back the shades of your bedroom windows in the morning God stretches out the heavens like a curtain.
God rules absolutely. God is supreme in authority. Governments are nothing compared to Him. He is the one who raises up princes and judges, and He is the one who brings them down. Whatever power or authority that they may exercise or claim for themselves is nothing because ultimately they are puppets on strings that God controls. There is nothing done that is not under God’s sovereign rule. Do you remember what Jesus told Pilate? He told him that he would have no authority if it was not given to him from above. The Lord would soon bring down the Babylonian Empire with the might of the Persians. He would raise up Cyrus as a mighty king. The Lord is sovereign over the nations.
Creator of the Ends of the Earth (25-31)
Notice in verse 25 that the Lord is called, “The Holy One.” No one and no thing compares to Him in anyway, especially His moral perfection. He alone is “The Holy One.”
God is the Creator of all things making Him more than able to do all that needs to be done for His people. If God knows all things, sets all things in order, and there is not one more or one less star in the sky than what He has ordained, then how is it that He could ever be accused of forgetting His chosen people?
If we think that God does not hear or answer our prayers, if we think that He is distant, if we even think that He is too great to care, then what we need to learn or relearn is the doctrine of God. We are His people. We know the truth. We should never doubt the Lord’s willingness or ability to come to our aid. He does not need a back-up plan. What He purposes comes to be. What He has done before, He can do again. What He has said before is still valid today. He is the Everlasting God.
I have figured out that when the Lord taught about child-like faith, He was not meaning that to be exactly like a child. For example, have you ever met a child who automatically knew what it means to be patient?
Conclusion and Christian Application
What the people of God need, what a church needs is reliability, consistency, and stability. I have been convinced that is part of my job. I want you to know that I am here week-in-and-week-out, year-after-year. I’m not going anywhere. You can count on me. But my steadfastness is nothing compared to the Lord. What you need is to lean on the everlasting arms. I will do my best, but I am far from perfect. I am going to let you down from time to time. Yet, the Lord will never let you down. You may think that He is slow, but He is not. You may think that He is silent, but He has spoken. You may think that He is too busy, but He is all-resourceful. Lean on Him because He is the Creator of all things. Lean on Him because He nothing compares. Lean on Him because He is the only one you can truly count on.