WE CAN PATIENTLY WAIT ON THE LORD FOR SUSTAINING STRENGTH AND PERSEVERANCE BECAUSE OF HIS ULTIMATE SUPREMACY AND SIGNIFICANCE
Often people like to downplay the relevance of studying theology. They prefer more of a step-by-step manual on how to deal with the practical problems they are facing in everyday life. Doctrine about the attributes of God and His sovereign decrees is viewed as too heavy and not directly relevant to help me live my life today. They couldn’t be more wrong. Their focus is more on what can man do to fix his problems rather than reliance on the grace of God.
We live in a God-centered universe (not a man-centered universe where the Trinity consists of Me, Myself and I) because God has created everything and only God sustains everything. Our passage today could not be clearer about the connection between basic theology about God’s Supremacy and His Significance and our practical pathway to strength and perseverance in the hardships and trials we face.
Constable: The preceding section answered the question that the people of Isaiah’s day had about God’s desire to deliver them. Yes, He wanted to deliver them. This section answered their question about whether He could save them. Yes, He could save them. Isaiah used the doctrine of God to assure the Judahites of their security and of God’s faithfulness. He is the sole Creator, and He is infinitely greater than the created world.
WE CAN PATIENTLY WAIT ON THE LORD FOR SUSTAINING STRENGTH AND PERSEVERANCE BECAUSE OF HIS ULTIMATE SUPREMACY AND SIGNIFICANCE
Isaiah focuses our attention on God’s Supremacy and His Significance in 3 different sections – but the themes greatly overlap.
He uses some of the most sublime language in the scriptures and walks us through a series of rhetorical questions to drive home his main application. If we understand God correctly, we can make it through the toughest of times – even a 70 year Babylonian Captivity or the terrifying years of the Great Tribulation period.
I. (:12-17) GOD IS UNIQUELY SUPREME AND SIGNIFICANT IN THE UNIVERSE HE CREATED AND CONTROLS –
IMAGERY OF MEASURING CUP AND SCALES
A. (:12-14) Uniquely Supreme in the Universe He Created and Controls
1. (:12) Supremacy Demonstrated in Original Creation Design and Execution
a. Determined the Waters and Heavens (Opposites to indicate totality)
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,”
“And marked off the heavens by the span,”
How immense is God? What type of measuring cup would it take to calculate the amount of water in just the Atlantic Ocean?? The hollow of God’s hand is sufficient as a measuring instrument for God – talk about IMMENSE!
Get out your tape measures and try to measure the heavens – good luck; God has no problem making such calculations – He alone knows the end from the beginning; He is the master designer and the one who executed creation of the heavens and the earth – what type of earthly kingdom or wicked ruler can stand up to such a God? Why would we fear man when we should only fear God?
Young: The contemplation of these things should lead the mind directly to the consideration of the greatness and grandeur of the everlasting God, who will come in glory to visit His people.
b. Determined the Dust [of the flat regions] and Mountains
“And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,”
“And weighed the mountains in a balance, And the hills in a pair of scales?”
What type of balance or measuring scale is God using here? Remember His promise to Abraham: Gen. 22:17 “I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore” repeated to Jacob – Gen. 32:12 — and yet God assures us that He knows and cares for us individually as the sheep of His flock – even the hairs on our head our numbered – more of a challenge for some of us than others ..
2. (:13-14) Supremacy Demonstrated in Ongoing Wisdom and Knowledge
a. Ultimate Visionary
“Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?”
Where does God go to figure things out; To whom does He turn for counsel and wisdom?
When it comes to the Visionary for the local church – we need to look to our Head – the Lord Jesus Christ – He has the counsel and direction to impart to us
There is no one man that can set himself up as the “Visionary” for the church – that would be presumptuous; God wants us dependent on Him
b. Ultimate Decision Maker
“With whom did He consult
and who gave Him understanding?”
We are instructed to seek wise counsel from consulting a multitude of godly counselors; it is not good for us to rely just on our own understanding – but that is not the case with God
He stands in a unique relationship to wisdom; He is our wisdom
c. Ultimate Standard for Justice and Knowledge
“And who taught Him in the path of justice and
taught Him knowledge, And informed Him of the way of understanding?”
So man … why do you complain and say God’s way is not right? He is not treating me in accordance with justice??
Constable: God was not only alone in the work of creation, but He is alone in the wisdom needed to execute it (cf. Job 38:2—39:30).
B. (:15-17) Uniquely Significant in the Universe He Created and Controls
1. (:15) Inconsequential Power of the Nations
“Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.”
2. (:16) Inadequate Resources of the Nations
“Even Lebanon is not enough to burn,
Nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering.”
What type of sacrifice is truly worthy of such an immense God? Forget about it! There is not enough wood on the earth to burn or animals to sacrifice on the altar – any man-made attempts to please God and atone for sin are futile; Forgiveness comes only by God’s grace; by the sufficient sacrifice that He has provided; a sacrifice of infinite worth
3. (:17) Insignificant Value of the Nations
“All the nations are as nothing before Him,
They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.”
Look at how the tyrants of the world are full of themselves; they inflate the sense of their own importance in the world; they view themselves as untouchable and sovereign; yet God can take proud Nebuchadnezzar and humiliate him to the point of reducing him to a cow grazing in the field
Nations rise and fall – look at the record of the Book of Daniel – starts after the great Assyrian influence
– Babylonian empire
– Medo-Persian empire
– Rome all of these nations end up crushed like dust – less than nothing and meaningless – put the US in that category as well
– Exalted kingdom of God with its millennial blessings
Daniel 2:35; 44-45
Cf. Job 38-39
Look at Job’s response: 40:4 “Behold, I am insignificant”
Matthew Henry: in comparison to God, Job sees himself as nothing, less than nothing, worse than nothing, vanity and vileness itself
Roy Zuck: Seeing that man is not the world’s master, and that God controls and cares for His creation, Job acknowledged (a) his insignificance (unworthy comes from the verb qalal, “to be silent, trifling, small, insignificant”)
II. (:18-24) GOD IS UNIQUELY SUPREME AND SIGNIFICANT IN SOVEREIGNTY AND DOMINION –
IMAGERY OF IDOLS AND GRASSHOPPERS
A. (:18) Rhetorical Question – No One Can Compare to God
“To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare with Him?”
Oswalt: If God’s transcendence is the most fundamental truth of OT theology, its immediate corollary is the next most fundamental: one cannot make an image of God.
B. (:19-20) Superior to Any Idol and Uniquely Significant
1. God is self-existent – not created; eternal – not finite
“As for the idol, a craftsman casts it,”
God is the one who made the craftsman and the materials (wood, etc.)
Two different types of workmanship in view here
– that of the rich who have all the resources of gold and silver at their disposal
– that of the poor who can only use the inexpensive and readily available material of wood – results are the same
2. God is infinitely more valuable than gold and silver
“A goldsmith plates it with gold, And a silversmith fashions chains of silver.”
3. God is dynamic and living – carrying out His purposes
“He who is too impoverished for such an offering selects a tree that does not rot; He seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman to prepare an idol that will not totter.”
Pretty low expectations – just hoping that the idol is balanced enough so that it won’t fall over – didn’t do Dagon any good – 1 Sam. 5:1-5 – fell down before the ark of the covenant
Constable: Idols are less impressive than the metals that people use to make them and less strong than the trees from which they fashion them. The best idols are immobile; they will not topple over (cf. 1 Sam. 5:2-5). But the living God is active in life, not just a product of the earth.
God is living and dynamic and in control of the universe He has created
C. (:21-22) Transcendent Above All
1. (:21) Theology 101
“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?”
Motyer: The arrangement of the four is chiastic. The first and fourth bring together (the fact of knowledge arises from the imparting of discernment) as do the second and third (the fact of hearing the truth arises from the fact of being told the truth).
2. (:22) Absolute Supremacy
a. Supreme over the Earth
“It is He who sits above the vault of the earth,”
Oswalt: Commentators agree that this probably does not refer to the circular nature of the earth but the do not agree on what it does refer to. It might be the earth itself with its circular horizon (Prov. 8:27; Job 16:10), or it might be the vault of the heavens (Job 22:14), which seems to extend in a half-circle from horizon to horizon.
b. Supreme over Mankind
“And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,”
c. Supreme over the Heavens
“Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”
Constable: He is so great that people are as small as grasshoppers in comparison. The whole of the universe, the heavens and the earth, are as a tent to Him because He is so immense.
God’s house is pretty large – simple to erect like a tent – just lay out the poles and stand it up and anchor it down – simple for some people – for God the universe is just like one huge tent that He dwells in – you cannot contain God in some local temple
D. (:23-24) Exercises Dominion Over World Leaders
1. (:23) Reduces World Leaders to Insignificance
“He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.”
Talking about the Supreme Court Justices here – the highest form of governing rulers and justices that you can imagine on earth – nothing compared to God
Young: The language is a strong denial of deism. God has created the world but He has not abandoned it. All the created universe is in His hands and under His control.
2. (:24) Exposes World Leaders as Fragile and Temporary
“Scarcely have they been planted, Scarcely have they been sown, Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, But He merely blows on them, and they wither, And the storm carries them away like stubble.”
Young: A mere breathing on God’s part, in other words, was sufficient to remove them from the scene. No strenuous exertion is required.
III. (:25-31) GOD IS UNIQUELY SUPREME AND SIGNIFICANT IN POWER AND MAJESTY –
IMAGERY OF STARS AND EAGLES
A. (:25-26) Don’t Compare God to Anyone Else (in terms of Power and Majesty especially)
1. (:25) Rhetorical Question – No One Can Equal God
“’To whom then will you liken Me That I should be his equal?’ says the Holy One.”
2. (:26a) Majestic and Powerful Creator of the Universe
“Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name;”
Constable: The stars were objects of worship and signs of divine activity in Babylonian and Canaanite worship (cf. 2 Kings 17:16; 21:3). But they were only creations. The pagan cults assigned them names, but the Lord summons and directs them using their real names, the names that He as their sovereign assigns them. In the ancient world, to know the name of something was to know its essence and so to have power over it. Innumerable as they may be to humans, the Lord knows and controls each one of the heavenly bodies.
3. (:26b) Majestic and Powerful Sustainer of the Universe
“Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power Not one of them is missing.”
Beall: Four different Hebrew words are used in this verse to indicate God’s power.
B. (:27) Don’t Complain About God’s Wisdom and Justice
1. God Doesn’t Understand My Situation = Asleep at the Switch
“Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the LORD,’”
Motyer: As Isaiah envisages the message of coming disaster (39:6) taking hold of his people, he addresses himself to the despondency which will inevitably set in.
2. God Is Not Giving Me My Just Due = Acting Unfairly
“And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God?”
C. (:28) Don’t Forget Who God Is and How He Works —
Theology Refresher – God is at Work to sovereignly execute His eternal plan
1. Remember Who God Is
“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
a. “The Everlasting God,”
b. “the LORD,”
c. “the Creator of the ends of the earth”
2. Remember How God Works
a. He’s not asleep at the switch
“Does not become weary or tired.”
b. He’s not acting unfairly – His ways are inscrutable – don’t try to unscrew the inscrutable
“His understanding is inscrutable.”
D. (:29-31) Main Application: Do Wait Upon the Lord for Strength and Perseverance
“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, 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.”
Problem: most people don’t realize they lack power
I want to take my run-down, stumbling people and impart new strength to them;
Wiersbe: The word “wait” does not suggest that we sit around and do nothing. It means “to hope,” to look to God for all that we need (Isa. 26:3; 30:15). This involves meditating on His character and His promises, praying, and seeking to glorify Him.
Oswalt: This expression implies two things: complete dependence on God and a willingness to allow him to decide the terms.
Young: those who fully believe in God’s power to deliver, and manifest their confidence in Him by patiently waiting for Him to bring His promise to fulfillment.
Wiersbe: The word “renew” means “to exchange,” as taking off old clothing and putting on new. We exchange our weakness for His power (2 Cor. 12:1-10). As we wait before Him, God enables us to soar when there is a crisis, to run when the challenges are many, and to walk faithfully in the day-by-day demands of life. It is much harder to walk in the ordinary pressures of life than to fly like the eagle in a time of crisis.
Grogan: The three-fold description forms a climax, not its opposite; for the exceptional flying and the occasional running do not require, as does the constant walking, an ever-flowing stream of grace.
Just speaking of steady, forward progress
Young: With apparently no effort the eagle mounts high into the sky; so the people of God will mount up from the depths of their griefs and difficulties.
Think back through the various images we have discussed and you will easily remember this message
– measuring cup and balance
– idol and grasshopper
– stars and eagle