Friday, April 17, 2015

Encouraging People To Trust God

Isaiah 40:1-26

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.  Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2)

Time after time Isaiah has warned Judah and Israel of God’s impending judgment for their sin.  Here he encourages them not to give up when they have sinned.  Though they will be and were punished for their sins, even double what they had done, they will still be pardoned when they turn back and do what is right.  God has not and will not forget them. 

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

God’s prophets have been crying out for Judah and Israel to turn back to God and plan for Messiah’s coming.  If they will turn to God, he will work miracles in their land, so that the valleys are fruitful and the hills and mountains no longer stand in the way.  The obstacles and causes of doubt and confusion will be removed.  The entire earth will see the power and glory of God revealed. 

When Jesus came and walked on the earth, Israel saw a little of the glory of God and his power in the miracles he did, and got a sampling of what they could have received had they turned fully to him.  Because Israel as a whole rejected the opportunity, refusing to turn completely to God, they never got to see this prophecy completely fulfilled.  It will be finally fulfilled during Christ’s millennial reign at the end of time. 

“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.  The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” (Isaiah 40:6-8)

Commanded to warn the people, Isaiah asked what he needed to tell them.  He was told to remind them of the weakness and frailty of humanity.   Humans dry up and die just the same as the weeds and flowers in the field, and little remains to show they were even there.  God’s word, on the other hand, is eternal and will never change.

“O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!  Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.  He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:9-11)

The very existence of the temple and of Jerusalem itself was and is a testimony of God’s love for mankind, and willingness to forgive them.  He specifically provided a plan for receiving that forgiveness in the law.   Almost fifteen hundred years after God had promised Abraham the land, they were there to prove his word could be depended on.  Isaiah needed to encourage Judah to put their trust in the Lord, because he would keep his promise, rewarding those who trust him and caring for his people like a shepherd caring for his sheep. 

“Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?  Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?  With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:12-14)

Who besides God could measure out how much water there would be on earth or decide exactly how to space the planets to keep them from crashing into each other?  Who else knows exactly how much dust there is on earth or what each mountain and hill weighs?  Who else could decide what was right or after man sinned, implant a conscience in them to make them aware of their guilt, then teach them how to correct their wrong doing?

“Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.  And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.  All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.  To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?” (Isaiah 40:15-18)

Compared to God, even the powers of empires like the Assyrians or Egypt or Babylon are only a drop in the bucket.  Their impact is like the dust that settles on a scale overnight, when weighing out a hundred pounds of flour.  The difference they make is negligible.   God can pick up all the islands of the earth like they were just a small piece of gravel.  To God the most powerful nations are of little more value than a penny is to most Americans, hardly worth even picking up.    A country like Lebanon would be like a toothpick when one is seeking firewood, and all the animals in it wouldn’t make a single sacrifice.    Knowing how powerful God is, what can we compare him to or what can we make to portray him?  Unfortunately, people still try. 

“The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.  He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.” (Isaiah 40:19-20)

A metal worker may cast a metal statue which a goldsmith then overlays with gold and puts silver chains around it for decoration.   A person who can’t even afford to give a small donation and barely has enough to eat will look for a tree that doesn’t rot and hires somebody to carve it into a statue which he places it in a shrine where it is protected.
“Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?  It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.  Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.  To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:21-25)

Obviously people don’t really understand who God is who make such idols.  He controls the earth’s orbit and the people on earth are no more significant than some grasshopper out in the middle of a field.  He placed the atmosphere so that life could exist on earth and controls the light.  He overthrows kingdoms and makes the rulers look foolish. Keeping some groups from ever becoming a major power, so that little trace is left of them in history.   How can we compare him to some earthly person or animal?

“Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.” (Isaiah 40:26)

Just look around at what is there.  As Romans 1:19-20 says, “…that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”  Failure to see God’s power can only be the result of a refusal to look at the evidence. 

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