Passage – Isaiah 40
As we enter the fifteenth week of lockdown, although there have been some relaxations on movement and social distancing, the general mood is hardly upbeat. Talk of a second peak in the UK and distressing reports from other countries make us wonder when this horrible virus is finally going to disappear? Add to this the uncertainty of what life will look like afterwards, socially, economically and psychologically and there are many grounds for anxiety. In such times it’s important we look in the right place for hope to displace the gloom, joy to quench the sorrow and light to dispel the darkness. Isaiah 40 is truly a mountain top passage of scripture. Please take time to read it now before proceeding. The backdrop for God’s people at the time of writing was not good. They faced the prospect of exile in Babylon and despondency had most likely set in. But God gives them five places to look to remind them of Him and His greatness. May this be a source of encouragement to us too.
1- His Works
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?” (v12) None of us could have done this and no amount of human ingenuity or technological wizardry could have accomplished it. But our all wise and almighty God has done it. For the One who created all things in the first place, nothing is too difficult for Him.
2- The Nations
“Surely the nations are like a drop in the bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales……Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded as worthless and less than nothing.” (v15-17) To the first readers who faced the imminent threat of the mighty Babylonians, having already witnessed the northern kingdom of Israel swallowed up by the Assyrians, the ‘nations’ represented power. Fast forward to today and certain nations seem all-powerful to us too, be it the United States, China, Russia or Saudi-Arabia. We may tremble before the nations but God does not. He is far greater than all the nations put together. They’re as nothing to Him.
3- The World
“He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” (v22) Just imagine the planet we occupy, its complexity, beauty, power, and the fact that there are over 7 billion inhabitants. In the midst of a global pandemic, our God “sits enthroned above the circle of the earth”. The earth is his footstool. The world dwarfs us, but it doesn’t dwarf Him. We are likened to grasshoppers in contrast to the one who sovereignly reigns over all things. Humbling and yet extremely comforting.
4- Great Leaders
“He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, then he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.” (v23-24) It’s so easy for us to look to human leaders as our source of hope in difficult times, and certainly history provides us with many great men and women. But there have also been many dictators and empire-builders who’ve wreaked havoc upon those whom they supposedly were to serve. But our God is greater than all the world’s great leaders. Our world and our lives are thankfully in His hands!
5- The Stars
“Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” (v26) Few things are more awesome than looking at a clear night sky and seeing stars. But this experience is also profoundly humbling as it reminds us of just how small we are in relation to the cosmos. Experts estimate that there are 1 billion trillion stars (that’s 1 followed by 21 0’s). Every one of them was made by God, set in place and known to Him. Every one!
Behold our God
In the light of these great truths that God imparts about himself, he poses three questions to his despondent people. These should move our hearts in worship of Him-
Q1- “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” (v25) The answer is of course, no-one and nothing. We need to know this deep down because too often our thoughts of God are simply not great enough. Our God is incomparable.
Q2- “Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause disregarded by my God?” (27) Despite our difficult circumstances God never abandons his people and the Good Shepherd never loses track of his sheep.
Q3- “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no-one can fathom.” (v28) Our pandemic ridden world is in the hands of our all-powerful and supremely loving God, in whom we must keep trusting.
(*This week’s Pep Talk is based upon chapter 8 of Knowing God by J.I.Packer.)
Dear Lord God, forgive us that all too often we make the mistake of shrinking you down to our size. Help us to have a bigger vision of who you are, of your majesty and power, that our faith in you would mushroom. Help us not to live in fear of our circumstances but to live by faith in the one who has the circumstances in your hands. Thank you that in Christ you defeated Satan, sin and death for us and have sealed our eternal destinies. Thank you for the power of your Spirit at work in your people. Amen