The fortieth chapter of Isaiah has begun a prophecy of good news to the people. They will be carried away into Babylonian captivity and nothing will be left. But it is not over for everyone because of their sins. God will forgive their sins, speaking words of comfort. God is coming so he can be with his people. The glory of the Lord will be revealed. God will tend his flock like a shepherd, gathering them into his arms. The declaration of the gospel is beautiful and exciting: the Lord is coming with compassion to save his people from their sins. God does not set his heart on our destruction but on our redemption. Now God has made the promise to save. But can God do it? Will God keep his promise of deliverance? Consider that this question is critically important because people who are taken captive do not go home. It is a large claim for God to say that he will deliver them and renew the covenant with them. God is going to prove himself by declaring how great he is. By understanding God’s greatness, we will be able to have confidence in God’s promises for us today and appreciate the God we worship.
The Wise God (40:12-14)
The first point God makes for his ability to save is his vast wisdom. Verse 12 begins by describing the massive nature of God. God is able to measure the waters of the earth (the oceans) with his hand! How big is God to hold the oceans in his hand? God is able to measure the heavens with the span of his hand. A span is the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger when the hand is extended. Again this describes the immensity of God. God is able to measure the mountains on a scale. The earth is massive yet to God these measurements are easily manageable. If we cannot take the measure of the physical world, how can we take the measure of God?
Verse 13 continues with that very thought. Who can tell the Lord what to do? Who can inform God? Who can be his advisor or counselor? Who is going to teach the Lord anything? God does not consult with anyone. He does not need assistance. The reason this has power to this audience is that god of the Babylonians, Marduk, had to consult with “Ea, the all-wise.” Think about the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods. They always consult each other and work in tandem. God does not need anyone. He does not need to be informed. Remember that this includes us. We are in no position to teach God. We are not God’s counselor. God does not need our advice.
The Powerful God (40:15-17)
Not only is God wise and massive, he is also incomparably powerful. The nations are like a drop in a bucket or dust on a scale to the Lord. They are totally insignificant in God’s presence. Lebanon was renown for its cedar forests. You could not cut down all the trees in Lebanon and all the animals of the earth for it to be worthy enough for a burnt offering to God. How much less our worship if all the trees and animals are not worthy of God. Solomon understood the massive power of God when he completed the temple, declaring that the highest heavens cannot contain God. The temple certainly could not house the Lord (1 Kings 8:27). The nations are nothing before the Lord. Who do the nations and peoples think they are before the presence of the Almighty God? Any opposition to God is as nothing. It is like an ant trying to stop the movement of a human. It is ridiculous.
The Only God (40:18-20)
There is no comparison to God. He is completely unique. God cannot be explained because their is nothing like him. He certainly cannot be compared to an idol. There is no image that can represent God. This is one reason why Israel was commanded not to make images of God. Nothing can represent him. Any image is an insult to the greatness of God. Further, idols are nothing and do nothing. God is everything and he does whatever he wills. Idols had to be created and moved by the one who made it. In fact, Isaiah says people make idols so that they will not fall over. We must delight in the Lord because he is able to act. He is able to accomplish his purposes. He is able to do great things of his own mind and power. Nothing else can say that.
The Active God (40:21-26)
Do you not understand what God is about? This is the question in verse 21 that is answered in verses 22-26. God is not of this world. He is above the earth, as if the earth were a stool to him. The inhabitants are like grasshoppers. When you are about to land from flying, it is amazing to look out the window and see how small everything looks. People and houses look so small. This is the idea with God. God looks at the earth and the people on it and they are like little grasshoppers to him. The heavens of the sky are nothing more than like a curtain to the Lord. As such, God brings the leaders of the earth to nothing. The leaders are insignificant before the Lord. They are not everlasting like the Lord. Scarcely does a leader rise up that the Lord removes him. The most powerful people in the world are nothing to the power of the Lord. There is no comparison (40:25)! God is so massive he is able to number the stars and call them out by name. By his great power and strength he maintains the stars of the sky. Can you speak and make a star come out? Can you speak and make a star be extinguished? There is no comparison to the Lord. Because of God, not one star is missing.
The Everlasting God (40:27-31)
With all these things in mind, consider the foolishness of this statement that humans make. “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God.” How can anyone say that God does not know what I am going through? How can anyone say that God is not aware of what is happening to me? How can people say that God does not see our troubles? How can anyone think that we are being ignored by God? It is false thinking to believe that God does not see you nor care about what you are going through.
Are we going to suggest that God tires out (40:28)? Are we suggesting that God is exhausted by his creation and no longer pays attention to us? “The Lord is the everlasting God!” We wear out but God does not! God gives power to the faint. He gives strength to those who have no might. Even those who think they have power and strength like the young wear out and fall exhausted. God does not wear out which means that God is always at work. We stop working because we are weary. God never grows weary. The Lord is the everlasting God means that he is not bound by time. We think in such short amounts of time. We live for right now. But God does not have to do that. His promises do not have to come right now because he is everlasting. He will do his work as he sees fit when it is good for him and we are in no position to argue or counsel God.
Listen to verse 29. God gives power to the weak and faint. Notice that the weak and faint are those who in verse 27 think that God does not see or care about their circumstances. Israel is going into exile. But do not think that God does not care about your condition. God gives strength to the weak. God is going to act for them. Human strength is not the power we need. Human strength fails. Human strength always becomes weak at some point. God does not get weary or weak. God gives strength.
Verse 31 contains the beautiful promise. “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 ESV).
The people are called upon to wait for the promises of God to be fulfilled. They were not to look at their current condition of exile and think that God did not know their plight or think that God would not deliver them. Wait for the Lord. Wait for God to accomplish his purposes. Delight in knowing that God will accomplish his plan. This is how our strength is renewed. God will do as he said. He has the power do fulfill his purpose. Nothing can stop him. Wait for the Lord and you will have strength in the Lord. You will soar on wings like eagles. You will run and not be weary or grow faint. When your strength and hope is found in the Lord, you do not grow weary. You do not lose heart or grow faint because you know God will do it. Let me state this strength in another way:
A correct perspective on human problems can only be achieved by having an adequate understanding of who God is. We must see the glory of God to be able to deal with our short term difficulties and disappointments. By seeing the majesty of God, we then have confidence that God knows our situation and will deliver us in the end.
God’s understanding is limitless. Therefore complaints are misguided because they are based on incomplete information. We do not live by having all the answers or explanations. We live by his promises. We don’t have to figure God out. We submit to him in faith. God gives strength to those who wait for the Lord to fulfill his promises. We do not need a quick fix. We need a clearer vision of God and a greater passion for his glory. What we need is to find rest and hope in his promises and faithfulness. Christianity is not a way to cut a deal with God for an easier life now. In fact, we are doing the opposite. Following Christ is what renews us to live for our real payoff in the future that God has promised. Waiting is what faith does before God’s answer shows up.
God has promised that Christ will bring us salvation with his overwhelming glory. Is that where I have staked my happiness? Is my loyalty of heart to the coming of the Lord or the false glory of this earth? It will not work to put my faith in God while I keep my heart in this world. In fact, doing such shows we have no faith in God. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). Can we say that all I want out of life and what I’ll be happy to walk away with is God and God alone? Whatever other gifts he gives me I will enjoy with thanks to him and for his glory. God is my salvation and everything else in my existence will find its meaning and reference to God or it will have no meaning for me at all.