A Change of Focus

Isaiah 41:1. “Keep silence before Me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength; let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.”

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We return, in this chapter, to prophecies concerning  the near future. This verse starts a section addressed to the coastal islands of Palestine, Egypt, Asia Minor, etc., warning them to be silent and pay attention to warnings of judgment, for Cyrus was coming from the east to overthrow them.

Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, was the monarch under whom the Babylonian captivity ended. In the first year of his reign he was prompted by God to decree that the Temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt and that such Jews as cared to might return to their land for this purpose.  Isaiah’s prophecies of this king were made about 150 years before the events described above actually took place.

He Giveth More Grace

Isaiah 40:29-31. “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength. Even the  youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles: they shall run, and not be weary: and they shall walk, and not faint.”

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The promise in v. 29 is repeated in James 4:6. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”  God empowers the believer when all strength seems to be failing.  Terry and I see this more clearly as the aging process sets in, and both of us have physical conditions that give constant pain.  Pain wears you out.  But God gives strength, and He gives the grace to endure and continue.

Even the young can become weary, and feel utterly overwhelmed with life’s circumstances.  So God has given us this wonderful promise in v. 31.  If we wait (depend, rely, wait patiently) on the Lord we shall:

Renew our strength.

Rise up like eagles on an updraft.

Run and not be weary.

Walk and not become faint.

God gives us what we need, when we need it. And when our time to rest comes, then He will give us the grace for that, as well.

 

God is THE LORD!

Isaiah 40:27-28. “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?  Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God,THE LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, either is weary? there is no searching of His understanding.”

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The names Jacob and Israel both refer to Judah, to whom this passage is spoken. How could they believe that their doings were hidden from God?  We simply cannot hide from Him; not our behaviors, not our thoughts, not the innermost secrets of our hearts.

Three names are given to God in verse 28:  Everlasting God (Elohim, the triune God), THE LORD (Jehovah the Eternal), and Creator (Ecc. 12:1; Rom. 1:25; I Pet. 4:19). He never grows faint, never wearies, never can be understood by our finite minds. When we try to limit God to our own understanding, we are foolish indeed.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Where is God?

I have a blogger friend in Canada who posted an article about a terrible accident that took place, killing ten young hockey players, their coach, stats person, the bus driver; and leaving at least ten more boys seriously injured.  They were hit by a big semi that ran a red light, destroying the front of the bus.  I don’t remember if she said the truck driver survived.

People have wondered all through the centuries why God allows such tragedies, where He is when these terrible things happen.

I heard someone say, once, that He is right there in the same place He was when His Son was suffering and dying for our sin. He knows the pain of each parent who has lost children.  He knows our grief and our sorrow.

God never promised us that He would protect us from tragedy.  In fact, He said that the rain falls on the just and the unjust.

What He did promise is that He would walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death; that He would be there to comfort, to console, to strengthen in times of trouble.

As long as sin remains in this fallen world, there will be tragedy. Very few of us go through life without having to deal with loss, grief, and despair. We can turn to God for our need, and He will give us comfort.

I would ask you all to be praying for the families of those who died, as well as the ones with injuries, and the ongoing health and financial needs that will be with those families for a very long time.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Lift up your Eyes

Isaiah 40:25-26. “To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.  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.”

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God asks this same question in v. 18.  “Who is greater than I?  To whom can I be compared?”

Then He call upon us to simply look up into the heavens for proof of His existence. Who else besides God could have created such an amazing display of His glory and power?  The more we learn about the universe, the more we have to be impressed with the clockwork organization  He has created, the order that maintains the stars in their places.  And He calls them all by name. No one else can do that.  No one else even knows how many stars are out there, or exactly how vast our universe is.

So why does mankind so often seem to want to deny the existence of God and attribute His amazing creation to chance?  I think the answer is actually quite simple.  Man, in his pride,  wants to deny any greater power than his own because then he is answerable to no one. There is no greater authority than man, no one who can call us to account for our behavior.

I think, in a creation in which the stars are all named by the Creator, we are just silly to think that we are supreme.

The Circle of the Earth

Isaiah 40:21-24. “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.”

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Verse 21 is literally “He that sitteth  above the circle of the earth, or the round earth, so high above it that the inhabitants seem like grasshoppers or locusts. God looks upon man, from above, as a busy, agitated, moving, impatient, and raging multitude spread over the earth like locusts in bands over the plains of the East. This is a very striking illustration of the insignificance of man as viewed by God in the heavens.

The Hebrew word used in v. 22 makes it clear that the earth is a sphere. Isaiah spoke these words at least 300 years before Aristotle suggested that the earth might be a sphere. Such beliefs got people into a lot of trouble later on, because the flat earth was the accepted position of the Catholic church for a very long time.

Isaiah goes on to say that it is God Who stretched out the heavens like a tent in which mankind could dwell.  It is God that brings low the princes and judges of the earth who hold themselves in such high favor.  In fact, those who rant against God and think their own power is supreme will come to nothing.  Even their names will be blotted from memory, and their family tree will wither and die when they get in God’s way.  He will simply blow on them, and they will wither and die.

Think about it.  How many descendants of Hammurabi can you think of?  How many of Alexander the Great?  Or Herod, King of the Jews when Jesus was born?  The Caesars who persecuted believers  in the centuries after Jesus returned to heaven?  Can you name the descendants of Hitler?  Kruschev?  Stalin?  Mao tse Tung?

Quick, the names of Barak Obama’s daughters?  Yes, I thought of them, but it took me a minute–and this is recent history!  Mr. Obama declared that America is no longer a Christian nation.  He clearly doesn’t know Who he is dealing with.

It should be a comfort to all of us that God can, and has, dealt swiftly with the evil rulers of the earth who have considered themselves sovereign.  They exist only for a time, and in time their empires crumble and disappear.

God alone is sovereign.

 

To Whom will ye Liken God?

Isaiah 40: 18-20.

18 To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?

19 The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.

20 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.

In the previous verses, God has declared His own greatness. No one could be His teacher or instructor.  He is God, eternally, past, present and future. No being is greater. He is sovereign, in spite of man’s efforts to be His equal; in spite of Lucifer’s (Satan’s) efforts to surpass Him.

Now, He asks, “How can you, mankind, imagine you can create an image that is comparable to God?  You  melt gold and silver. You make images in gold, and you make chains of silver, and nothing can begin to represent Who God is.

You carve images from wood that will not decay, and still nothing you make can stand in the place of God.

In your foolishness and pride, you have made idols  that you then turn around and worship.  I have told you to make no graven images, yet you have joined the pagan nations surrounding you in worshipping that which you have created with your own hands.

There is no idol, no likeness, no image you can create that will even come close to representing Who I Am!”

 

 

Like a Drop in a Bucket

Isaiah 40: 15-17.

15 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.

16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.

17 All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.

The comparisons in this paragraph are to show the greatness of God compared to man.  Even great nations, by our reckoning, are just a drop hanging off a bucket in God’s perspective.  They are like a speck of dust on a scale, which won’t make the scale rise or fall.

All the great trees of Lebanon are as nothing to God; nor the animals that are offered for sacrifice.  All the nations together are as nothing to Him.  They are vanity, emptiness, insignificant.

This is not to say that God removes Himself.  Far from it.  He loved us so much that He allowed His only Son to die in our place. What we have to understand is that the greatness of God far surpasses any of the greatness of man. When we try to lift ourselves above Him, we are foolish. We are so full of ourselves, full of pride, full of sin; yet we believe we can reach the greatness of God.

How small we are, in comparison to Him.

God Needs No Teachers

Isaiah 40:13-14.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 shewed to Him the way of understanding?”

One of Satan’s favorite tools to discredit God is to bring Him down to the level of man, while at the same time elevating man to a place of deity. It’s not a new tactic. Two of the “modern” efforts in this deception are Transcendentalism and the New Age movement, both of which deny the omniscience of God and the finite abilities of mankind. Both push the idea that man can rise above his humanity and become as God.

The problem with that kind of thinking, of course, is that if it’s true, then we must assume that  God, at some point, was a far lesser deity; that He, Himself, had to conquer his weaknesses in order to become God.

Satan tried it.  It didn’t work out very well for him.

The truth is far more simple than all the theories man has floated down through the centuries. The truth is that God exists in all eternity, past, present, and future.  There was no one to teach Him.  He is the Source of all wisdom, all knowledge, all understanding.

Science reached a new level  for mankind when computers came into existence.  They are rather amazing. It took some very smart people to develop them, and to create languages that could be used to operate them.

But God created the human brains that created the computer “brains,” and God will always be so far above and beyond our meager abilities that we can never catch up with Him.

A computer, after all, knows only what is programmed into it. And without electricity, it will eventually become useless.  God’s power source is His own.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Relatives

I was communicating with my niece on Facebook.  I got to wondering what relationship my grandchildren have with her children.  I found a helpful chart (thanks, Google) that helped me figure out that my grandchildren are first cousins once removed with her children.

In actual fact, it doesn’t matter much. They all live so far apart that it’s not likely they’ll ever meet.  It just triggered some thoughts as to how many blood relatives I have here in the States and in other parts of the world that I will never meet, never  know anything about. Just in southern Illinois alone I’m sure I have cousins by the dozens, second cousins, third cousins, and all kinds of removed cousins.  Payne was a major family name, and Morrell.  My mom was born in Illinois, and had lots of aunts and uncles.

On my dad’s side, it’s possible I have many relatives right here in Pennsylvania.  My maiden name is Fullmer, and I’ve seen endless variants of that name:  Fulmer, Vollmer, Fuller,  and so on.  Dad was born in New York state, so I’m sure there are tentacles that reach from  there to Colorado to California to Germany to Sweden and who knows where all else.

The story is that through my maternal grandfather’s line I am eligible to be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.   I wouldn’t know, and have no plans on pursuing that 🙂  And like most of the rest of Americans who claim German descent, my great-to-infinity-grandfather was supposedly the son of the seventh son of somebody or other over there who was a count or a duke or some such thing.

Doesn’t do me a bit of good.  Would be nice if some rich uncle would leave me his estate in the form of portable property, as Charles Dickens’ character Wemmick, in Great Expectations,  liked to call it.   I rather suspect, though, that there aren’t any fabulously wealthy great-uncles in the bloodline.

So what do I conclude from all this?  Mostly, that we are ALL related in some way all the way back to Adam and Eve.  It’s a bit mind-boggling to think about that, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve taken more of an interest in reading the “begats”  in the Old Testament.   The Israelites were very careful to keep track of family and tribe relationships.  So much of those records were lost during WWII, but it’s surprising how much is still out there.

Believers, born-again children of God, are all part of the family.  If you’re like me, you can sense when someone you’ve never met before shares your faith. There’s a kinship, a common love, that helps us identify other believers.  I love that.  I love when a stranger starts talking with me, and it isn’t long before we are both very much aware that we share a common bond in Christ.

I suspect I have distant relatives with whom I’d have very little in common.  But I have brothers and sisters in Christ  with whom I share an instant bond.  It’s great when blood relatives share that bond, too.