Thursday, October 20, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 114

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 114

Isaiah has been describing the greatness of our Creator and he asks, "With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken Him?" (Isaiah 40:18) In yesterday's passage, Isaiah already established that God is unique. There is none like Him. He has existed for all eternity and there was no god before Him. He will continue to exist for all eternity and there will be no god after Him. 

But in Isaiah's day the Gentile nations, the northern kingdom of Israel, and even some citizens of Judah had "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and animals and birds and reptiles". (Romans 1:23) They cried out, "Give us anything but the holy God of Israel! Give us gods who won't require righteous living. Give us gods who expect little of us, who will grant us salvation on the basis of our offerings and religious rituals. Don't ask us to serve a God who wants our hearts and souls, who requires us to admit we are sinners in need of salvation."

Isaiah now compares useless idols to the all-powerful Creator, "As for an idol, a metalworker casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it. A person too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot; they look for a skilled worker to set up an idol that will not topple." (Isaiah 40:19-20) The rich are able to commission a finer idol to be made, one covered in gold and draped in silver, but this idol is no better than the idol of the poor man which is carved of a durable species of wood. Neither the gold idol nor the wooden idol possesses any power to help or to hurt, to hear the voices of those that pray to it, or to grant salvation to needy souls. These idols can't even remain standing on their own but must have extremely level bases designed to keep them upright. Who wants a god that falls over every time somebody walks through the house? Who wants a god made of a type of wood that will decay? Rich and poor alike are willing to waste their money on the finest materials they can afford, yet they can't see the foolishness of worshiping gods made by human hands. If the god the wooden idol represents is real, can it not prevent itself from rotting? If the god the golden idol represents is real, does it not have the power to remain standing without human help? 

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded?" (Isaiah 40:21) Of course the people of Israel and Judah had heard the truth of the word of God and they had been fully aware of His existence throughout the centuries. And even if they hadn't heard, "since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities---His eternal power and divine nature---have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse". (Romans 1:20) The very creation itself testifies to the existence of a Creator, one who is awesome in power, one who is able to do all things. His character is revealed to us in the beauty of the world and the variety of living creatures and plant life on the earth. The God who called the universe out of nothing by saying, "Let there be light," also said, "Let there be lovely flowers. Let there be companion animals to give friendship and affection to humans. Let there be magnificent sunsets and glorious sunrises. Let there be music in the roaring of the ocean and in the songs of the birds. Let fruits and vegetables grow that not only nourish the body but taste good on the tongue. Let all creation testify that I love mankind and have made all these things for the men and women of the earth, to sustain and comfort them." 

"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. 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, than He blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff." (Isaiah 40:22-24) Isaiah knew the earth was round, either because the scientists of his day understood this or because God revealed it to him. God sits on His throne and observes everything on the earth. He created all of it and He is sovereign over it. What are the kings and kingdoms of the world compared to Him? His existence is eternal. In light of eternity, what is a great kingdom or nation? No matter how long it endures, in comparison to God it is like a flower that withers in the heat and is blown away. All these things are temporary: kings and leaders, kingdoms and nations, and the lives of men and women. In light of man's temporary existence and God's eternal existence, why not call on Him? Why not put their trust in the One who can give them eternal life in His presence?

"'To whom will you compare Me? Or who is My equal?' says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." (Isaiah 40:25-26) This God is so great that He knows every star and has given a name to every one of them! Astronomers estimate there are about one billion trillion stars in the observable universe. This doesn't take into account all the galaxies that are too far away for us to observe. Some believe a very conservative estimate would be that there are at least ten trillion galaxies in the universe, and since we don't know how large the universe actually is, and since it is believed to be expanding, it's almost pointless to try and calculate how many stars there may be. There is no way for us to know. But in the day when God created the universe, He called each star into existence by name. He is a God so brilliant and imaginative that He can think of an individual name for trillions upon trillions of stars. Considering He has taken the time to name every star, and knows the location and characteristics of each one, how then could the people of Isaiah's day (or any day) claim that God couldn't see them? "Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God?'" (Isaiah 40:27)

The God who gave every star a name knows each one of us by name. Mankind is the crowning glory of God's creation, therefore can He not see us? Can He not hear us? If God thought each star worthy of a personal name, how much more must He care for mankind whom He created in His image? God sees you today! He knows your name. He knows your personal story and the challenges you face. He is so great that nothing in the universe is hidden from His sight and He knows what you are facing today. Why not turn everything over to such a mighty Creator? As the old hymn says, "Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer." 

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