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Confidence in God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 21, 2024 12:01 am

Confidence in God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 21, 2024 12:01 am

Before Judah fell to the forces of Babylon, the prophet Isaiah urged the people to trust in the name of the Lord. Today, Stephen Nichols visits this pivotal moment in Israel's history and calls us to place our confidence in God.

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Meet Today's Teacher:

Stephen Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College, chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is host of the podcasts 5 Minutes in Church History and Open Book. He has written more than twenty books, including Peace, A Time for Confidence, and R.C. Sproul: A Life and volumes in the Guided Tour series on Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, and J. Gresham Machen. He is coeditor of The Legacy of Luther and general editor of the Church History Study Bible.

Meet the Host:

Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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R.C. Sproul

Sometimes that power of the nations is so strong it's all we can see.

It blocks the sun, as it were. And we can't see beyond the horizon of our existence because all we see is what is in front of us, the nations. But the true perspective is they are a drop in the bucket. Where do you place your confidence? As we look around, we see powerful nations, military forces, powerful institutions, rapid technological change. And we can look to these earthly things and shrink back in fear, or some look to them hopeful, placing their confidence in them. But our confidence needs to be in God. This is the Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. It can be tempting to have our confidence shaken as we survey the state of the world today. It can also be tempting to place our hope in the wrong things. So we need to have a biblical view of confidence, recognizing that it is a time for confidence, but confidence in God. So I would remind you to request Stephen Nichols' series and book, both titled A Time for Confidence, when you give a gift of any amount at To remind us why it's foolishness to trust in the temporal things of this world, and why we must trust in our great God, here's Dr. Nichols.

We've been talking about a time for confidence, and in this session, we're going to talk about our confidence must be in God. To help us get a handle on this, we're going to go back to Isaiah chapter 40. This has to be one of the most beautiful chapters in all of Scripture, Isaiah chapter 40.

You know, it begins with these great words, comfort, comfort my people. And of course, you almost can't read that without hearing Handel's Messiah going off in the back of your head. What is happening here is that we have had chapter upon chapter of judgment. This is a bleak book, Isaiah, from chapters 1 to 39. You begin looking at the nations, you begin looking at Israel, and you just see oracle of judgment upon oracle of judgment.

And then all of a sudden, at chapter 40, the tone now shifts. And it shifts, in fact, sometimes these last chapters of the book, chapters 40 to 66, are sometimes called the book of comfort, because those first chapters are so harsh in their judgment. Well, what we have here is Isaiah prophesying ahead of Israel's captivity in Babylon. But not only does Isaiah see that Israel is going to be taken captive by Babylon, but what Isaiah also prophesies is not only will you be taken, but you will be brought back. And so when we get into these chapters, we have now gone past judgment, and now we are talking about restoration. And so the opening verses of chapter 40 assure Israel that they will be restored to the land.

And that is why this is a book of comfort. You will be brought back to the land. So let's put ourselves in the campfire, right, in Babylon. And we are the captive Israelites in exile. And we have the Isaiah scroll. And we're reading that we're just going to simply waltz back to our homeland.

Now, let's think this through. For one thing, between where we are and Israel is a huge desert. So we've got geography to overcome. But much more formidable than that is Babylon. In order for this to happen, the king is just going to have to up and decide out of the magnanimous joy of his heart that we can go back home. And of course, Babylon is going to pass off the scene. And Medo-Persia, Cyrus, is going to be the guy. Now, if you know anything about world history, you wouldn't look at Cyrus and think that he's got a magnanimous heart who just wants to do kind things for people. He's interested in conquering the world. And so if we're sitting there and we're hearing that God's going to restore us, I think this would raise a question.

Really? Is God able to fulfill this promise? So as I look at verses 12 through the end of the chapter, what I see here are a series of demonstrations of God's power. So that as God promises to restore Israel, like a shepherd will gather up the lambs and carry them in his bosom and take them back to the safety of their sheep pen, Israel will be brought back to the land.

They will be restored. And you can count on it. God is a faithful God. And if you put your confidence in God, you will not be let down. And so here we have a series of demonstrations of God's power. In these verses from verse 12 through the end of the chapter, we're going to see that God's power is demonstrated over creation.

We're going to see the waters and the mountains and the lake and the stars. We're going to see that God's power is demonstrated over the nations. And we're going to see that God's power is demonstrated over the false gods. And we're going to see a final demonstration of God's power as Isaiah brings this chapter to a close.

So let's take a look at it. And you see it there in verse 12 of Isaiah chapter 40. And from verses 12 to 13, we have the first demonstration of God's power over creation. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Now, of course, you look at any one of these and you think of the great waters, right?

If any of you have ever just seen the ocean or been on an ocean-going vessel, you recognize what a tremendous force this is of the waters. And yet they are simply in the hollow of his hand. The grandeur of God, the greatness of God, and then the heavens. Now, this is Isaiah's day, and our day we've got the Hubble telescope that is still out there beaming back the galaxies and showing us these remarkable pictures of not just the stars, but of the galaxies.

And yet Isaiah tells us that God measures them with a span. And then these great mountains. Now, I used to live in central Pennsylvania where we had hills. I grew up in western Pennsylvania, not too far from original Ligonier country, and there we had mountains. We had the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. We had genuine mountains. In fact, to get from where I lived up to Ligonier, you had to go about three miles up on the mountain up where Ligonier was. But in Florida, it's pretty flat. You could get yourself up on the roof of a house and you can see pretty far.

So we really have to go somewhere else if we live in Florida to see mountains. But when you do see mountains, immediately as you are dwarfed by them, you recognize the grandeur of mountains. And yet you can almost see Isaiah trying to portray this force as God just sort of plops down a mountain in creation. So all of these things that awe us in the natural world, God is powerful over them. Isaiah turns to the false gods. He says in verse 14, whom did he consult and who made him understand?

Who taught him the path of justice and taught him knowledge and showed him the way of understanding? Now, it seems like at this point, Isaiah has sort of shifted gears from what theologians talk about as the attribute of God as omnipotent. That is, he is all-powerful. That Isaiah now is talking about God as omniscient. He is all-knowing. And so who has taught him?

There's something else that I think is going on here. In the Babylonian pantheon of gods, the supreme God was Marduk. Now, I always have to remind myself it's Marduk, not Marmaduke.

Remember, Marmaduke is the big dog in the cartoon. OK, that's not the Babylonian god. It's Marduk. But Marduk takes counsel with the other gods. So when Marduk needs to make a decision, he brings together, like a president would bring together his cabinet or a king would bring together his advisers, Marduk assembles the gods. And so he consults with the god of thunder, and he consults with this god, and then once he gathers that information, he makes a decision. This is a direct frontal assault that God is more powerful than the Babylonian gods.

And why is this important? See, in the ancient world, if one nation conquered another nation, it meant very simply this. That nation's gods were the superior gods. And so you often find this in the Old Testament, that Israel was crying out for God to vindicate his name by protecting Israel. And so the idea here is, if Israel is conquered, what does that say about the Babylonian gods? And clearly here, God is demonstrating that he is over Marduk and that he is over the false gods.

Then we turn to the nations. You all remember the story of Eric Liddell. Eric Liddell was a son of missionaries in China, medical missionaries. But there's that moment in the movie, Chariots of Fire, and there's a little bit of license going on there in the movie, where Eric Liddell, who was a sprinter, and his main race was the 100-meter dash. His secondary race was the 200 meters.

Those are both considered sprinting distances. And in the movie, we find out that he gets to Paris, and the week ahead of the time trials for the 100, he finds out that they're on a Sunday. Well, sorry to sort of shatter the drama of the movie. He actually knew, they all knew, the schedule was posted a couple months before, so it wasn't quite a dramatic moment as the movie makes it out to be.

But it still is a dramatic moment. He had trained for years for the 100-meter dash. This was his race. And he's a Scottish Presbyterian, so he takes Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy very seriously, and so he will not run in the time trial on a Sunday.

Now, let's just imagine that the movie's accurate for a moment. So in the movie, they bring in the Prince of Wales. So I'm not sure all of the duties that are on the Prince of Wales' agenda, but apparently one of them is making sure the British Olympic athletes stay in line. So they bring in the British Prince of Wales to admonish him for a country that he needs to run in the 100, because that's their chance for gold. And he stands up to that pressure. And in fact, in the movie, and this part is true, instead of running in the 100-meter time trials, he preaches. And guess what text he uses? Of course he's going to use Isaiah chapter 40, because it has people running at the end and soaring like eagles.

This is a great text to boost your confidence before you go into the Olympics. But he also reads it because of this. Look at this. At verse 15, Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales. Behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.

Little did not cower or cave under the pressure of his king. He recognized that the nations are like a little drop that just goes right into the bucket. Recognize the nations for what they are. And behind the nations, in that power of the nations that they represent, and sometimes that power is so strong, it's all we can see.

It blocks the sun, as it were. And we can't see beyond the horizon of our existence, because all we see is what is in front of us, the nations. But the true perspective is they are a drop in the bucket. And little knew this. Little knew this. Of course he got bronze in the 200, and then he trained for the 400. And this is a remarkable thing. The 400 is not considered a sprint. It's considered a middle distance. And sprinters don't usually make for good middle distance runners.

And Little shocked the world when he took gold in the 400 at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Well, as we go back to the text at verse 18, we turn our attention back to the false gods. To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? An idol?

And here's where a little sarcasm comes out. A craftsman casts a goldsmith, overlays it with gold, and casts it for silver chains. He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot. He seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move or totter. So be careful you don't get a shoddily made wooden idol, because it may just not sit right on the shelf.

And, you know, when the kids come in the house and they go buzzing by, they might just cause enough disturbance to knock it over. How silly is it that these Babylonians were putting their confidence in these idols made by man? And so we're reminded that God demonstrates His power over the false gods. We return to creation, verse 21. Do you not know?

Do you not hear? Has it not been told to you from the beginning? Has it not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to dwell in, who brings princes to nothing, we're back to the nations again, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Yes, even Cyrus, even Cyrus, the great Neato-Persian king, armies just simply melted when he came onto the scene.

So great was his reputation. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. So a wonderful conclusion reached in verse 25.

It's a rhetorical question. To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him, says the Holy One. So we have here these series of God's demonstrations of His power, but He has saved the best demonstration of His power for last, and that is God ultimately delights in demonstrating His power in His people. We're going to see this in these last few verses. So as we look at how this closes, we find what is a very honest question. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, my way is hidden from the Lord, my right is disregarded by my God? Now we have another question.

But what about me? Does God notice my situation? Yes, I can check the box, He's creator, so He's more powerful than creation.

Yes, if we press far enough, we will say the nations really are a drop in the bucket. Yes, we know, we know how ludicrous false gods are, so we can check that box. But what about in this particular situation? Does God notice, and does God care? There's an injustice here.

My right, as His people, to enjoy His promise. Will that go disregarded? Does God notice me? Well, we speak to this, don't we, in the next few verses. Have you not known?

Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary.

His understanding is unsearchable. Now we're going to see it applied. He gives power to the faint. And to him who has no might, he increases strength. Well, that makes perfect sense. Those who need power, God gives it to them. But there's another category here.

Even youths shall faint and be weary. Do you know what the world record is for the high jump? It is 8 feet.03 inches.

Can you imagine? We should put a mark on the wall of where 8 feet is. A human being cleared 8 feet.03 inches. It was Javier Santamayor. He was from Cuba. And in 1993, he set the world record.

Amazing feet. He's still alive. I don't know how high he is jumping.

But I'm pretty sure he's not clearing 8 feet anymore. No matter how strong we seem to be, how invincible we seem to be, we have our limitations. And so even the youth, and Isaiah is going to go on to say young men, right? That symbol of human vigor and of human strength and of human capacity and of human power, even that will have its limits. And the youth will faint, and the young men will fall exhausted. At Reformation Bible College, we had an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. I'd never played Ultimate Frisbee in my life.

You have to run a lot in Ultimate Frisbee. And these are 18 to 22-year-olds, and they seem to have no stop to their energy. And then I read a verse like this, and I think, oh yes, eventually they'll get weary, and I can't wait to watch them fall exhausted. Do you see what Isaiah's trying to do here? He's trying to say, no matter where you sort of find yourself, there is a limit. And that's a good thing. Because if there's not a limit, you know where you would put your confidence in?

You'd put it in yourself. But your confidence must be in God, and so Isaiah tells us, but they who wait for the Lord, they'll renew their strength. They'll mount up with wings like eagles. They'll run and not be weary.

They'll walk and not faint. Now, every time I look at this, I think, I do not get that order. It really should be reversed. It seems anticlimactic. We start off soaring like eagles.

That's pretty exciting. Then we're running, okay, I like that. But then we're just walking.

How common, how ordinary. Isaiah got it wrong. We really need to reverse the order. We walk, and then we run, and then we soar like eagles. But how right this is.

It's a metaphor, so let's not overdo the metaphor. But how infrequently do we need that sort of burst of soaring like an eagle? And even occasionally, the run. But then it's the constant, the common, the ordinary, and it's the walk. And at every turn, God's power is there to meet us. And so, we can rightly put our confidence in God. Dr. Sproul has said this many times that our problem really is this. We don't know who God is, and we don't know who we are. That's our fundamental problem.

And this text only scratches the surface. We're talking about God's omnipotence here and His omniscience. We could be talking about God's faithfulness. We'd be talking about His purity, His holiness, His righteousness. That God is life, that God is light, that God is love, that He's full of mercy, that His compassion knows no bounds, that He is kind, most kind, that He is omnibenevolent, all good. This is who God is, and this is where our confidence must be.

It can't be in ourselves, and it can't be in the nations. It can't be in those idols, can only be in God. Our confidence must be in God. You know, I didn't quite get it right when I said that ultimately God delights to demonstrate His power in His people. Because the only reason that we can soar like eagles and run and knock our weary and walk and not faint is because there was one who did faint.

There was one who could not walk, who was literally crushed by the weight of the cross. And it is because God sent His Son. And ultimately God demonstrates His power in the Son. And in the Son's death on the cross that we can claim this promise. The ultimate demonstration of God's power is in the cross and in the Son. And because of that, He delights to demonstrate His power in our lives, and our confidence has to be in Him. It must be in Him. Our confidence must be in Him. What a timely reminder from Stephen Nichols.

But as we heard yesterday, this is true in every age. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, a daily outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Tomorrow we'll conclude our time in Dr. Nichols' series, A Time for Confidence. So respond today and request this complete series on DVD, along with lifetime streaming access to the series and study guide.

We also send you the companion book. You can call us with your donation of any amount at 800 435 4343. Give your gift securely online at or click the link in the podcast show notes. This collection was designed to give confidence to those who can see the rapid change taking place in the world, but also to help younger Christians who only know the world as it is and encourage them to put their confidence in the right place in God. Perhaps this is an ideal gift for someone you know. Request this resource bundle today at And remember, this offer ends tomorrow, so respond while there's still time. As we trust in God, we mustn't shrink back from confidence in His Word. So be sure to join us tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. Copyright © 2020, New Thinking Allowed Foundation
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-21 02:49:06 / 2024-05-21 02:58:30 / 9

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