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January 7, 2022 3:00 am
If you've ever been to the Grand Canyon.
You know, seeing the picture does not do it justice when you see it for yourself. It is breathtaking. So how can we begin to understand the incomparable greatness of who God is. Today on Truth for Life. Alister bag helps us see God from God's perspective message is titled, behold, your God, and I invite you to turn with me to Isaiah chapter 40 passage of course contains the expectation that frames that song, behold, your God, that's in verse nine, but we're going to read from verse 12 Isaiah chapter 40 and from verse 12, 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, who has measured the spirit of the Lord of what man shows in his counsel, 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. 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. Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering all the nations are as nothing before him.
They are accounted by him as less than nothing, and emptiness to whom then will you liken God or what likeness compare with him an idol craftsman casted in the Goldsmith overlays it with golden casts for its silver chains he used to impoverish for an offering chooses the word that will not rot. He seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move do you not know. Do you not hear is it not been told you from the beginning.
Have you 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 and makes the rulers of the earth is emptiness scarcely only planted scarcely soon scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth when he blows on them and the weather in the Tempest carries them off like stubble, to whom then will you compare me that I should be like him, says the holy one, lift up your eyes on high and see who created these here brings out their host by number calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power. Not one is missing. Why do you say Jacob and Spiegel, Israel my way is hidden from the Lord in my right is disregarded by my God, have you not knowing 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. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted. 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 brother. We acknowledge that we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, that you have given to us retained for us in the Scriptures, and as we turn to the Bible. Now we ask for your help in all our consideration of it. We may meet with you and ultimately in saving me in the person of Jesus in whose name we pray.
Amen. Let me invite you to turn again to the chapter, which is actually been the focus of our attention and I hope this morning to that we will discover together just how appropriate these verses are in relationship to all that has happened to others, and around us in the past few days, and the great need of our our invite a great need of every hour is just that what Spurgeon said to his congregation in 1855 in London. I was there great need and that was that they would plunge themselves into the Godhead's deepest see and that they would be lost in his immensity is a quite fascinating thing to be on the receiving end of people's observations and investigations and to realize how much the average follower of Jesus actually believes that if somebody can only address these very specific questions and specific ways give the how to lancers to a number of dioramas and everything will begin to slot into place. But in actual fact it doesn't and it won't. And what may seem at first to be a sort of remote idea, namely plunging ourselves into the immensity of God will under guard proved to address many of those very issues that we want solutions to. For example, I mean that's hundred and 66 years ago. Since Spurgeon spoke in that way, and he was a young man he was preaching in London and two days after he preached that sermon, which was in January 1855 that then Prime Minister was on the receiving end of a vote of no-confidence for his government because of his handling of the Crimean war and within three weeks he was replaced and all you government had arrived so I say that just to set in context that I Spurgeon wasn't preaching in a vacuum. There was a world that was going on around him as he preached you say well we don't really care that was a long time ago and that was England well. In 1855.
If you were in America are you would have been confronted in January by the Cincinnati riots are riots that were taking place territorial streetfighting between people who regard themselves as patriarchs and those that they did not like who were German immigrants and so if you had occasion to be preaching at the time, then the temptation would be what I better say something about immigration and the and the patriots. What I need to say something about the change in government are so long.
You know, here's the deal. Many people do that they find yourself chasing down the trail again and again and again and at the end of it is a sort of dead-end street and people then become accustomed not to studying the Bible not to looking to God, but just waiting for somebody to give them some kind of insight that they can consider and chew over for a little while while were not trying to do that and Isaiah certainly doesn't do that because the book of Isaiah is actually a just a huge panorama you know when you take pictures on your phone you you have as an option. I've never been able to do it. It never works for me but there's up panoramic setting on it you supposed to put your you put your feet here and then go like this is a shambles for me, but the ideas and you get it beautiful all the way around. But what Isaiah does for us is just that he surveys the whole scene and here we have this amazing picture of the people of God. He's reminding them that their identity is in God that their security is in God that God is sovereign over all things and in the midst of it all. You have these punchy statements that drive home the absolute otherness of God. For example, 4521 God says there is no other God besides me a righteous God and Savior.
There is none besides me. In other words, God is not a fan of comparative religion and fight. He doesn't engage in it at all. The exclusive claims that are the basis of an expansive in dictation to the nations of the world are playing for us to see and it is that God keeps in perfect peace. Those who are stayed on him.
Those who trust in him and you will remember from our last two studies that the people of God were going to find themselves in a situation that would call from them all kinds of uncertainties, instability, the nations around them, pressing them, seducing them trying to encourage them at the ditch. This living and true God and embrace their little guards and in the midst of all of that God comes by his prophet and he gives them this direction notes we begin at the 12 verse and at the 12 verse we just begin a whole series of questions were not going to go through all the questions but in these questions, and in the answers that are given to the questions are number of things happen one this amazing employee him because it is a poison is not as scientific project. This all these figures and metaphors and similes and so on are there to teach us. But the poem does a number of things. One, it rebukes our small ideas of God rebukes our small ideas of God. It also counters all of the things that we like to imagine about God and it provides a very necessary antidote to two other aspects. One is being views about ourselves. So in other words, we got a problem of having small views of God and big views about ourselves that is there that is a recipe for trouble. That is a recipe for trouble.
If your husband is like that dear lady, if you if you have a husband and you want to take him to counseling to see that help them to do the dishes, the problem will not be addressed. Even if he does the dishes if he has a big view of himself and a small view of God, so I can help you with this, the Holy Spirit can by making sure that all of our self preoccupations are crushed under the awesome weight of who and what God is and that's what Isaiah is doing here the extent to which contemporary Western culture has embraced the big view of itself knows virtually no bounds. I was searching for these things. I just find them. As I'm walking around. Have you seen this or are you up-to-date.
Not with monogamy, but with so welcoming and about some ultimate you can find it. So there I hope none of you are planning on it. It involves women. Interestingly, not man, and it is a new phenomenon, a growing trend where women are marrying themselves. This is no joke is no joke. They walked down the aisle by themselves to give themselves away to themselves with a K with a ring and everything that goes along with that's quite incredible.
You ever imagine marrying yourself. I'm amazed that anybody would marry me. How would you ever marry yourself, for goodness sake I maybe I don't understand it but anyway the extent to which we think big thoughts about ourselves and therefore make our own decisions about all the things that a big God has said about the nature of humanity. It almost knows no bounds and the other antidote that it provides is the antidote to bizarre thoughts about God big thoughts about me and bizarre thoughts about God. It's it's quite amazing what you discover. When you think about where the church big C is in contemporary America in contemporary Western culture. One of the commentators in the New York Times and opinion columnists is not there all the time. Ross do that.
I had a very interesting article back in December 2018. I started away I knew, or could use it sometime. And here is at least part of the time he did. The article is entitled the return of paganism and what is addressing is the state of the church and the bizarre nature of things he says we've really been tempted to say that the real prevailing influence on the church is secularization. In other words, people are people are done with God they're done with church and so on.
But he says of course that is not the case. In fact, the spiritualities that are bound to give an indication of the flag that people are somehow or another worshipers of someone or something and so he says instead of secularization, it makes sense to talk about the fragmentation and personalization of Christianity to describe America as a nation of Christian heretics if you will, in which traditional churches have been supplanted by self-help gurus and spiritual political entrepreneurs. These individuals cobbled together pieces of the old orthodoxies take out the inconvenient bits and pitch them to mass audiences that one part of the old time religion but nothing too unsettling or challenging or ascetic.
The result is a nation where Protestant awakenings have given way to post-Protestant Waukomis where Ryan old neighbor and Fulton Sheen have seated pulpits to Joel O'Steen and Oprah Winfrey where the prosperity gospel and Christian nationalism rule the right and the social gospel denuded of theological content rules. The left others. Is there somebody who is just observing the state of affairs. I could read more, but it's it it wouldn't. It wouldn't be on particularly helpful at the moment, but with that said notice that verse 12 follows verse 11.
Not everybody will bill to point out things is helpful. Is that too, but I want you to see if there just look down and you will see it I will if you look at verse 11. You have this wonderful picture very accessible picture of the kind of picture that you might actually find in a little painting in a child's bedroom, you will tend his flock like a shepherd.
He will gather the lambs in his arms and so on. Notice how quickly it moves from that picture to explode if you like with a dramatic statement concerning the transcendence of God.
A comprehensive display of God's transcendence. In other words, it then answers for us the picture of verse 11 by putting it in the framework of versus 12 to 31. Because remember, I think we said last time if we don't hold 11 within that wider context then you end up with a kind of cozy personal engaged little encounter with the shepherd. God, which in Jesus of course is a reality but the shepherd gourd is the transcendent God and the way you understand verse 11 is in light of everything that's been said leading up to and everything that follows from. That's why children in an earlier era would be able to answer the questions in the catechism and the absence of that in contemporary church life is a significant absence. The fourth question of the what of the shorter catechism. What is God what is God. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable. It is being his wisdom is power, his holiness, his justice, his goodness and his true now. Why mention this because Isaiah mentions he says the good news that is to be heralded abroad, is that God is great and that God is gentle, I just told you about how gentle God is ultimately revealed to us when we find it in the New Testament in Jesus, but we need to realize that the God that we encounter is incomparable. He is the one who is in the heavens, says the psalmist and he does what he pleases.
Note let's try and unpack this in the awareness of the flag that we don't come to know God by investigation, certainly not by our imagination, but we come to know him by revelation. In other words, that God himself is self announcing that God is the one who discloses himself that God is the one who is weak, began our service this morning has set his glory above the heavens, so that the one who is immediately accessible to us as the shepherd gourd is the God whose glory is above the heavens know those of you like me were alive and kicking in the 60s will perhaps have grown up with youth group singing a song which began in the stars his handiwork.
I see on the wind. He speaks with Majesty the way rulers Overland and see what is that to me and I will celebrate nativity for as a place in history. Sure he came to set his people free, but what is that to me and then I went into the course and then one day I met him face-to-face and I found the wonder of his grace. So far so good. Really. But it was at that point I really stumbled even.
I remember as a boy, thinking there's something wrong with the next two lines never really knew what it was. You might not agree with me. I don't know that Monday I met him face-to-face and I learned the wonder of his grace.
Then I knew that he was more than just a God who didn't care who lived away out there. I never liked saying that because it didn't seem right to me and it isn't right because he never, ever was, is a God who lives up there and doesn't care. It should have read. Then I knew that he was not a God who lives out there and doesn't care to see what happens. The inference from the transcendence of God that is wrong, says God is so great that he doesn't care. The inference from the transcendence of God that is right says God is so great he cannot fail and so you have this juxtaposition between God and all of his transcendent glory and man down here in need of a shepherd and the shepherd comes but you see when it says that he is up there and and and his glory is above the heavens is not talking in spatial terms is not that that he is up there and and away from us. It is that he is beyond is in his greatness is beyond us in our great experience and this is revealed to us in a number of ways throughout this this this point. First of all, in relationship to creation itself who is measured the waters in all of his head and what Isaiah is pointing out is that what is massive to was is manageable to God.
What we have actually is. The universe that is dwarfed by the presence of God, the universe is dwarfed by the presence of God, look at the pictures. The pictures he he he cups his hands and he also waters how much of the of the earth's water that I don't know is a significant amount. I believe, and then he takes out a ruler and a compass and parts of the heavens and then he takes out the scales anyways. The mountains and the hills and he assesses it all. What is Isaiah doing. He's doing this he is allowing us as the readers of his prophecy to see God through God's eyes to see God as he reveals himself he reveals himself seemingly finally in Jesus. He reveals himself in creation. He reveals himself in his word and here in his word he says. You want to know how I relate to creation. This is this is who I have, God is indeed awesome God listing the Truth for Life with Alister big. The first part of a message titled, behold, your God, Alister reminded us today of the greatness of God and as we begin the new year. I will suggest that you begin a new pattern to spend a few minutes of quiet time each day with God. We make that easy to do when you subscribe to the Truth for Life daily devotional. This is a brand-new daily email from Alister. In it he provides a passage of Scripture, followed by a reflection about the passage something that he has written all of the daily reflections are taken from his recently released book titled Truth for Life 365 daily devotions.
You can sign up for the free email by going online to Truth for Life.org/365.
While your online visit our true partner page that explains the benefits of the Creek partner program partners or listeners whose giving brings Truth for Life to you through radio through YouTube. However, you listen to us can learn more about becoming a true partner online the Truth for Life.org/truth partner and when you join with us today. You can request our featured book titled the all sufficient God by Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones. This book contains nine sermons preached by Lloyd Jones from Isaiah chapter 40 it's the perfect supplement for current series and it's yours with our thanks when you become a truth or you can request the book when you make a one-time firstname.lastname@example.org/donate Bob Lapine.
We hope you enjoy your weekend and are able to worship with your local church and we hope you can join us Monday. Alister continues today's message explaining how Isaiah chapter 40 puts us in our place. The Bible teaching of Alister bearing is furnished by truth or lying where the Learning is for Living