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“Behold Your God!” (Part 1 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
January 7, 2022 3:00 am

“Behold Your God!” (Part 1 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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January 7, 2022 3:00 am

If you’ve visited the Grand Canyon, you know that pictures don’t do it justice. You have to see it for yourself! So how can we possibly grasp the incomparable greatness of God? Find out what He reveals about Himself, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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If you've ever been to the Grand Canyon you know seeing a pictured 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? Well today on Truth for Life Alistair Begg helps us see God from God's perspective. Her message is titled Behold Your God. chapter 40, which passage, of course, contains the exhortation that frames that song, Behold Your God. That's in verse 9, 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 made the mountains and scales and the hills in a balance? Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him 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?

It is the same 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? A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it its silver chains. He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses the wood 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, has 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 as emptiness.

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. 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, he who 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, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel? My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God.

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. 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. Father, 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, that in all our consideration of it we may meet with you, and ultimately and savingly in the person of Jesus, in whose name we pray.

Amen. Well, let me invite you to turn again to the chapter which has actually been the focus of our attention. And I hope this morning that we will discover together just how appropriate these verses are in relationship to all that has happened to us and around us in the past few days.

And the great need of our hour—in fact, the great need of every hour—is just that. What Spurgeon said to his congregation in 1855 in London was their great need, and that was that they would plunge themselves into the Godhead's deepest sea and that they would be lost in his immensity. It's 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 in specific ways, give the how-to answers to a number of dilemmas, then 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 God, prove to address many of those very issues that we want solutions to. For example, I mean, that's 166 years ago since Spurgeon spoke in that way, and he was a young man, and he was preaching in London. And two days after he preached that sermon, which was in January of 1855, the 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 a whole new government had arrived. So I say that just to set in context that 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, you would have been confronted in January by the Cincinnati riots—riots that were taking place, territorial street fighting, between people who regarded themselves as patriots and those that they did not like who were German immigrants. And so, if you had had occasion to be preaching at the time, then the temptation would be, Well, I'd better say something about immigration and the patriots, or I need to say something about the change in government, or so on.

You know, here's the deal. Many people who do that, they find themselves chasing down the trail again and again and again, and at the end of it, it's a sort of dead-end street. And people then become accustomed not to study in the Bible, not to look into God, but just waiting for somebody to give them some kind of insight that they can consider and chew over for a little while. Well, we're not trying to do that, and Isaiah certainly doesn't do that, because the book of Isaiah is actually just a huge panorama. You know, when you take pictures on your phone, you have as an option. I've never been able to do it, and it never works for me, but there's a panoramic setting on it, and you're supposed to put your feet here, and then you go like this.

It's a shambles for me. But anyway, the idea is then 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, 45, 21, 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.

In fact, he doesn't engage in it at all. The exclusive claims that are the basis of an expansive invitation to the nations of the world are plain for us to see. And it is that God who 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 to ditch this living and true God and embrace their little gods. And in the midst of all of that, God comes by his prophet, and he gives them this direction. Now, we begin at the twelfth verse. And at the twelfth verse, we just begin a whole series of questions.

We're not going to go through all the questions, but in these questions and in the answers that are given to the questions, a number of things happen. One, this amazing poem—because it is a poem, it's not a scientific project, 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. It 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 big views about ourselves. So, in other words, we've got the problem of having small views of God and big views about ourselves. That is a recipe for trouble.

That is a recipe for trouble if your husband is like that, dear lady. If you have a husband and you want to take him to counseling to see if you can help him 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 a big view of itself knows virtually no bounds. I don't go searching for these things. I just find them as I'm walking around. Have you seen this? Are you up to date, not with monogamy but with sologamy? You know about sologamy? Well, you can find it. It's out there. I hope none of you are planning on it. It involves women.

Interestingly, not men. And it is a new phenomenon, a growing trend, where women are marrying themselves. This is no joke.

This is no joke. They walk down the aisle by themselves to give themselves away to themselves—with a cake, with a ring, and everything that goes along with it. That's quite incredible. Do you ever imagine marrying yourself? I'm amazed that anybody would marry me.

How would you ever marry yourself, for goodness sake? 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 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 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, an opinion columnist—he's not there all the time, Ross Douthat—had a very interesting article back in December of 2018.

I stored it away. I knew I could use it sometime, and here is at least part of the time. The article is entitled The Return of Paganism. And what he's 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 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 give an indication of the fact that people are somehow or another worshippers 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 cobble together pieces of the old orthodoxies, take out the inconvenient bits, and pitch them to mass audiences that want 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 wokeness, where Reinhold Niebuhr and Fulton Sheen have ceded pulpits to Joel Osteen and Oprah Winfrey, where the prosperity gospel and Christian nationalism rule the right, and a social gospel denuded of theological content rules the left. Now, this is just somebody who is just observing this state of affairs. I could read more, but it wouldn't be particularly helpful at the moment. But with that said, notice that verse 12 follows verse 11. Not everybody will be able to point out things as helpful as that to you, but I want you to see it there.

Just look down, and you will see it. Well, if you look at verse 11, you have this wonderful picture, a very accessible picture, the kind of picture that you might actually find in a little painting in a child's bedroom. He will tend his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, and so on. Now, 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 verses 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 God is the transcendent God. And the way you understand verse 11 is in light of everything that has been said leading up to it and everything that follows from it. 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 shorter catechism—what is God? What is God? God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, his wisdom, his power, his holiness, his justice, his goodness, and his truth.

Now, why mention this? Well, because Isaiah mentions it. He says, The good news that is to be heralded abroad is that God is great and that God is gentle. I've 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. Now, let's try and unpack this in the awareness of the fact 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, as we 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 God is the God whose glory is above the heavens. Now, those of you who, like me, were alive and kicking in the sixties will perhaps have grown up with youth groups singing a song which began, In the stars his hand he work I see, On the wind he speaks with majesty, Though he ruleth over land and sea, What is that to me?

I will celebrate nativity, For it has a place in history. Sure, he came to set his people free, But what is that to me? And then I went into the chorus. 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. I never really knew what it was. And you might not agree with me.

I don't know. Then one day 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 a way up there.

Now, I never liked singing 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 up there and doesn't care.

You 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 in 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 his glory is above the heavens, it's not talking in spatial terms. It's not that he is up there and away from us. It is that he is beyond us in his greatness.

He's beyond us in his greatness. And this is revealed to us in a number of ways throughout this poem. First of all, in relationship to creation itself. Who has measured the waters and the hall of his hand? And what Isaiah is pointing out is that what is massive to us is manageable to God. What we have, actually, is a universe that is dwarfed by the presence of God.

The universe is dwarfed by the presence of God. Look at the pictures. They're pictures. He cups his hands, and he holds the waters. How much of the earth is water? I don't know.

It's a significant amount, I believe. And then he takes out a ruler and a compass, and he plots out the heavens. And then he takes out the scales, and he weighs the mountains and the hills, and he assesses it all. Now, what is Isaiah doing here?

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 savingly, finally, in Jesus. He reveals himself in creation. He reveals himself in his Word. And here in his Word, he says, Do you want to know how I relate to creation?

This is who I am. Our God is indeed an awesome God. You've been listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg, the first part of a message titled, Behold Your God. Alistair reminded us today of the greatness of God. And as we begin a new year, I want to 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 Alistair.

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 truthforlife.org slash 365. While you're online, visit our Truth Partner page. It explains the benefits of the Truth Partner program. Truth Partners are listeners whose giving brings Truth for Life to you through radio, through YouTube, however you listen to us. You can learn more about becoming a Truth Partner online at truthforlife.org slash truthpartner. 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 our current series, and it's yours with our thanks when you become a Truth Partner. Or you can request the book when you make a one-time donation at truthforlife.org slash donate.

I'm 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. Alistair continues today's message explaining how Isaiah chapter 40 puts us in our place. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-01 03:11:47 / 2023-07-01 03:20:28 / 9

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