It's easy for any of us to turn to gods of our own making. Today on Truth for Life, we'll learn how easy it can be to see ourselves as we really are in all of our finitude, and that we might have a fresh glimpse of you at least in all of your might and majesty and strength and power, and all of your availability to us when we're prepared to acknowledge just how fainting and weak we so readily are. We ask for your help. In Jesus' name.
Amen. We considered what we have here in verse 12 of the Creator God as he is revealed in all of his power and majesty, in verses 13 and 14 of how this Creator God is in no need of the counsel of others. And then we considered this great God within the framework of the nations of the world, and how before him all of the might and majesty that is represented in nationality and in the power of that which is there to be displayed is essentially diminished, it is dwarfed in the presence of God. Not, of course, the God of our world, a God with a small g, where people just imagine whatever they want when they say the word, or, as we said this morning, God as a kind of principle of energy, a cosmic idea.
Those notions are prevalent, but they are not biblical, and they need to be rejected wholeheartedly. We left it off at that point, and so we pick it up with this question of the incomparability of God and considering that fact in itself. To whom, then, will you liken God?
To whom will you liken God? Now, what we've noted is that God is giving us, if you like, a picture of himself through his own eyes, insofar as he is revealing himself to us through his Word. And so the view of us through the eyes of God makes our man's-eye view of God just doubly absurd, so that when we imagine God, or we attempt to diminish God in any way, then it is absolutely ridiculous. And all that Isaiah does here is simply point this out, and just in relatively short order, verse 19, an idol, a craftsman casts it, a goldsmith overlays it with gold, and so on. In chapter 44, which we read from, it's borne out in a fuller record.
But the thing that I want us to notice is at the very end of the section that we read in 44 is just that statement there. Can this individual who has embraced this, is he unable to say, Is there not a lie in my right hand? Now, we don't want to camp on this, but let's be absolutely clear here that God, as he has revealed in himself, is the only true and living God. Everything else is a lie. And the father of lies is none other than the evil one himself. Now, if we're going to take this to heart and believe it, and if we're going to be prepared to proclaim it, then we're going to have to be prepared to stand up to the implications of it.
And not in some form of false bravado or making a fuss or being rude or unkind to anybody, but just being prepared to say. The idolatry that is revealed here B.C. and the idolatry that is prevalent today A.D. E. is just a nonstarter. And you will notice that whether the idol is crafted by somebody who's rich—I take it that that's verse 19—the rich man can get a certain kind of idol, whereas the poor man, he's not going to be able to do that. He can get a wooden one, and he's going to try and have it fashioned in such a way, set up so that it will not move.
It is an amazing picture of futility, isn't it? You go into somebody and say, I'd like you to make an idol for me. Could you make it this size? And could you please make sure that the bottom is very, very flat? Because I'm going to put it up on a bureau in my office, and it'll be horribly embarrassing if, you know, when I have my business colleagues come in, it keeps falling over on the floor.
So please, I want it to be as good as you can possibly make it. Well, whether it's a rich man's idol or a poor man's idol, all of us are tempted—actually, all of us have a compulsive desire to create a God of our own fashioning—so that we might have one who is manageable, that we might have a God who is, if you like, containable, and that we might have one who is able to go along with our views of morality. You see, the real reason—people don't want to have no God, they don't want to have no worship.
They just want to have someone or something that is companionable and allows them to believe what they want and live any way they choose. This is the spirituality of our day. And it is challenged all these years before Jesus comes. Now, what lies behind the blindness of people to this? You say to yourself, it is virtually impossible to understand, isn't it, that somebody, as we read in 44, could go through that process, cut down a tree, take it, split it in half, use part of it for making a fire and having some meal, and then saying to himself, Now I think I'll take the other half, and I'll make it into a God that I can worship. It's almost inconceivable, isn't it? And yet that's exactly what happens.
And why is that? Well, you need actually to go to the book of Romans for the best of answers to that. And the answer in a sentence is that there is a willfulness behind the blindness of humanity—a willfulness. And it is there for you in Romans chapter 1. And this is what it says, for although men and women knew God, Romans 1 21, although they knew God as he has made himself known, the Creator, they did not honor him as God or gave thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Well, of course, we've seen that. We've seen it when we've traveled, and we have seen it increasingly on the high streets of American towns and cities. And if Paul were to show up in Chagrin Falls or in Solon or in Cleveland Heights, I think he would have good reason to repeat his Areopagus talk in Acts chapter 17 and have reason to point out, as he did then to the people who were listening, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.
That's it right there. An image formed by the art and imagination of man, conceiving of God as we choose for him to be. And Isaiah says, you know, to these people who are about to be shipped off into exile amongst the Babylonians. He is bringing a word of comfort to them long before the comfort is applied to them, because there's about a hundred years between the end of chapter 39 and the beginning of chapter 40. And so the prophecy of Isaiah is actually way ahead, and it is an amazing testimony to the veracity of God's Word. He's able to tell them of what is going to happen when they are oppressed by the Babylonians, and he's alerting them to the fact that the God who will bring judgment on them in that way is the same God who speaks comfort to them.
And yet at the same time, they will be set upon all the way through by the temptation to succumb to the surrounding culture. And so he says it's absolutely ridiculous to manufacture idols, because there is nothing and there is no one to whom God may be compared. He is the Creator, and everything else is the creation. Everything else is the work of his hands.
Which, of course, is another metaphor, isn't it? Because God is Spirit, and therefore he has no hands. And so when we read the Bible and we take it literally, we don't go off telling people, you know, I was looking for God's hands.
No, we understand what is there. He is infinite and eternal and unchangeable, whereas his creation is limited and finite and temporal and mortal. So you'll notice that he comes back to this in verse 25. If you just jump ahead, actually, there to verse 25.
The question is asked again, virtually the same question, as in 18. To whom, then, will you liken God? Notice it is not to what but to whom. Because even these people understood that there were powers behind these idols. And what is the power behind these idols? Well, the satanic power.
Of course it is. Who would you compare me to? Verse 25. To whom, then, will you compare me that I should be like him, says the Holy One?
And you'll notice that this question now in verse 25 is posed by God himself. He said, Now, listen, I think what we ought to do is let's go outside. It's a lovely, clear evening. Let's go out for a little while. We could do this. If this was school, I loved it when the teacher said, Now let's go out. Any excuse to get out of the place I was thrilled with, and especially if, you know, something like that, we could keep that going for a very long time. Oh, I think I haven't seen it yet, miss.
I think we should stay a little longer. Anyway, if we were to go out, I don't know how well we would do with the naked eye, but we could look up and see, contemplate the heavens. Man is made by God to contemplate the heavens.
You think about it. All the way through, everything we read about in history, people are always looking up. The fascination with space in the twentieth century, the great concerns, the fellow that shows up in Chagrin Falls every so often with that big telescope, which he allowed me to look through—and I'm sure I never saw what it was I was supposed to see, but may I be forgiven, I said, Oh, yes, I said, That's quite remarkable.
It was quite remarkable. I couldn't see a single thing. But anyway, there he was, and he comes every so often, and we all go and have a little peek in. But what are we doing? We're looking up into the night sky, and we recognize what is happening up there. Incidentally, that's why God made man erect. You can't say to your golden retriever, Look up. Look up to the sky. Have you ever seen a dog raise its eyes?
It doesn't do it. If it's gonna really get a good view, he'll have to lie on his back or something. But God has fashioned us in such a way that we can lift up our eyes. He wants us to, when I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon, the stars which you overcame.
This is what we teach to our children, our grandchildren, isn't it? We were going down the driveway some months ago. There was a beautiful moon. I said to the little one, I said, Look at that! And he said, It's the moon! I said, Yes. I said, Who put it there?
He said, I don't know. I said, Well, God put it there. He said, Oh? I said, Yes.
So we made it all the way back up, and we turned around. And I said, Look at that. He said, It's the moon. I said, Who put it there? He said, God put it there. I said, A-plus. Let's go in.
We're done. But if somebody doesn't tell them that God put it there, somebody else will tell them that change put it there or something else put it there. No, you see, the Babylonians were fascinated by the constellations.
If you read of the Babylonian Empire, you realize that they were so struck by the heavenly bodies that they were tempted not only to consider them but actually, in the end, to worship them. And so God is warning his people, finding themselves in that circumstance. And of course, the warning had come from his servant Moses a long time before that. I didn't realize that it said this.
I read it, but I never fastened on it until this week. In Moses' forbidding of idolatry in Deuteronomy chapter 4, he's saying to the people, he says, Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Watch yourselves very carefully.
You never saw a form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire. Beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourself in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, and so on. And then he says in verse 19, And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars and all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the people under the heavens. So the warning was there. It's reiterated because of the propensity of the human heart.
As I read that again this week, I said, I wonder if that was the sort of one of the triggers for Daniel and his friends, for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Because you often wonder, don't you, what was it that kept those boys in that context? Why is it that they stand out? Answer, because they stand out. Because they're not normal. They're abnormal. If you think about it, when you read Daniel and you read that story—and, of course, we focus on it—most of us think, Oh, yeah, I'm Shadrach, you know, or I'm… Yeah, I'm one of those boys.
No! We probably wouldn't have paid. We'd be the rest, who presumably were prepared to bow down to whatever. You see, it's very, very easy—I find it easy—to take what God has given us as a light on the pathway to himself and for that to become the end in itself, or to take what God has given us to enjoy in life, and instead of that becoming the occasion of our gratitude to God and our enjoyment of his gifts, the gifts become an end in themselves. The gift of sex. The gift of food and drink. The gift of family life. Many gifts that God gives us richly to enjoy.
And the danger is that we end up making them the very object that they are and the end that they are, as opposed to a means to an end. Look up into the night sky. Look up there.
He who brings out the host by number. Now, you know that I ain't no scientist. And, you know, my report cards made that very, very clear, and so I bailed a long, long time ago on any of that stuff. So I never use any scientific attempts at illustration, because I know you'll be going, He got that out of a book.
He doesn't know that at all. And so I'm not going to try and even do anything with the galaxies or the solar system or the Milky Way or anything else. I'm not even going to try and hazard a guess at how big the sun is. I'm not even going to attempt to wonder whether the sun is the biggest star in our place. I'm not going to wonder about how many times you can fit the earth into the size of the sun.
You're the folks that are going to do all that. But you can agree with me, though, that it is impossible to number the stars in the sky. The very scientists who probe these things keep going further and further and further, and there is no possibility of people saying, you know, and we've got an accurate count of them now. We can't count them. God names them. Again, it's an amazing picture, isn't it?
The number is so vast, there's no way you could get your arms around it. And God says, Oh, yeah, that's him. That's one.
You see this, don't you, in other places? Have you been with shepherds, and you just see this great company of sheep? And suddenly the shepherd is picking one out and another one out.
You say, How did you do that? When Sue and I were in the Free State in South Africa with Vili, who's a father of one of our ladies here. And at one point, all of these cows were there.
They're just looking at big—as they say in veterinary manuals—a big glob of cows. But no, Vili was—he called them by name. He knew them. They weren't just a vast host to him. No, he calls them by their names, by the greatness of his might, because he is strong in power, and there's no possibility of losing one down. What do they call those things?
Black holes? Yeah. So, I don't even know what that means, but I'm not worried about it. Because this is helping me. By the greatness of his might and because he, that is God, is strong in power, we're not gonna be losing any of them. So God the Creator, without any outside help. God the Counselor, in no need of advice.
And then God created the universe and keeps the universe under his control. Look back up at verse 21, because we skipped this little section by going from 18 to 25. And here the questions come. Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Now, what is Isaiah doing here? Well, he's essentially saying, Listen, you know this. You know this. You've heard it. You've seen it on display. You know that this is the case.
So you know better. He's speaking to the people of God, the ones who are complaining and who are saying, My way is hidden from God and so on. He says, You know better than that to despair of the power of God, to doubt the care of God, to deny or to despise the wisdom of God.
Now, just allow that to settle for a moment for us. God says to his people, You know better than that to get in your car and say, I don't know if we're going to be able to make this, to find ourselves saying, I'm not sure that God really is as he has revealed himself to be, that he is as wise as the Bible says he is, or perhaps, I can't believe that my prayer has gone unanswered for so jolly long. Does God really hear me?
Does he care about me? That's what the people of God were saying. That's what the people of God are always saying, if we're honest. Now, how does he address this?
He says, Well, you know these things. You know, you heard, you know it's been true from the beginning. You've understood this, if you like, from the foundations of the earth.
This is foundational truth to you. And you know that it is he—that is, the living and true God—who sits above the circle of the earth. Here's another amazing picture. I don't know what the circle of the earth really means, but I get the picture clear enough in my mind. It's a picture of the fact that God is so transcendent, and he is above and beyond everything. He's eternal, he's not trapped by time, he's not trapped by space. He sits above, beyond, around, if you like, the circle of the earth. What is he doing? Well, he's upholding and maintaining that which he has made.
That's what he's doing. Remember we said this morning, you know, big thoughts of God and small thoughts of ourselves? The first time you fly, that's what someone says to you. Have you flown before?
No. And you look down, and you say, Look how small everything is. Sits above the circle of the earth.
How small. What's he doing? Well, Colossians tells us that in Jesus, all things are holding together in him. This, you see, is the basis of our security. That is Alistair Begg with a powerful warning about the dangers of idolatry, reminding us that nothing compares to the only true and living God. You're listening to Truth for Life. If you're a regular listener to our program, you know we are passionate about teaching the Bible in a way that is clear and relevant. We do this believing that God will use his word to convert unbelievers, to establish believers more deeply in their faith, and to strengthen local churches. And so, along with Alistair's messages, we recommend books designed to help you and your family study the Bible together and to grow in your faith.
And today we're recommending a book by Martin Lloyd-Jones. It's titled The All-Sufficient God. This book explains how God has already provided the answers to our deepest problems, our doubts, and our fears. Request your copy of The All-Sufficient God when you make a donation today.
Tap the image on the app or visit our website at truthforlife.org slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. At one point or another, we probably all ask ourselves questions like, who am I really? And does God really care about me? Be sure to join us tomorrow as Alistair Begg takes us to the Bible to find the answers. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-29 13:44:22 / 2023-06-29 13:53:19 / 9