As we enter 2018, news headlines warn us about North Korean nuclear missiles, terrorists using drones to launch chemical and biological attacks, artificial intelligence taking over the human race, another housing bubble bursting and the stock-market crashing, and on and on it goes. The dangers are great and our defenses are weak.
So let’s turn from media headlines to biblical headlines in order to correct our worldview and enter 2018 in a more peaceful and trusting spirit. The prophet Isaiah knew that tough times lay ahead for God’s people. He spent 39 chapters warning them about it. But, in chapter 40 of his prophecy, he turned from earth to heaven and called God’s people to “Behold your God!” (v. 9). And what a reassuring sight that is.
Behold God’s Hand
How much water can you hold in the hollow of your hand? Turn the tap on and try it. It’s pitifully small isn’t it. What about God’s hand? Isaiah says God can hold all the water in the world in the hollow of his hand (12). That’s 332,519,000 cubic miles of water. How great is our God!
Behold God’s Ruler
What’s the longest measuring tape in your home? Perhaps 100 feet? Maybe 500 feet at the most. It can’t measure very far before running out. But God measures the heavens with only the span of his hand (12). The distance to the nearest star is 4.5 light years. That means that if light were to leave it now, it would take 4.5 years to reach the earth traveling at 186,000 miles per second. That’s a total of 26 trillion miles….and God can measure it easily with only his hand-span. How great is our God!
Behold God’s Cup
Your kitchen cupboard probably has different cups for measuring out ingredients. The biggest might be two or three cups. Again, even if we fill them to the top, they can’t hold very much. Now look at God’s cup; it can hold all the sand in the world. Go around all the beaches of the world, pour them into God’s cup, and there’s still space (12). How great is our God!
Behold God’s Scales
Staying in the kitchen, take out God’s scales and see if you can break them. He puts all the mountains and hills on his scales and they still don’t break (12). The Rockies are there, so are the Alps, the Himalayas, the Pyrenees, the Andes, and many more. Yet God’s scales aren’t even straining. How great is our God!
Behold God’s Teacher
Eh…he doesn’t have one (13-14). So different to the Babylonian gods that God’s people were about to be surrounded by in exile, all of whom needed outside counsel and help to overcome hostile forces. But our God has never learned anything or taken advice from anyone. He’s never sat down and asked someone, “Well, what do you think?” “Can you help me?” How great is our God!
Behold God’s Bucket
Over the past few weeks we’ve seen lots of activity at the United Nations. Lots of self-important people making self-important speeches. Each nation flexing its muscles and puffing out its chest. But God looks down and sees all the nations of the world as a drop in (or from) a bucket, and as dust on the scales (15). It’s as if he’s carrying a bucket when a little drop spills out. Look closely enough and you’ll see 195 nations in that tiny drop. He sees some dust on his scales and blows it off. Oh, there goes Russia, and there goes North Korea, and that speck is the USA floating to the floor. How great is our God!
Behold God’s Sacrifice
In verse sixteen, Isaiah envisages the biggest sacrifice in the world. There’s a pile of wood reaching to the sky. It’s made up of all the beautiful and valuable cedars of Lebanon. On top of this mountain of wood are all the animals of the world. Everyone looking at this altar says, “It’s too much!” But Isaiah looks at it and says, “It’s too little!” Anyone who knows how great God is, knows how insufficient this sacrifice is (16). How great is our God!
Behold God’s Calculator
Nations love to compare their GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to show how successful they are. If we were to add up all the GDP’s in the world, most of our calculators would run out of digits. But on God’s calculator it all comes to zero; in fact less than zero. Just emptiness (17). How great is our God!
Behold God’s Mirror
Soon, Isaiah’s compatriots were going to be surrounded by Babylonian gods all claiming superiority to the God of Israel. But God says, “Don’t even try! Don’t even begin to compare other gods with me. These man-made gods don’t belong in the same frame as the God who made man. I am the incomparable God.” How great is our God!
Behold God’s Seat
It’s far grander than the most impressive royal throne. He sits on the entire horizon (22). Go to the shore or to the desert and look as far east as you can, then look as far west as you can. You’ve only seen a small part of God’s seat. How great is our God!
Behold God’s Grasshoppers
The world’s Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings, Queens, and Dictators look so big and powerful to us. So do the business tycoons and media moguls. But God looks down on them all and says, “Oh, there’s little grasshopper Trump, and there’s little grasshopper Clinton. Over there is grasshopper Kim Jong Il. And was that grasshopper Weinstein that just fell of his perch? Grasshopper Zuckerburg and Gates and my playthings (22-25). How great is our God!
Behold God’s Sky
Isaiah then lifts our eyes from earth to the heavens and says, Behold your God in the planets, stars, and galaxies. He created them all, numbers them all, names them all, and supports them all. And do you know how many of them are there? Latest estimates are that the universe contains 10 trillion galaxies each one containing 100 billion stars. How great is our God!
Do we really have any cause to fear and tremble? Do we lack reasons for peace and trust? Behold the awesome greatness of our God. As Isaiah asks us in his challenging summary: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable” (28)
Behold God’s Gentleness
But Isaiah also wants us to think of the awesome gentleness of our God. He frames this survey of God’s awesome greatness (12-28) with two bookends of God’s awesome gentleness (10-11, 29-31). Our great God is also our gentle God who feeds his sheep like a shepherd, gathers his lambs into his arms, carries the weak, and gently leads the vulnerable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on 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.
Enter 2018 beholding the awesome greatness and awesome gentleness of our God. Then feel the strength and courage returning to your weary and fearful soul.