Summary: A proper understanding of God's character and His grace toward His own people will help preserve us from presumptuous sin.

“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,

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?

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.” [1]

The motto, “For God and Country,” or variants thereof, is often appropriated by armed forces throughout the world. The German armed forces from the days of the Kaiser through the Third Reich issued belt buckles with “Gott Mit Uns” (God With Us) emblazoned on them. [2] Obviously, God was less than approving of the actions of the Nazi regime; however, nations continually promote the thought of divine approval of their actions. Even during my brief stint in the United States Marines, we were told that our job to was defeat “godless communism.” The implication was that we were the godly forces working against the forces of darkness. Similar justification for violence, rape and enslaving others is used today by Islamists intent on compelling the world to bow before their perverted idea of a god.

The idea that God approves of actions often serves to justify decisions made not only by nations, but by denominations, by churches and even decisions made by individual Christians. The thought is that God is surely with us; therefore, He approves of what we have decided to do. Thus convinced, mankind is capable of performing horrendous deeds, act with callous disregard for the rights or dignity of others while blatantly dishonouring God. Tragically, we Christians are not immune from committing evil in the Name of the True and Living God.

I am convinced that a proper view of God would dispel many of the misperceptions we employ when endeavouring to justify our chosen actions. Our tendency as fallen beings is to rationalise our actions, justifying our own choices in our own minds and then asking God to approve our chosen actions. Let’s try to think through this issue in this message.

THE TRUE AND LIVING GOD — The chapter before us is an apologia of God’s Person and Character. God begins by charging Isaiah to comfort His people.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.”

[ISAIAH 40:1, 2]

Isaiah moves quite smoothly into a Messianic prophecy pointing forward to the ministry of John, who is known as “the Baptist” [ISAIAH 40:3-5]. Undoubtedly you will remember that this particular prophecy is cited in each of the Gospels. [3] Clearly, John understood that he was the fulfilment of the prophecy, for as he answered the religious leaders when they questioned him, John declared, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said” [JOHN 1:23].

Isaiah also hears a voice declaring comfort arising from the endurance of God’s Word.

“A voice says, ‘Cry!’

And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’

All flesh is grass,

and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower fades

when the breath of the LORD blows on it;

surely the people are grass.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

but the word of our God will stand forever.”

[ISAIAH 40:6-8]

The message of divine comfort continues as the LORD, through the prophet reveals His character. He speaks of His gentleness and of His tender care for His people [ISAIAH 40:9-11]. At this point, however, the prophet shifts His attention to several specific characteristics of the Living God. Isaiah speaks of God, defining Him by those characteristics that will comfort His people—characteristics that are revealed through His enduring Word. Isaiah speaks of God’s power, God’s wisdom and God’s grace. Let’s focus on these attributes for a brief while.

The first attribute Isaiah focuses attention on is God’s power. Whenever we speak of divine power, we could speak of God’s might. Isaiah speaks of God measuring the waters in the hollow of His hand. It is a poetic statement of God’s greatness. In a similar vein, Isaiah speaks of God marking off the heavens, measuring the dust of the earth, weighing the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance. We understand this is poetic licence; we are incapable of imagining a scale or balance so large. What we do understand is that God knows what He has created. His power is matched by His knowledge. This is a comfort to His people.

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