290 - The Greatness of God on Display (Isaiah 40–48)
The greatness of God is evident from His words, His works, and His character. But we gain a fuller appreciation of His greatness when we learn to trust Him in the midst of our trials and see our circumstances from His perspective.
The Greatness of God on Display
Jewish rabbis through the centuries have called Isaiah 40–66 “The Book of Consolation.” I would agree. In fact, this section contains some of the most encouraging passages in all the book of Isaiah. And there is one primary reason for that, beloved: we are going to see in these chapters the greatness of God on display.
Beginning here in chapter 40, Isaiah reveals the greatness of God in His compassion:
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. (verses 1-2)
The immediate application of this prophecy is the return of the Jewish people to their land following their exile; but there’s also a future application to the coming Messiah, whose sacrifice will pardon His people forever.
Isaiah gives his readers a sign here in verse 3, and it might sound familiar to you: “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” All four New Testament Gospels will quote this verse in relation to John the Baptist, who prepares the way for Jesus, the Messiah.
Can God’s compassion last 700 plus years—from this prophecy to the arrival of John the Baptist? Isn’t God going to grow weary of Israel? No, Isaiah says in verse 28, “The Lord . . . does not faint or grow weary.”
In fact, His promises enable you and me to walk with Him today. How? Isaiah tells us here in the following verses:
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength . . . they who wait for the Lordshall renew their strength. (verses 29, 31)
This Hebrew verb for “renew” means “exchange.” We are going to exchange our weakness for God’s strength. And when we do that, watch what happens in verse 31: “They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
Four times in verses 28 to 31 the word faint is used. Neither God nor those who wait upon the Lord will faint or grow weary. Now you might get weary as you walk with God, but you will not grow weary of your walk with God.
In Isaiah 41 we see the greatness of God in His sovereign control. God will judge these unbelieving nations through one He raises up. In chapters 44 and 45, Isaiah actually names this man who is going to be the agent of God’s judgment—Cyrus, king of Persia.
Now understand that Cyrus has not even been born yet. It will be about 160 years before Cyrus crushes the Babylonian Empire and brings an end to Judah’s captivity. So, this is a stunning prophecy that reveals the precision of God’s control. He knows exactly—by name—who is going to set His people free.
In chapters 42 and 43, we are shown the greatness of God in His condescension. Here we have the first of four “Servant Songs” in Isaiah. Isaiah is giving Israel a description of their coming Messiah.
For instance, Isaiah tells us in chapter 42 that the Servant/Messiah will bring forth justice (verse 1); He will bring the light of God’s revelation to the nations (verse 6); and He will open the eyes of the blind (verse 7).
He is also our God and Savior. In Isaiah 43:11, God says, “I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.” God condescended, or lowered Himself—God the Son became a man, a Servant—in order to save us.
Chapters 44 and 45 of Isaiah reveal the greatness of God in creation.
God has His hands all over the future. In fact, He has been involved in your past, and mine—all the way back to when your life began at conception. Isaiah 44:2 reads, “Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb.” Similarly, verse 24 says, “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer who formed you from the womb.”
Let me say that when a woman is carrying a child, that baby does not really belong to her. Ultimately, that newly formed life belongs to—owes his or her very existence to—God, the Creator.
Now on a much larger scale, here in chapter 45 God says, “I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host” (verse 12).
Have you ever noticed how the Bible speaks of the universe and then focuses on the earth, even though the earth is a small part of the universe? Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens [the universe] and the earth.” Why this focus on the earth? Well, because the earth is unique. It is the focus of God’s creation and redemption. Isaiah says even more here in verse 18:
For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens . . . who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!).
Don’t miss that. God uniquely formed the earth different from the rest of the universe. He made it to be inhabited. Beloved, that should settle all the theories—and all the fear—of alien races out there invading the earth and using us for science experiments. The record of creation—had it been believed—could have saved us billions of dollars spent searching for another planet where humanity can go and live. God has clearly told us the universe is empty, literally uninhabitable. But the earth was uniquely, custom made to sustain life.
And listen, that gives your life purpose. There is a God out there who created you, loves you, and made a way for you to live with Him forever.
Now in chapters 46 and 47, we are shown the greatness of God in His conquest.
Isaiah predicts the downfall of Babylon and her false gods. We read in the opening verses, “Bel bows down; Nebo stoops ... [they] themselves go into captivity” (verses 1-2). These gods are supposed to be the great and powerful Babylonian gods, but they will be unable to save Babylon from Cyrus and the Persians.
Then in chapter 48 Isaiah describes the greatness of God in His care. He will not forget His people. In fact, Isaiah stresses the fact that God knows the names of Jacob and Israel.
And let me tell you, God knows your name as well. Again, in Isaiah 43:1, the Lord says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
Several years ago, I was in India preaching in a number of states. One evening I was put up in a beautiful hotel—frankly, the most opulent hotel I have ever been in. The contrast to the poverty outside was something I have never forgotten. I walked into this ornate, marbled lobby; and while my host took care of the details, I noticed a beautiful room off to the side with white carpet. I walked over and looked inside. A man dressed in white clothing, wearing a white turban came over and greeted me. He said in perfect English, “Sir, if you will come in, I will tell you your future.” I said to him, “You can tell me my future?” He smiled and said, “Absolutely.”
I told him I was not interested, but he pressed me to come inside. Then the thought occurred to me, and I looked at him and said, “I will allow you to tell me my future, if you can first tell me my name.” He grinned and said, “I can’t do that.” I said, “How do you know what my future is if you do not even know my name?” He looked down and remained silent.
I said something to the effect that I follow a God who not only knows my future but also knows my name. Beloved, He knows yours as well.
Let us praise Him and walk with Him today.
Personalize these greatness’s of God and follow your heart in response:
I will praise the greatness of God in His compassion _____________________________.
I will praise the greatness of God in His sovereign control ________________________.
I will praise the greatness of God in His condescension ___________________________.
I will praise the greatness of God in His creation ________________________________.
I will praise the greatness of God in His conquest ________________________________.
I will praise the greatness of God in His care ____________________________________.
 Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23.
 In chapter 41 this “one,” Cyrus, is said in verse 2 to be “from the east” and in verse 25 “from the north.” From Israel’s standpoint Persia was far to the east but Cyrus’s conquests extended to the north of Israel. He is identified by name in Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1.
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