Vacation Ponderings on the Sovereign God of Isaiah

July 3, 2008 at 7:45 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching, Theology | Leave a comment

Isaiah 40-46.  We are vacationing at a small secluded oasis in the middle of the Wyoming dessert – a beautiful little spot called Ayres Natural Bridge.  I have always loved these chapters of Isaiah and pondered them during the quiet mornings of our stay here.  I am impressed by the God-centeredness of this section: They tell of the glory of God in comparison with idols and with people; they often remind us that God is God and there is no other; they tell of the sinfulness of men, and of God’s grace in spite of our sinfulness.

 I have three observations to share from my ponderings.  The first is how often God tells his people, “Do not fear.”  I was impressed by the reasons for the command, which are always related to God’s sovereignty and grace.  The famous verse in this regard is 41:10, “Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxious look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you; surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  I wonder how many people who quote that verse know the context is God’s sovereign choice of his people.  But there is also “I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’”  “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”  “Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.”  (notice again the context is God’s calling).  If we trust in a sovereign God, there is nothing to be afraid of; if we are his people, we have nothing to fear.

The next two observations from this section are theological in nature.  First is the idea that God is beyond time, not bound by it like we are.  In fact what impresses me here is that God’s freedom from time boundaries uniquely identifies him as God.  No other has that freedom.  In comparison with the idols, God says, “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” (42:9)  And in taunting the idols, He says, “Tell us, you idols, what is going to happen.  Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome.  Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds so we may know that you are gods.” (41:22-23)  Even more telling are two passages where God seems to say, there is no one else like me, who can tell the future: “Who then is like me?  Let them proclaim it.  Let them declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come – yes, let them foretell what will come.” (44:7)  “Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past?  Was it not I, the LORD?  And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.” (45:21)  There has been a movement amongst evangelicals in recent years (even in my own denomination) called “open theism.”  Open theism presents a god who doesn’t know all that will happen in the future, such as some actions and decision of people.  Though thoughts of such a god may be comforting when people do evil things to us, that god is not the God of the Bible.  According to Isaiah’s high view of God, that theology follows a false god, an idol of human invention.

            My second theological thought on this passage comes from one line that jumped out at me in a long section dealing with idols.  The idol maker shapes his idol “in human form, human form in all its glory, that it may dwell in a shrine.”  (44:13)  I laughed when I read this, because I’d been marking the passages in this section that make reference to God’s glory, yet when it comes to man-made gods, the best we can invent is one after our own image!  We instinctively know that we are the highest of God’s creation (or we arrogantly think we are the highest form of evolution!), so when we make a god, we fashion it after ourselves – glorified men with human strengths magnified.  Such were the idols of Isaiah’s day; such were the gods of the Greeks and Romans; so also are the false gods worshiped today.  Problem is, they have human weaknesses as well. The god of easy believism is a god who, like us, doesn’t take sin seriously; the god of prosperity is a god who, like us, focuses on the present life rather than the eternal; the god of open theism is a god who, like us, is bound by time; the same could be said of the Mormon god – he, like us, is bound by time and space.  “I am the LORD; that is my name!  I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols!” (Isaiah 42:8f)  I want to worship, follow and teach the true God, who, unlike me, is not bound by time and space; who, unlike me, is holy and sovereign; who, unlike me, lives in the present and the eternal.

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