The Second Sunday After Easter May 4, 2014
38, 535, 529, 49
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
“To whom then will you liken Me,
Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high,
And see who has created these things,
Who brings out their host by number;
He calls them all by name,
By the greatness of His might
And the strength of His power;
Not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
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.
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.”
In then name of Jesus, dear fellow-redeemed:
What a blessing that God has given us eyes to distinguish the beautiful colors of His creation on a sunny day! We appreciate the blessing all the more as we consider what it would be like to be unable to see. Even greater than seeing color with physical eyesight is seeing our Savior with the eyes of faith. We sorrow for those whose spiritual eyes are blind to their “beautiful Savior.” We wish they could rejoice with us by faith!
But even we Christians can fail to see the beauty of our Lord, because our eyes are turned downward to this muddy world with its day-to-day dirt, dreariness, and death. This leads to despair rather than rejoicing. The Old Testament children of God who were taken captive into Babylon, also found it easy to become “short-sighted” about their situation in life and to despair rather than rejoice. The message they needed to hear is the same message we need today from Isaiah chapter 40. In this chapter Isaiah says: BEHOLD YOUR GOD!
How can we behold God? God is hidden from our eyes. But you can behold your God in His Word! He has recorded His eternal Word for the very reason that we might behold Him as He has revealed Himself. Isaiah 40 begins with these words from God: “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” (Isaiah 40:1).
Then God prophesies through Isaiah about how John the Baptizer would prepare the way of Jesus by preaching repentance of sin and faith in Him. The first eight verses of chapter 40 conclude with the reminder that if fleshly, perishable man is to be saved from his sins, he must trust this Word of God which alone is eternal. Beginning with verse nine, the believers of Zion—the Christian Church of all times—are told to “get up into a high mountain” with the “glad tidings.” They are to “lift their voice with strength” and fearlessly say: “Behold your God!” If we do not behold God in His Word of grace concerning Christ, our Savior, we cannot behold God at all! But if we behold God in His Word, then we will also…
…behold Him in His world! In Isaiah 40:10-24, the prophet tells us that this same God who has come to Judah with the forgiveness of sins is the God whose Word has power over the world He has created! Verses 15-17 speak of the “nations of the world as a drop in a bucket,” and “as the small dust on the scales” compared to God’s power in the world. In verses 18-20, Isaiah expresses the utter foolishness and frustration of self-deceived craftsmen when they attempt to make this almighty God out of gold, silver, and wood!
In verses 21-24, Isaiah beholds the Creator-God as the one who “sits above the circle of the earth” and sees its inhabitants as “grasshoppers.” He brings the rulers of this world to nothing and makes its judges meaningless. What they plant and build with their poor power and decisions, God withers and wilts by the hot wind of His Spirit’s Word whenever it suits His saving purpose in saving His people!
Behold your God in His world! History is His- story. According to Acts 17:26, it is the Lord your God who “has determined” the pre-appointed “times and boundaries” of the nations. Search the Old Testament for the many examples of how God juggled and judged the heathen nations and their armies in order to deliver His people. The main purpose of Isaiah’s whole book is to comfort God’s people in the captivity brought upon them by their sin and unbelief in 606 B.C. Just as He promised, God sent the Persian King, Cyrus, 70 years later, to free Judah from Babylon.
About 200 years still later, the God who rules this world, raised up Alexander the Great to conquer the Persian Empire. Because God rules this world Alexander defeated a Persian army of 600,000 with only 30,000 men!
Alexander greatly expanded his father Philip’s Greek empire with this defeat of the Persians. Why did God do this? Because the Greek language is far more exact than the Persian language. God wanted the Greek language to spread all over the world during the next 300 years so that He might bring His New Testament Scriptures to the world in the most precise and well-known language on earth! No wonder Isaiah said that “the nations are a drop in the bucket,” (Isaiah 40:15) and that “God brings the princes to nothing” (Isaiah 40:23)!
Now come the first words of our text, in which God asks: “To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal.” [v.25] The Babylonians thought and taught that the stars, the moon, and the sun controlled the affairs of man on earth. It was as if these heavenly bodies were greater than the gods they worshiped! But Isaiah writes in verse 26 that all we need to do is “lift up our eyes” to see that the heavens were created by the God we worship. He alone created and calls them out and keeps them in their assigned places to bring Him glory! Behold your God in His world, especially now in the increasingly confusing and chaotic time in which we live.
In view of all this, how could we join with God’s Old Testament people and say that our “way is hidden from the LORD,” and that we aren’t being justly treated in this world because God isn’t paying attention to our plight? [v.27] We need to behold Him in His way! In order to do this, Isaiah reminds us in vs. 28 that the Almighty, Creator-God of the universe never faints or becomes weary.
His understanding is so unsearchable and perfect that He already has a solution to our trials and troubles before we experience them! This is why Psalm 37:7 and other passages of Holy Scripture tell us to “wait patiently for the LORD.” This is why Isaiah closes the 40th chapter with these words: “…Those who wait on the LORD, shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run ad not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” [v.31]
You may remember how Jacob liked to take matters into his own hands to secure the blessing that was promised to him. But Jacob was taught to wait for the LORD’s way. Sure it was unfair of uncle Laban to make Jacob work 14 years for Rachel, the girl of his dreams. But God had already determined that the elder daughter, Leah, not Rachel, would give birth to Judah from whom the promised Savior would come. Jacob had to learn the lesson of God’s way—to trust God’s Word and promises and not his own strength!
So our Lord says to us down to this very day: In my gracious Word of forgiveness through Christ, My Son, you have beheld Me—full of grace and mercy. You have seen how I have ruled the world by my power to work out your salvation to this very day. How can you then look to your own ways when you are distressed, discouraged and depressed? Forget your ways, trust My Word. Wait for My ways which are always better than yours! “For my thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and my ways higher than your ways… for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
Our God wants us to Behold Him! God spoke three “good cheers” through His Son to be His believing children: To the paralyzed man Jesus said: “Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2). To the disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee, Jesus said: “Be of good cheer! It is I, do not be not afraid” (Mark 6:50). When He warned His disciples about the trials God’s children would have in this world, Jesus said: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
When we behold our God as He really is—in His Word, in His world, and in His ways—then we shall not faint or fuss, but rejoice in our great God and Savior! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.