Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How Strong is the Lord?

[This entry follows a sermon titled "My Hope and His Strength." It was preached by Kevin Shingleton, and you can click here to listen to the audio.]

From Isaiah 40:28-31, we see that God "gives power to the faint" and "increases strength" for those who are weak. These are tremendous promises for us, as we are continually faced with situations in which our weakness is revealed. Yet, this is not a bad weakness...it is a necessary weakness. For, if we do not realize our great weakness, we will not avail ourselves of God's strength.

Throughout the Scripture, we see God's strength meet man's weakness. Moses knew his own weakness and confessed it to God as a reason he was unusable, and yet God's power enabled him to be the deliverer of Israel from slavery. The troops in Gideon's army were reduced by God's instruction, so that it would be clear that the strength of God (and not Gideon) was behind the Israelites' victory over the Midianites. The apostle Paul was afflicted by a thorn in the flesh, and yet God graciously left it so that Paul would be continually reminded that God's strength is perfected in weakness. At the cross, we see Jesus weakened by beating and crucifixion, and yet the effect of that cross is the forgiveness of sin for the nations! Over and over again, we see that "the weakness of God is stronger than men...[and]...God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong..." (1 Corinthians 1:25b, 27b).

We know our weakness, but what will give us confidence is to remember the strength of the Lord. If our weakness makes us prime candidates to receive strength from the Lord, then we should know what kind of power we are receiving. It seems that this will empower us to "boast all the more gladly of [our] weaknesses" (2 Corinthians 12:9b). The very chapter where we find God's strength being available to the weak (i.e.- Isaiah 40) is the chapter where we will find the answer to our question: how strong is the Lord?

This strength is sandwiched between two passages expressing what God will do with that strength. We have seen the end of Isaiah 40, but if you look at v. 10-11, you will see that "the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for them...he will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young." The care of the Lord is reflected in these verses, as well as in verses 29-31. Now, let's make a brief list of what lies between, so that we might see just how strong the Lord is.

1. God is bigger than we can imagine (v. 12). It is beyond imagination to think of a God who can hold the waters of the earth in the hollow of His hand. We can't hold more than a few drops in the hollow of our hand. The same thing applies to this image of the span (i.e.- from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the pinky) measuring all the heavens. The great expanse of God's greatness is pictured in magnanimous terms.

2. God knows more than we can imagine (v. 13-14, 27-28). We can never wonder if the God we serve knows about our needs or understands how we feel because He needs no one to inform Him. He has perfect counsel and knowledge, and there is no part of our lives that is hidden from Him. He knows our weakness far better than we even know it.

3. God is more powerful than we can imagine (v. 15, 17, 23-24). Those nations which seem like great powerhouses to us are but a drop in the bucket when compared to God. The world powers are both established and torn down by God. His very breath can remove the most powerful politician, king, or dictator from office.

4. God is worthy of more worship than we can ever give (v. 16). The endless offerings of beasts could never suffice to display the infinite worth of God. There is no earthly power, to which we must submit, that compares with the divine majesty of God on His throne.

5. God is the King of the Universe (v. 22). God's reign and control is not limited by geography, as human authorities are. God's power extends over every portion of the earth. He sits above it all, and He rules over it all.

6. God is the Creator and Keeper of the universe (v. 26). Look into the sky tonight, and if you see the stars and moon there, it is because God has brought them out...God put them into place...God knows each one by name. Yet, He did not make stars and moons in His image...He made you in His image. The argument of Jesus in Matthew 6 is pertinent here...if God feeds the birds and clothes the fields, what makes you think that He will forsake your care?

7. God is always God (v. 21, 28). God's rule and reign and power do not come and go, as earthly powers do. God is never removed from office. Besides that, in His eternal reign over all things, God doesn't grow weary...He doesn't get tired...He never gets to the point where we have overburdened Him so that He can't help us anymore. Every night, you and I lay down to close our eyes...we have to sleep...we can't function without it. Yet, God is not like us! Praise God...He is not like us! He does not need to catch a few winks or recharge His batteries...God's power is always available, and it never diminishes in capacity.

Go back and read through those seven things again...just read the bold parts...read them out loud. Now, add this...THIS is the God whose strength is available to me as I wait on Him. This is a tremendous truth...one we must be reminded of continuously. It is as we remember the character of our God and His willingness to grant strength that we can experience what Isaiah proclaims: "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God" (Is. 40:1).