Stayed Upon Jehovah

Introduction: Hezekiah saw God’s deliverance of the city from Sennacherib in a mighty action fulfilling precisely the prophecies delivered by Isaiah (37:33-35). Also, he had been healed by God’s special deliverance when Hezekiah was “mortally ill” sealed by a miraculous sign (38:1, 7, 8). Unwisely, Hezekiah showed all the treasures of his house to visitors from Babylon when they came to give him gifts at their learning of his recovery. Then, by Isaiah, God told Hezekiah of the coming exile to Babylon, the ransacking of the royal treasury, and that sons of his, yet to be born, would serve as officials in the palace of the king of Babylon (39:6, 7). Hezekiah took this news with satisfaction, discerning that it meant there would be “peace and truth in my days” (39:8). His response seems almost callous and unconcerned about the nation beyond the time of his death. Although this could be interpreted as a selfish relief knowing he would be spared the trauma of exile, it could also be interpreted as a trust in the decrees of God, an observation of providence mixed with judgment and mercy. Isaiah gives a revelation into the depths of God, highlighting the great mercies that come to his chosen people, the utterly irreproachable character of God, the irrational and spiritually blind foolishness of fallen humanity, and the sovereign operations of God toward both nations and persons. This serves as a summary of what has been said and done prior to this chapter and introduces the revelations of the next 26 chapters.

I. A Comfort for the People of God (1-11)

A. Why God’s people can be comforted (1, 2). In light of the message of a coming captivity to a foreign power, God gives comfort to his people. The comfort at this point, however, is not of an earthly vindication in the face of their enemies, but of a final remedy for the cause of all judgment. They will go into captivity as a judgment for their unfaithfulness, but the root cause of such unfaithfulness is sin, common to all mankind. The message of an ended warfare concerns their enmity against God (Romans 5:10). This includes necessarily a removal of iniquity. It is removed from their account, not ignored in the moral purposes of God; its removal means that another person has borne it even as Jesus bore our sin in his own body (1 Peter 2:24). Having received from the Lord’s hands “double” for all sins could be a literary device indicating a complete and irreversible removal of any payment due for sin. It could, however, also refer to the double action of justification in that, not only are sinners forgiven by the death of Christ, they have the merit of a perfect righteousness imputed to them by his having fulfilled all righteousness. The ultimate comfort for which we should strive and for which we should be grateful is that of eternal spiritual comfort achieved by the Redeemer.

B. The way of the Lord is prepared. (3, 4) That this is the comfort in mind is ascertained in the announcement of a forerunner to the Messiah. This refers to John the Baptist and is interpreted as such by all four evangelists (Matthew 3: 3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23). The last book in the Old Testament also points to this one who would announce the coming of the reconciling One (Malachi 3:1; 4:5, 6).

C. The appearance of the glory of the Lord according to his promise (5-8).

  1. The glory of the Lord appeared in the incarnation of the Son of God and in his fulfilled work of redemption. It is a very compact statement moving from the birth and the manifestation of his glory throughout the course of life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the submission of all nations to the name of Jesus (Phil 2:11) – “all flesh shall see it together.” The confession of 1 Timothy 3:16 relates to every aspect of this prophecy: “He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels; proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”
  2. Even though the times will seem uncertain upon the invasion of the Babylonians, the word of the Lord will not fail, it is certain. “For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Everything from grass to people are merely but a breath and will come to their end, “But the word of the Lord stands forever.”

D. Proclaiming a message of good news (9-11).

  1. Zion, the city of God, will have good news to share, and it must be broadcast loudly and dispersed widely. God now is seen in his great wisdom, love, justice, and mercy—“Behold your God.” He will fulfill the release of his people from their captivity in Babylon, but more than that will give a gospel of redemption.
  2. As an invincible warrior the Lord comes. Even in the apparent weakness of the cross, we find the power of God displayed (1 Corinthians 1:19). In the cross we see the greatness of the reward for those who trust in the perfectly just work of Christ while coming to receive it as a gift of pure grace. His recompence for sin already has been displayed (Romans 3:24-26) with a twofold effect: One, those who trust in this work can have absolute assurance that no more wrath remains for them; two, those who refuse this propitiatory event of redemption may be sure that there is no other way to find mercy and they, therefore, must bear the weight of their own sin experiencing to the full measure the recompence of God (“And his recompence before him.”).
  3. This brutal work of reward, recompence, redemption allows God to show his tenderness and mercy toward his people as a shepherd does to his sheep. He tends, he gathers, he carries, and he gently leads those who are his sheep (John 10:1-5; 11-16).


II. The Infinite Greatness of God in his sovereign governing of the world. (12-17)

A. The precision of God’s purpose in the creation of the material world (12) – Isaiah uses the waters of all creation, the expanse of the heavens, the dust of the earth, and the imposing mountains and hills as measures of the infinite power and the scrupulous care that God gives his creation. No particle of dust nor droplet of mist from a crashing wave makes its way on its own but is guided in its course by the eternal decree and present purpose of God.

B. The transcendent, eternal, and infinite wisdom of God’s purpose for the world (13, 14) – Does any knowledge exist at all anywhere which was not in its origin in the mind and purpose of God? Can we know anything other than those things that actually do exist which have their existence, not of themselves, but only of him who brought them into being and sustains them? Is there any philosophical idea or ethical principle or metaphysical speculation that touches upon the truth which is not an expression of the righteousness, holiness, and wisdom intrinsic to God’s own being? Do we advise him? Does he consult us as to the best method of accomplishing his purposes? Any level of distrust in the wisdom of God and his ability to execute his purposes leads to an idolatry of human despair and speculation. “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways” (Romans 11:33).

C. He has no competition, nor does he need the infusion of any extra power in the execution of his decrees (15-17). Nothing exists that he did not call into existence by the simple word of his power, “Let there be . . .” Nothing has power, wisdom, or purpose but that which he invested in it from the beginning. He alone is self-existent and all things beyond his own existence have their very existence in the mere will of God.


III. The foolishness of Idolatry (18-20) – In light of the reality of a God who creates, plans, and executes, what degree of sinful foolishness is involved in the development of idols? Will the creator submit to be likened to anything in his creation? Will gold and silver and humanly crafted ornamentation suffice for the knowledge of God? Absurd! Would a piece of wood, carefully carved and balanced for upright stability give the mind an accurate image of the infinite God? Irrationally naïve! The second commandment forbids not only the idolatry of paganism but the attempt to make any image that would signify the one true God.


IV. The self-evident truth of divine power in creation and providence (21-26). Do you not know? Have you not heard? The power of God is self-evident and “their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:4; Romans 10:18). As the text already has presented, all that we see around us has its origin in infinite intelligence and perfectly designed teleology.

A. God is the almighty Creator and sustainer of the world (22).

B. He is the source of all power and government. No one rules apart from divine providence and permission. “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). He sets them up and brings them down according to his will. In spite of these fluctuations of power and rule within nations from a secular standpoint, God also is establishing his rule in every nation by calling out people to himself through the gospel, so that those who will inherit the earth through godly meekness already are present within these nations (23, 24)

C. Again he challenges the reader to discover anything that would be comparable to God. Even in the vast array of lights in the heavens, all of them are dependent on God. None of them operates randomly but reflect his omnipotent power and detailed providence. In neither the material nor the moral universe does anything come to pass apart from the eternal decree and present determination and power of God. (25, 26).


V. The tenderness of the individual attention given by this omnipotent God to his people (27-31)

A. God addresses his people in the language that calls attention to the reality of his revelation and to pertinent knowledge that they should have from that revelation. Verse 21 uses this language concerning creation as does 37:26 concerning providence. In the same way, we should grasp the incomparable nature of God’s power, wisdom, intelligence, and holiness, operating for the good of his elect. Never should we think that our way is hidden from the Lord. “Whom he did foreknew he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).

B. The complaint involved a fivefold misperception of the covenantal faithfulness of God.

  1. They questioned the omnipresence and omniscience of God: “My way is hidden.” Nothing escapes his knowledge and nothing is outside his purposeful arrangement of all the phenomena of history in general and our lives in particular.
  2. They had a shallow grasp of the justice of God (27b): “The justice due me escapes the notice of my God.” When we do not grasp the truly absolute character of justice, then we fail to stand in awe of grace. Should they, and we, receive justice as an absolute apart from the intervention of grace, then condemnation would be the outcome.
  3. They did not reflect on the purpose of God in his act of creation (28a). He is the Creator of the ends of the earth, that is, even to the most infinitesimal aspects of the created order. Has God done such a thing with no purpose? If he has brought into being such a seemingly inexhaustible order of being with such vital interconnections, can we not conclude that he will accomplish his purpose in it?
  4. This should remind his people also of the inexhaustible and unwearying power of God (28b). He flung the world into existence simply by his word; does he not have an intrinsic store of energy that cannot be exhausted – “Does not become weary or tired.”
  5. They failed to recognize that all of this verifies his perfect understanding of all things, not merely from observation but from his eternal plan of origination. “His understanding is inscrutable.

C. God upholds his people in every stage of their lives granting to them all that they need for perseverance in faith, sanctifying influences in daily life, and awareness of divine grace for the tasks to which he has called us.

  1. To those who feel overwhelmed and weary he will secretly infuse the strength they need for any present task or challenge they confront. They will do so by dint of perseverance and determination, but always undergirded by grace (29).
  2. Even those who are young and seemingly have endless and quickly renewable energy will push themselves to the point of exhaustion. They are creatures, and not God, and will be forced to come face to face with their finiteness. They will see that they are the creature and not the Creator (30). He has made them who they are, by sovereign provision has given them strength, and he alone can renew them and pick them up when they fall.
  3. To those who see their dependence on the strength, guidance, and purpose of God, sustaining power for the day will be given—even the day of captivity and exile, the day when they find themselves in a foreign land under the domination of people with a strange tongue (Isaiah 28:9-13). Great and intensely demanding tasks call for the wings of eagles; intense application of energy and mental application calls for the strength to run without collapsing; steady day by day perseverance calls for the determination to put one foot in front of the other, walking without wearying. God provides all that is needed in each situation.


VI. The Doctrinal Component

A. We have a duty filled with great spiritual benefits to reflect on the reality of Creation. Psalm 19 declares that the created order shows the glory of God and there is no place where this is not true (3, 4). It is a revelation of God’s “eternal power and godhead” (Romans 1:20). The first chapter of the Bible should let us know that this God’s world created for his purposes, according to his order and reflects throughout a perfect conformity to his reason, power, and eternal purpose. It arises from his word which cannot fail: “But the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

B. The foolishness of idolatry and the forbidding of images has an extended application. Likewise, Scripture forbids what is called “will-worship” in Colossians 2:23, (KJV). The ESV says “self-made religion” as does the NASB. The NIV says “self-imposed worship.” We are to follow God’s own instructions about how he is to be worshipped. We follow the New Testament pattern and specific admonitions as to what should be included in corporate worship. This practice is called the regulative principle and is built on the assumption that knowledge of God and how he is to be approached is a matter of divine revelation and not human imagination.

C. Providence determines what God’s people need and bestows all in its proper time. This is done out of the fulness of Christ and as a manifestation of the glory of the Father. “My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus; to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Phil 4: 19, 20). The people of God often seem to be in an unstable and harried condition, but God has planned every step to prepare them for the infinite joy and eternal blessedness of eternal life in the presence of the triune God, the saints of all ages and all nations, and the holy angels.

D. The greatest of all blessings, because fundamental to all else that God does with and in his people, is the removal of iniquity. It is the greatest, because the most necessary for us and the clearest unfolding of the perfect harmony of all of God’s immutable attributes.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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