Dear radio friends,
We have been considering in our broadcasts a beautiful chapter in the Bible: Isaiah 40. In today’s broadcast we will be studying together verses 12-14 of this chapter. They read: “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?”
Three rhetorical questions. Isaiah places these three questions before the few believers in Israel merely for effect, with no answer expected. He uses them in order to make his point. Who is so absolutely powerful as your God? Who is so absolutely wise as your God? The answer to these questions is implied. No one! These questions are asked in order that the elect remnant in Israel would be forced to behold their God. That God is the Shepherd of His covenant who loves and cherishes His people as a shepherd his sheep. He protects His people from their foes and carefully leads them by His Word and Spirit. This is what we considered last week in the verses that precede our text here in verses 12-14. Today, we will find out just how powerful and wise our Shepherd is.
Before considering the three questions of this passage of God’s Word before us, we ought to take note of the simple, earthy examples used. The prophet does not become involved in a lofty, philosophical dialogue about the attributes of God. He is not speaking here in abstractions. He does not launch off into some deep theological discourse. Isaiah uses something very real to every one of us to get his point across. Look at God as He reveals Himself to us into His creation. It does not take anything more than to behold God by means of the works of His hands. So we behold God today through the spectacles of creation.
THE OMNIPOTENT AND OMNISCIENT GOD
I. The Idea
Let us consider the first question Isaiah places before God’s people in verse 12, “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” The hand is an important member of the body. We use it for almost everything we do. But have you ever considered your hand as a measuring device? We have so many clever devices today that we use for measuring: a measuring cup or spoons, a ruler or tape measure, an odometer, and so on. But consider the hand once as a measuring device. When we cup our hand, then we can hold so much water in the hollow of it. We can stretch out our hand and measure from the tip of the thumb to the tip of our little finger. We can take a pinch of salt or spice between our thumb and our fingers. At times we use our hand in this way too. Well, the hand of a man is used in this manner in the question Isaiah asks here in verse 12. Notice: who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand? What man is able to take all the water of this earth and measure it in the hollow of his hand? Well, God does. All the rivers and lakes that abound with water added together with all the seas God holds in His cupped hand. The oceans are a vast underwater world, the depths of which man has not even begun to explore. The discovery and exploration channels have revealed to us just a little bit of the life that goes on in the seas miles and miles below the surface. These waters God holds in the hollow of His hand. He has measured them. That means that God has determined every drop of water that the seas and lake and rivers contain. One is reminded of the bounds that God appointed to these bodies of water to keep them in their place. What man is capable of measuring the waters of this earth with his hand?
Then, too, we are told that God has meted out heaven with the span. A span is the length of an outstretched hand between the thumb and the tip of the little finger. God has measured out exactly according to His design the vast expanse of the universe using His hand from thumb to little finger. Again, the universe is a whole world, the depths of which man has only begun to explore. He can view it through his telescopes. He can send space probes out to other planets. But the universe is so huge that man could never even begin to measure it. Yet God has done so. He did it when He called the universe into existence and put the stars in their places using His fingertips. All of the universe is but a span of God’s hand.
Is a man able to count the sand that is on the shores of the seas? Can man count all the particles of dirt that are found in an open field? Are we able to comprehend all the dust of the earth? God is. He has all the dirt and sand and peat moss, and clay, and gravel and so on measured to its tiniest granule. He has done so in a measure, Isaiah tells us. Translators disagree on what measure is referred to here. The Hebrew term refers to the number three, and it is thought by some that a measure refers to a third or two-thirds of some sort of measuring device. The Latin Vulgate, however, translates this term as three fingers. I believe that is the correct interpretation. It refers to that pinch of salt or spice I spoke of earlier. God has comprehended the dust of the earth as a pinch of spices between His thumb and His first two fingers.
There is added to this figurative language of verse 12 the mountains and hills of the earth. But this time Isaiah speaks of a scale and a balance. These devices used for measuring are accurately translated. A scale is something we step on to measure our weight. The weight of our body forces the needle to find its number. A balance also measures weight. An item is placed on one side of the balance. Weight is then added to the other side of the balance until which time the balance evens out. Either way, the idea is the same in both these terms. God has weighed out exactly how many, where, and to what extent the mountains and hills would cover the earth. Man may be able to carve a path through some of the mountain passes, but man is not able to move or remove a mountain. Can he weigh them on his scale or in his balance? Man is so, so small and insignificant in comparison to the mountains and hills of this earth. Well, God has put them in place and knows exactly their weight and measurements.
Now, what do these questions bring to the believer’s mind? How great God is! How powerful He is! How high and lofty He is! How all-sufficient He is! What stands on the foreground in this question is the omnipotence of God. He is all powerful to do what His hand has chosen to do! Our heavenly Father is omnipotent, and that you cannot deny! A God of might and miracle is written in the sky! It is written in the sea. It is written in the mountains and hills and the dust that covers the earth! Certainly, if this great God of heaven and earth is so mighty, then who need doubt that He is strong to save as well. It took a miracle to put the world in place; it took a miracle to hang the stars in space. But when He saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole, it took a miracle of love and grace! Need God’s people in Israel fear? God is all powerful to save, to lead them as a flock. He would indeed come with redemption! Christ would be born, and God would deliver these saints from their sins. Need we ever fear, beloved saints? Christ has come and has accomplished our salvation. Is it too big a thing for Him to come again and bring our salvation to its perfect end? All of this is measured out by the all powerful hand of God. .
But then, let us move along to the next questions. The second and third questions both have to do with another attribute of God: His omniscience. So we take the last two questions together. We read in verses 13 and 14, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” Man sets out to build a huge, breath-taking skyscraper. Architects, engineers, construction companies are hired with a host of men. These men are highly trained in their area of expertise. They went through years of education. They have much experience behind them. As a result these are men of understanding and knowledge in their fields of labor. These men all sit down and consult with each other and begin to draw up a detailed plan. With many opinions and minds put together they begin to choose the right way to construct that new building—a magnificent and amazing feat of man. Years are spent erecting that building. Men like ants all over the place putting up a huge structure that will stun the imaginations of men.
Believing saints: behold your God! Look at the seas, the universe, the mountains and plains. Examine the intricate design of this creation. Look at yourselves, how fearfully and wonderfully you are made. Look through the microscope and discover a whole world of living organisms that cannot even be seen with the naked eye. All of this together makes up the huge, magnificent, amazing world we live in. The One World Trade Center will not compare with the majesty of a mountain or what can be seen with a telescope. Look at the house God has built! Now let us ask the questions of verses 13 and 14. Who directed the Spirit of Jehovah when He moved upon the face of the deep and this world was called forth? The Spirit is the giver of life. Thy Spirit, O Lord, makes life to abound. Well, who directed the Spirit to create all things? Who was God’s counselor? What mighty men did He sit down with and consult about how to build this universe? Where did God get His education? Who taught Him His trade? Who instructed Him how to do what He has done? Who bestowed on God the knowledge needed to build this present universe in all its intricate design? Who said to God, “Well, maybe that is not the best way of doing things. Maybe you should try a different way. This way is faulty.” This is what Isaiah means when he asks, “Who taught God the path of judgment?” Who taught God the right way of doing things? Whom did God need to plan the universe and then build it according to the exact specifications of His plan?
The answer? No one! God did not need anyone. He is all-knowing and all-wise. He is the omniscient God! Look at the universe! How many thousands of solar systems inhabit space! Look how the planets orbit the sun and the moon the earth. The music of the spheres—the harmony of the planets—cries out to us of the wisdom of our God. The plants dependent on the rain, the animals dependent on the plants. Man and beast dependent on the air we take in. The plants dependent on the air we breathe out. All of this is a bold testimony of the knowledge and understanding of God. The laws of nature man is able to discover shows forth the earth’s grand design. Man discovered gravity, but it was always there. Man studies the DNA strands that make up a man or woman’s genetic makeup. One mutated gene can cause illness, deformity, or even death. Did man make all of this? Can man even control all of this? O the depth of the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom of God! And all God had to do is speak a Word—an all-powerful Word—and the grand and glorious building of this creation stands fast. It was not a difficult thing for God! Behold your God! This is your God.
II. The Reality
But there is more implied in these questions than simply to know who God is. It is true that the emphasis in them is to focus our attention on God—but there is a reality expressed in these verses that cannot be overlooked: God is great and man is small. God alone is God and man is but a creature of God’s hand. Man is but a tiny creature in God’s hand. This is true as far as man’s strength is concerned. Can man hold the waters of the earth in the hollow of his hand? Can man measure the entire universe with the span of his hand? Can man hold the soils of the earth with a pinch of his fingers? How man likes to boast in his own power. Look at what great feats he has accomplished in building, in medicine, in technology, in military might! Man pushes himself to the limit in his sports. Look at the vain imagination of man in his computer-enhanced movies. Man is made out to be a super hero. It is all make-believe. Man does not have super-human strength and abilities! After all is said and done, man is only man—a creature of God’s hands among many other creatures. What, then, is implied in these questions? God alone is all powerful, and the strength that man has is given to him by his Creator.
Likewise, God is all-knowing and all-wise in His ways. Who is man? Man must gather together with many counselors to keep from making errors. Man must be educated and learn his skills. He must be instructed and taught knowledge and understanding. Even then his knowledge is so, so limited in its scope. He might become adept in one area or field but remain totally ignorant in another area of life. Man thinks himself so wise and so knowledgeable. He boasts of his knowledge. But what man is like unto God who is infinite in knowledge; who was taught by no one, who in wisdom made all things perfectly? Man often fails in his experiments and projects. Man cannot always attain unto what he tries to achieve!
What, then, does this say about man in relation to God? Man must bow the knee to his Creator. He must kiss God’s Son, who sits at God’s right hand in power. When the enemies of God rise up together and attempt to break away from God or to foil God’s eternal plan, man fails. In the last days, the wicked will rise up against God’s people and scorn them. The wicked world and the false church will persecute the true church of Christ in this world. We will see the rise of the kingdom of antichrist. The enemies of the cross will seem to have the upper hand. The unbelieving world will establish a kingdom of man. He will believe that he is in control of this earth, and its destiny. Even now we see this happening in our society. Even now we experience but small birth pains of the coming of Christ. But our God is in the heavens, and He uses the wicked of this world to fulfill His sovereign will and good pleasure for the salvation of His church.
God did this in Israel’s day. Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldean Empire were but tools in the hand of God. God is all wise and all powerful. He used this empire to punish a sinful people but also to preserve His church. God would not forsake His remnant now. The same was true when Christ came into the world. Satan and the wicked world thought they had the upper hand. But God was using them to secure our salvation. God’s counsel shall stand. And Christ stands at the heart of that counsel of God. The same is true as far as Christ’s second coming is concerned. God holds all things in His powerful hands and leads us in the way of knowledge and understanding.
III. The Comfort
This in turn is of great comfort to the believer. Behold your God! He is omnipotent. He holds all things under His sovereign control. He upholds the universe by His hand. It is all there in His hand. He is omniscient. He governs the universe in His wisdom and knowledge. If this God is for us, who can be against us? That was the point Isaiah was making to the remnant in Israel. They were asking in despair: Is this God for us? He seems to have forgotten us. He seems to have forsaken us together with the wicked in Israel. But God in His wisdom and power always preserves and protects His people.
There is nothing more reassuring to us than those words. God never forsakes His people. He never forgets us in our needs. Has He not provided for us a Savior? Has He not redeemed us from our sin and guilt. We are purchased with a price. We belong to God. We belong to our Savior. That means that this great God of heaven and earth has graven His church and the name of His individual saints on the palm of His hand. That same hand that controls the universe. Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!