The Strong and Holy One

November 17, 2013 / No. 3698

Dear radio friends,

The two verses we examine in today’s broadcast conclude our study of Isaiah 40. In Isaiah 40: 25, 26 we read, “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.” It is not as if Isaiah teaches us everything that can be known of God in this chapter, but these two verses do have something important to add yet about the God whom we serve. In our text for today Isaiah makes one last comparison between God and man. He asks the same questions in verse 25 that he asked in verse 18: “to whom will ye liken me, or shall I be equal?” But there is added one important feature in this verse that is not found in verse 18: God asks these questions as the Holy One. In other words, this last comparison between God and man is that of God’s holiness as opposed to man’s sinfulness. Then, to cap off this chapter, Isaiah speaks of the strength of God—another one of His attributes, His power or omnipotence. This, then is what we have before us today.

I. Incomparable Holiness

God places His people before the question: “to whom will ye liken me?” The implied answer is: no one. God stands in a class all by Himself. He cannot even be defined. To whom shall I be equal? Not the greatest of men can stand alongside of God. He alone is Creator and all else is creature. But, as we noticed, there is something unique about these questions of verse 25. They are asked of us by the Holy One. God refers to Himself as the Holy One. This name of God calls our attention to His holiness. The thought behind these questions, then, become this: no one is God’s equal in holiness. No man can compare to God in His holiness. Now, that means we need to compare man and God as far as this attribute of holiness is concerned. The term “holy” has a couple of different ideas that stand on the foreground. The first of these, of course, is that of spiritual purity. One who is holy is characterized by perfection and goodness. That in the first place. In the second place, to be holy means that one is set apart to the service of God. He is wholly dedicated to serving God in his life, set apart for that service. With that idea of holiness in mind we make a comparison between God and man.
And we start with man. Where is man as far as his spiritual condition is concerned? Well, what does the Bible say about man? Psalm 14:2-3, “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” David writes in Psalm 51:5, “I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” The apostle Paul describes the fallen human race in Ephesians 4:17-19 as those who walk “in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” It is clear from Scripture that the fallen human race is far, far from holy. On the contrary, the unbelieving world is depraved, wicked, spiritually impure. Neither is man holy from this point of view, that he is set apart unto the service of Jehovah God. Man in his pride serves himself. He is dedicated to establishing a world of peaceful humanity apart from God and apart from salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ. With each succeeding generation comes the vain hope that the new generation is going to do a better job than the generation before it. But everything that wicked man sets his hands and heart to do is characterized by sin and not by holiness. Even the wonderful humanitarian deeds for mankind that seem to us outwardly so good are not done in holiness. Man is a liar. He is a cheat. He is greedy. He is deceitful. He is empty and vain.
Even if we were not to go so far as this in our evaluation of man—although to assess man apart from the Word of God is dangerous—we still must come to this conclusion: man is always making errors. As a result of sin in this world, men in high places as well as low are always making mistakes and errors in judgment. People in our world love to jump on that. When the hurricane that laid low New Orleans was past, all kinds of blame was put on the governor of Louisiana and on the president that assistance was too slow in coming. If an accident occurs in the workplace or on the road, investigation is immediately made to see whose fault it was. Well, people of God, such is man. He is prone to error or mistakes. They happen all the time. All this is due to sin. Would we really want to place our trust in man to rule and run the affairs of this world?
Tell me, if we examine the history of the world these past millennia, do we observe that it has gotten more spiritually pure, that it has developed in holiness? Look at our society that loves to define license to sin as freedom. Is it becoming more morally pure? Is there less greed, violence, adultery, and drunkenness in our society today? Is this world becoming wiser in its ways? Are we becoming more and more dedicated to serving God? Do people in our present world even acknowledge God and His commandments? With the rise of the new generation, is morality on the rise again? Are we ready to abolish abortion? Are we ready to live in faithfulness to God in holy wedlock as well as single life? Are we beginning to acknowledge the sacred institution of marriage between a man and his wife alone? Where does man stand today as far as holiness is concerned?
But, enough of man. Now we examine the Holy One—the one who dwells in a light of holiness unto which no man can approach without being consumed. God is light and in Him is no darkness. Ever try to stare at the sun on a clear and cloudless day? It is blinding—so blinding it hurts the eyes. When that sun is out in all its brightness it dispels all darkness. It is pure and radiant. So is God in His holiness. This is why He is described as light in the Bible. God is pure goodness. He is totally, unwaveringly, ethically and morally pure. In God there is no sin. Not a shadow of sin can be found in Him. He makes no mistakes because He is perfect. So pure is He in His goodness and perfection that to look upon Him would be impossible without being consumed in His holiness. This in turn means that everything God determines to do is good and pure. It is unquestioningly perfect. We may not always understand His ways, but we know they are all-wise, just, and good. The only reason man begins to question God’s ways is that man thinks he may judge God according to his own impure and sinful standards. Everything that takes place in this world according to God’s sovereign will is good, even when in our eyes it may seem cruel and cold. God is holy.
For that reason God is also consecrated and dedicated to serving Himself as the highest good. In this way God is holy as well. God directs all things in this world to fulfill His will and good pleasure. He is in the heavens and does what He pleases.
To whom then will you and I liken God? Man? Who is equal to Him in holiness? Man? Not even close. Our God reigns in His holiness and we would rather fall into the hands of this holy God than into the hands of deceitful man. No creature can compare to our holy God. No one can even approach unto His holiness. Not even those who are redeemed in the blood of Christ. Surely we are cleansed and sanctified in the blood of Christ. God sees us as holy in Christ because He views us together with Christ. But we know that we are not holy in ourselves. In fact, in us is this old man of sin that is still given over to the sins of this present life. Not even the child of God, therefore, can be compared to God in His holiness. To whom will ye liken me or shall I be equal, saith the Holy one.

II. Greatest Power
These same questions can be asked in regard to God’s power and might. When my family and I lived in Jamaica, we would often sit out on our veranda that overlooked the Caribbean Sea. There were no lights of the city. The night-time skies were often cloudless. And we would lift up our eye to the heavens. It was amazing! We could gaze for hours on the moon and stars that appeared so clearly in the sky—millions of them! Galaxies of them! Some bright, some dimmer. Always there in their particular places. Wow! What a display of power and glory! Man’s place in this universe is so, so small. When the believer gazes into the heavens he cannot help but contemplate the greatness and power of God. When the unbeliever who serves the creature rather than the Creator gazes into the heavens he ultimately falls into the sin of worshiping the host of heaven. The people of Israel had fallen into this sin too. They had begun to worship the host of heaven. How foolish, we might say! Why would they do that? But this sin is not so far-fetched. The starry host of heaven, the sun, moon, and planets, are powerful attestations of God’s might and strength. When man refuses to acknowledge the power and might of God in the heavenly luminaries, then he begins to think this power and strength is found in those creatures themselves. So man turns to worshiping them.
Isaiah lays out for us clearly the reality found in the starry host of heaven in verse 26, “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.” The fundamental truth Isaiah speaks of here is this: God has created these things! Isaiah forces us back to Genesis 1 and the creation of this world. On the fourth day of creation God created the sun, moon, and stars, that is to say, God created everything that we see in outer space. He created them. That means, God called forth what we see in space from nothing. “For, lo, He spake and it was done, and all with sovereign power begun stood fast at His command!” That is all He did. He spoke a creative word and the millions of galaxies, each containing millions of stars, stood fast at His command. Isaiah calls attention to the creation of that vast universe before which we all stand in awe and amazement. Can man compare with this God? Men are just beginning to probe outer space—I mean, just scratching the surface of that space that is closest to us—and he boasts of his great accomplishments in this area. Think of God. He spoke and it was done. The vast, virtually limitless universe—bang—appeared with everything in its place.
But then we will let Isaiah describe it for us: God, he says, brings out their host by number; He calls them all by names. What a beautiful picture he draws for us! That of an army. That is what is meant here by the word “host.” It refers to an army. Far be it from the truth that the heavenly luminaries are themselves gods to be served. Rather, they are the creatures of God’s hands. Not only did God create them but He is in charge of this host every day. He brings them out each day and puts them in formation. When the daytime comes, then the sun is brought out to perform its duty before God. At night the sun is tucked away and the moon and stars are brought out to serve their function in God’s army.
Now, we know that this is not how it works scientifically. But Isaiah is simply drawing a picture of the power of God over the lights of the heavens. They are His army that stands at His command. Not only does God bring out this army but He brings them out by number. He counts them one by one and places each one of them in their place to serve its own particular function in the universe. Each declares God’s handiwork and glory. Plus, Isaiah says, God calls them by names. Astrologers in their study of the stars give names to individual stars and constellations. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of stars that have been given names by man. But God has given to each star its name. And when He calls out the stars at night and the sun by day, then He does so by name. Impossible? Nothing is impossible with God! This only goes to show that there is not one star that escapes God’s sovereign rule and control.
What this verse so graphically lays out for you and me is God’s providential control over the heavens. By providence we mean that God not only upholds all creatures but governs them by His hand so that nothing happens in this world by chance. When we speak of God’s providential control of the host of heaven, we speak of the truth that God holds every star in its place and so governs their movements that even they fulfill His will. We learn at the close of verse 26 that by God’s power not one fails. There is not one star out of place, not one star that is not maintained in its place except by the will of God. As we sat there on our porch in Jamaica we would see, almost every night, several shooting stars. A shooting star is the death of a star. It has fallen from its place, flies out of control until it burns out. If God for a moment would remove His all-sustaining hand from upholding the universe, it would perish just as those shooting stars. This passage is a powerful testimony to you and me, believing saint, of the power and might of God.
How does Isaiah speak of it at the close of verse 26? “He calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.” Three words are used to describe God’s power. The words are might, strength, and power. Each of these words, while referring to the same thing, has its own particular meaning. The term “might” refers to the ability God has to control the host of heaven. A man may have knowledge in a matter without the capability of putting that knowledge into action. But God is mighty. He is capable of upholding and governing the universe. Secondly, God is strong, that is, He is firm and stable. The idea is expressed here that God is able to hold up under the task of governing the universe. When a monster boulder is laid on the shoulders of a strong man, he may bend, even be crushed, under its weight. But God upholds and governs the host of heaven as a little thing. He holds up, so to speak, under this work. Finally, God is powerful. This term refers to God’s control over something. When a king is powerful he is able to exercise control over his kingdom. God exercises this control in such a way that not one of His heavenly luminaries fails. All of these terms refer to the truth that God is omnipotent—almighty!

III. Childlike Faith
Now the injunction: Lift up your eyes on high! Behold your God in the heavens! Many men lift their eyes to heaven. Few believe. The injunction here to us and to Israel is: lift up your eyes of faith and look at the universe around you. Do not be faithless. Do you see the power of God? Likewise, do you see Him in all His holiness? Do not doubt His hand in all things. Do not doubt that He carries out His will in all things, just as He does in the host of heaven, and that He does so perfectly. He is a holy God! This means God leads His church in power and holiness. Of course He does! We belong to this God. He has purchased us in the blood of Jesus Christ and we are precious in His sight. He loves us and cherishes us as the apple of His eye. Need we ever doubt His constant love and care for us? All we need do is cast our eyes on the cross to see the power and the holiness of God revealed to us. There is the power of God to save us from sin. There His holiness shines forth in the person of His Son, who died to make us holy. This great God of heaven and the earth is our God! And no one can compare to Him. Lift up your eyes and behold your God.
God does not forget His people. God has created them and also saved them. Their destination is set! As believers we walk on the path that leads to heavenly glory. That path my lead each of us in different ways, but the end is sure. It is sure because God’s hand is the one that leads us, and God’s way is sure. Fear not, little flock! Be comforted. Nothing will separate us from the love of God! Behold your God!