Previous StudyNext StudyUp to Isaiah Studies Contents Page
Return to Pastor's Home Page
Isaiah 40:12-22

Introduction

The nation of Israel had been in captivity for years. They felt hopeless and abandoned by God. Perhaps they were beginning to wonder if God was strong enough to help them. It was at this time that God gave Isaiah words of comfort and strength recorded in the 40th chapter. This section of the chapter, verses 12-22, paints a beautiful picture of God’s power. If the people would only understand the might of the Creator, they would realize that God’s power was reaching down to them. Today, we may be facing times of confusion and trouble. But the message God sent to Israel thousands of years ago is also for us – God will reach down to us in his power.

Verse 12

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

God’s power reaches down to us when we are surrounded by trouble. Are there waters you can’t cross, mountains in your way, and hills you can’t climb? Do you look to the heavens and look down to the earth, and still can’t find any help? This verse is telling us that God has everything in control. He has the waters in the hollow of his hand, he has measured the heavens with the width of his hand, he encloses the dust of the earth in a measuring cup, the mountains are no more to him than a butcher putting them on his scale, and the hills are no more to him than a banker weighing gold. All things are in God’s hand and under his control.

Warren Wiersbe comments, "And if you ever feel so small that you wonder if God really cares about you personally, remember that He knows the name of every star and your name as well! The same God who numbers and names the stars can heal your broken heart."

We are surrounded by God’s power reaching down to us. God is in front of us – Isaiah 48:17, "I am the LORD your God...who leads you in the way you should go." God is behind us – Isaiah 30:21, "And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in

it....’ " God is on our right side – Psalm 16:8, "...because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." God is on our left side – Job 23:9, "on the left hand I seek him...." God is above us – Psalm 36:7, "The children of men take refuge in the shadow of thy wings." And God is beneath us – Deuteronomy 33:27, "...underneath are the everlasting arms...." And God is within us –

1 Corinthians 3:16, "...God's Spirit dwells in you."

Verses 13-14

Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as his counselor has instructed him? Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?

God’s power reaches down to us when we are confused. Are you searching for answers? Do you sometimes feel that you can’t figure things out – you feel confused and bewildered? God is the one with the answers. As Isaiah points out, there is no one wise enough to be his counselor, no one knowledgeable enough to enlighten him, no one with enough understanding to teach him justice, no one competent enough to teach him knowledge, and no one smart enough to show him the way of understanding.

God is the one we can go to when we need instruction. He will change our perplexity to understanding and our bewilderment to wisdom. God will enlighten our minds and teach us his ways. He will calm our confusion.

Verse 15

Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the isles like fine dust.

God’s power reaches down to us when we feel that everyone is against us. Do you sometimes feel that people are against you? Do you have trouble on the job? Do you run into trouble with government or corporate bureaucracy? Do you feel that even your family is not supporting you? God is above all. The islands he picks up as if they were pieces of dust. Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket to God. There is no one and nothing that is greater than our God. He will be there for us even when we feel that no one else is.

Verses 16-17

Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness

God’s power reaches down to us when we are helpless. When you feel helpless, then it’s time to consider who God really is. In the Old Testament, the people would make sacrifices of animals by burning them to atone for their sins. But notice that verse 16 emphasizes that without God’s mercy, these sacrifices would mean nothing. Lebanon was known as the place of cedars and forests. But Isaiah writes that even all the trees in Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor all the beasts from that country be enough of a burnt offering. Man’s feeble efforts are less than nothing and emptiness without God’s mercy and power reaching down to us.

So if you feel helpless, realize that you have the Almighty on your side. The one who is so great that even the nations are nothing to him is ready to come your aid.

He Never Fails
He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;
Tho' disappointments come and hope burns dim,
He never fails.
Tho' trials surge like stormy seas around,
Tho' testings fierce like ambushed foes abound,
Yet this my soul, with millions more has found,
He never fails; He never fails.
He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;
Tho' angry skies with thunder-clouds grow grim,
He never fails.
Tho' icy blasts life's fairest flow'rs lay low,
Tho' earthly springs of joy all cease to flow,
Yet still 'tis true, with millions more I know,
He never fails; He never fails.
He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;
Tho' sorrow's cup should overflow the brim,
He never fails.
Tho' oft the pilgrim way seems rough and long,
I yet shall stand amid yon white-robed throng,
And there I'll sing, with millions more, this song--
He never fails; He never fails.

Verses 18-20

To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? The idol! a workman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold, and casts for it silver chains. He who is impoverished chooses for an offering wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skilful craftsman to set up an image that will not move.

God’s power reaches down to us when we are trusting in the idols of this world. Many people put their trust in the gold and the silver of this world. But riches and wealth and financial security will not bring the peace to our soul that we long for. It is easy for us to condemn the wealthy and their riches, but notice that verse 20 talks about the poor man’s idols. Whether rich or poor, we all have idols – those things that we place in a greater importance than God. What are your idols? What is more important to you than serving God, than reading your Bible or praying? What is more important to you than coming to church and worshipping the Lord? What is more important to you than reaching out to others to help them and to share the message of Christ?

We all have idols that we place before God. But we need to realize that they are just as worthless as the gold, silver, and wood images that the people trusted in centuries ago. Let us turn away from our idols, and turn toward the living God. Let us allow him to be Lord of our lives, and let us serve him with all of our mind, all of our heart, and all of our strength.

Warren Wiersbe wrote, "The victories of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia made it look as though the false gods of the Gentiles were stronger than the God of Israel; but Isaiah reminded them of the greatness of Jehovah. When you behold the greatness of God, then you will see everything else in life in its proper perspective."

Verses 21-22

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in.

God’s power reaches down to us when we feel like giving up. There come times when we are so discouraged that we just don’t feel like going on. We want to quit. Nothing seems to be going right, and everywhere we turn we run into troubles and turmoil. We ask ourselves, "What’s the use?" And we may even question if God even cares about us. If you feel that way, Isaiah is asking you four questions – Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

In verse 22 Isaiah answers these questions, but maybe we should spend a moment and consider what he is asking us. Have you not known? Yes, we have known. It is why we are serving God. Have you not heard? Yes, we have heard it all our lives. We hear it every Sunday and throughout the week. Has it not been told you from the beginning? Yes, it has been told us ever since we made a commitment to Christ. Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? Yes, even before we were saved, we had an understanding of who God was.

Isaiah’s answers to these questions tell us about God. He says that it is God who sits above the circle of the earth. Certainly realizing that God was above all and over the whole earth would comfort the faithful in Isaiah’s day. But we have the added benefit of knowing that when Isaiah wrote these words, most people thought the earth was flat. And yet here we have modern science recorded 2700 years ago – God sits above the circle of the earth. So not only can we take comfort that God is above all our problems, but we can trust in God’s word since its accuracy has been confirmed even centuries later.

Isaiah’s next point is that God looks down at earth’s inhabitants and he is so great and we are so small that he sees us as grasshoppers. Even though we are small, helpless, and insignificant, we can take courage that God is reaching down to us to help us and strengthen us. The next idea of the grandness of God that he expresses is that of infinity. Notice he says that God is so grand that he stretches out the heavens as if it were a curtain, and he spreads the universe as if it were a tent for him to dwell in.

Now if we have such a great God to help us, why do we feel like giving up. Don’t give up. Instead, give in. Give in to God’s direction in your life. Give in to his instruction. Give in to the leading of his Holy Spirit. As you give in to God and allow him to take control, you will find that you will no longer feel like giving up. Instead, you will feel like giving back to others all the goodness that you have experienced.

Warren Wiersbe remarks, "Someone has defined ‘circumstances’ as ‘those nasty things you see when you get your eyes off of God.’ If you look at God through your circumstances, He will seem small and very far away; but if by faith you look at your circumstances through God, He will draw very near and reveal His greatness to you."

So what are you facing? Are you surrounded by trouble or confused? Do you feel helpless and feel like everyone is against you? Have your idols failed you and you feel like giving up? If you do, know that God’s power is reaching down to you. He cares about you. Even though he is powerful enough to run the whole universe, he still has time for your problems. Turn to him and his power will reach down to you.

Footnotes:

This study on Isaiah 40:12-22 1998 by David Humpal. All Rights Reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version 1971, A. J. Holman Company

Wiersbe: Be Comforted, a Study of Isaiah, electronic version 1992, Victor Books

He Never Fails: J. S. Baxter in Explore the Book

Wiersbe: Be Comforted, a Study of Isaiah, electronic version 1992, Victor Books

Wiersbe: Be Comforted, A Study of Isaiah, electronic version 1992, Victor Books

Previous StudyNext StudyTop of Page