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     Magnifying the Incomparability of our God

 

     All the passages below are taken from the book, The Majesty of God in the Old Testament, by Walter C. Kaiser Jr., published in 2007.

 

              ISAIAH 40:9-31 NIV 2

 

Introduction

 

     Every passage that has been chosen as a text for teaching and preaching from the Old Testament in this book can be enhanced by the teacher or preacher if some of the special studies that probe its depths of meaning are carried out in connection with its use in the classroom, pulpit, or private study. In Isaiah 40:9-31, the repeated emphasis on the fact that God cannot be compared to any person or thing gives us one of the greatest teaching texts in the Bible on the incomparability of God in his person and his acts.

     Such teaching passages (sometimes called "chair passages, or in the Latin, sedes doctrine)1 are excellent opportunities to focus on key aspects of the theological and doctrinal teaching of the Scriptures. Therefore, in preparation for preaching on this passage, we will pause to examine the centrality, significance, and importance of this teaching in the Old Testament. Fortunately, we are helped by a seminal study from some years ago that will stand for a long time to come.

 

A Special Study: On the Incomparability of God

     In 1966, E. J. Brill published a landmark book by C. J. Labuschagne entitled The Incomparability of Yahweh in the Old Testament. In a most remarkable way, it highlighted those qualities of our God that set him apart from all pretenders and claimants to the name of our God. It also emphasized those attributes of God that are most characteristic and fundamental in describing and affirming who he is. Moreover, it drew attention to God's uniqueness and singularity in a polytheistic world. Over and over again, the cry went up from those who had met this Lord that he is beyond comparison, just as those on Mount Carmel did during the days of Elijah, when they cried, "The LORD---he is God! The LORD---he is God!" (1 Kings 18:39). No one could be compared with God, and no one was on his level in any way at all!

     Labuschagne studied the various ways in which God's incomparability is expressed. First, there is the negative expression: "There is none...." A good example of this is I Samuel 2:2.

 

"There is no one holy like the LORD;

there is no one besides you:

there is no Rock like our God.

 

     In Exodus 9:14, this same type of negation is used as the Lord declares that he will send the ten plagues on Egypt and Pharaoh "so that you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth" The same affirmation, set in a similar formula, can be found in Deuteronomy 33:26; 2 Samuel 7:22; 1 Chronicles 17:20; 1 Kings 8:23; Psalm 86:8; and Jeremiah 10:6, 7. Modifications of this formula can be found in Deuteronomy 32:31; 2 Chronicles 14:11; 20:6; Isaiah 46:9; and Jeremiah 10:16. Though the truth is stated in negative terms, the fact remains that God is in a class by himself with no competitors.

     A second formula uses the rhetorical question, "Who is like ... ?" The Lord himself asks this question in Isaiah 44:7 ("Who then is like me?") and in Jeremiah 49:19 ("Who is like me?"). This same question appears in the meaning of a number of names such as Micah, Michael, Mishael, Micaiah, and the like. In these names the interrogative "Who?" is the Hebrew particle mi, and the "as" or "like" is the Hebrew particle represented in English as c, ch, or sh followed by the divine name taking the form of El, or [Y]ah. Seven psalms and ancient songs of Israel use this same rhetorical question. They are: Psalm 35:10 ("Who is like you, 0 Lord?"); 71:19 ("Who, 0 God, is like you?"); 77:13 ("What God is so great as our God?"); 89:8 ("0 LORD God Almighty, who is like you?"); 113:5 ("Who is like the LORD our God?"); Exodus 15:11 ("Who among the gods is like you, 0 LORD?"); and Micah 7:18 ("Who is a God like you?"). In addition to these hymns and songs, we also find Elihu saying in Job 36:22, "Who is a teacher like [our God]?" And Moses asks in Deuteronomy, "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?" (Deut. 4:7) and "For what god is in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do?" (Deut. 3:24). Note that the comparison is not between the gods of the other nations and Yahweh, but between Israel, who has such a great God as her Lord, and the other nations! These are the greatest questions a mortal could ask. But the answer to each one leads to the realization that nothing, indeed no one, compares to the living God revealed both in the Old Testament Scriptures and later on in our Lord Jesus Christ.

     A third way of expressing such incomparability is found in other rhetorical questions besides the one that asks "Who is like ... ?" The reason for this is that the Old Testament delights in using rhetorical questions to designate absolute power, distinctiveness, and outstanding uniqueness. One form of such a question stresses the humbler position of the one asking it in comparison to the Lord himself. For example, Solomon declared in 2 Chronicles 2:6, "But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him?" Likewise, David had offered the same humble judgment as he, too, contemplated building the house for God in 2 Samuel 7:18: "Who am I, 0 sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?" David repeated the same sentiment as he gathered the materials to ready the building of the temple that Solomon would take up on his father's behalf. He decried in 1 Chronicles 29:14, "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?" Something of the same sentiment underlies Psalm 8:4: "What is man that you are mindful of him?" (cf. Ps. 144:3; Job 7:17; 15:14; 40:4). Even when this formula is expressed contemptuously from the mouths of mockers, it still shows how exalted God is beyond all other comparisons. For example, Job disrespectfully inquires, "Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?" (Job 21:15). Job would shortly find out who this incomparably great God is, and he would quickly shut his mouth and remain silent before God. In the same way Pharaoh would learn a similar lesson after he mockingly asked, "Who is the LORD [Yahweh], that I should obey him and let Israel go?" (Exod. 5:2). No different was the king of Assyria's commander, who blurted out, "Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the LORD [Yahweh] deliver Jerusalem from my hand?" (Isa. 36:20; cf. 2 Chron. 32:14). But Moses knew the answer, for in his song in Deuteronomy 32:39 he recorded God's announcement, "See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me."

     Another form of a rhetorical question expects the answer, "None.' The expected answer to all comparisons of incomparable acts by our Lord is: "None but Yahweh alone!" Thus Isaiah asks five questions in Isaiah 40:12 as to who compares to God in his power over nature. There are none who can compare! And in verses 13 and 14 he asks five more questions to see if there are any rivals to God in his wisdom and understanding. Again, there are none (cf. also Deut. 3:24; Prov. 30:4; Job 34:13; 36:23; Eccles. 8:1b). This type of question is exhibited in a large number of passages in the Old Testament. These questions may point to God's unrivaled actions in the past or to deeds that only he can perform (cf. Exod. 4:11; Lam. 3:37).

     One more way this type of question can be asked is, "What does x have in common with y?" Thus Jeremiah inquires, "For what has straw to do with grain? ... Is not my [God's] word like fire ... and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?" (Jer. 23:28-29).

     Finally, the writers of the Old Testament used verbs to denote possible similarity or equality. For example, the verb meaning to

"be in a row;" "be on a line with;" or "be equal with;' in Psalm 40:5 is best translated, "none can equal you;" or "no one can be on a level with you." Likewise, Psalm 89:6 says, "For who in the skies can equal Yahweh?" or who "can be on a level with Yahweh?" Again, in Isaiah 40:18, the prophet asks, "To whom, then, will you compare God? What likeness will you put on a level with him?" And in Isaiah 40:25, the question is still worth asking: "To whom [then] will you compare me, that I should be like him?" (cf. Isa. 46:5; Ps. 89:6).

     It is clear that nothing stands on a par with or in any way rivals or challenges the magnificence and magnitude of the God whom the prophet Isaiah presents in 40:9-31.

     Now let us apply this collection of expressions of unrivaled magnificence as background understanding or appreciation to the study of our first passage.

 

An Exposition of Isaiah 40:9-31

     The best place to start when preparing to teach or preach on a passage is to locate the focal point, or what Haddon Robinson calls the "big idea" of the passage. Invariably, this will be found in a key verse, phrase, or (in a narrative portion) an epitomizing speech or quotation from the lips of one of the speakers in the story. In this prophetic speech passage, the prophet uses the rhetorical question in verses 18 and 25 to ask, "To whom, then, will you compare God?" and "To whom will you compare me?" It is always from the focal point that we are able to derive the topic or subject title for our lesson or sermon. Here it will be: "Magnifying the Incomparability of Our God."

     We note that the literary form of this text is poetical verse rather than prose. For English readers, this also can be seen from the way the English text is set in indented form in many versions. We will not pause here to set out for inspection all the characteristics of Hebrew poetry, but certainly the reader can detect a different feeling as he or she reads this text as opposed to the preceeding chapter of Isaiah.

            In this poetical form, we note that there are three distinctive strophes. Verses 18 and 25, with the repeated rhetorical questions we just noted, easily mark the second and third strophes (which may be thought of as poetic paragraphs). These questions act as headings, or to use the technical term, rubrics, for what follows. In Egypt, headings in a similar type of work would have been inked in red, hence our current term rubric, which is derived from the Latin word for red. The first strophe is not as easily identified, but if verses 9-11 act as an introduction to what follows, giving the topics to be covered, then verses 12-17 would appear to form the first strophe.

     Now that we have determined that there are three strophes that carry out the focus or big idea of this passage (which unusually in this case also double as the rubrics in vv 18 and 25), we must ask how the writer unfolded his thesis or focus. One of the best ways to determine the answer to this question is to ask which of the six interrogatives best fits this text: Who? What? Why? Where? When? or How?

     After trying all six of these interrogatives, I find that "What?" fits best. True, the text also asks "To whom?" will you compare God, but more is raised here than competing persons. One is being asked to match up multiple topics and situations to the magnificence of the one true living God!

     Now I need a homiletical key word that names the element common to each of the strophes. This word must be a noun, for we are going to name something. It will also be a plural noun, for there usually is more than one paragraph, strophe, or scene in a teaching or preaching pericope (i.e., a block of text, in which all the verses deal with the same idea). Not only must this key word be a plural noun, but it also must be an abstract noun. Since we are going to try to formulate principles, it would not be helpful to use a concrete noun. That would land us in an ancient context rather than teaching for our own day, describing only what was said and not allowing us to apply it to the present needs of our hearers. Therefore, we have settled on the homiletical key word of "areas." Thus, our proposition is: "What are the areas that show magnificently that our God is incomparable?" And there are three such areas set forth in the three strophes. Now we are ready to introduce the line of discourse in this text.

     Few things stir one's attention and pique one's interest as do the words "Ladies and Gentlemen: The President of the United States!" followed by the Marine Band playing "Hail to the Chief:" But that is exactly how our passage begins its introduction in verse 9: "Behold your God!" (You will have to imagine the music, for that is found in the poetic structure.) All who bring the good news of the gospel to Zion and Jerusalem are to get up on a high mountain and raise their voices to their loudest pitch with the jubilant presentation: "Hear ye, hear ye! Behold our God! Take one more long, steady look at him in all his magnificence and splendor, for he exceeds all comparisons and any known or unknown rivals."

     The theme is further introduced in verses 10-11, just as some musical pieces set forth their themes in an opening overture. There is the area of his power, for our God will come with power as his "arm" rules for him. Then there is the area of his personhood, for he is alive and he brings his reward and recompense with him. Surely he sees and knows what has been going on in the time prior to his coming. That is because he is a real, living person who has witnessed all that has happened. The last area announced in verses 10-11 is his pastoral care. He is the good shepherd who knows how to treat lambs and hurting ones with gentleness.

     The resulting outline will be:

 

Focal Point: vv 18a, 24a---"To whom, then, will you compare God?"

Homiletical Key Word: Areas

Interrogative: What? (are the areas that show the magnificence of our incomparable God?) Our God is incomparably great:

 

I. In His Power (Isa. 40:12-17)

A. Compared to Nature (v. 12)

B. Compared to Individuals' Wisdom (vv. 13-14)

C. Compared to Nations (v. 15)

D. Compared to Our Models of God's Greatness (vv. 16-17)

II. In His Person (Isa. 40:18-24)

A. Compared to Dead Idols (vv 18-20)

B. Compared to Princes and Nobles (vv. 21-24)

III. In His Pastoral Care (Isa. 40:25-3 1)

A. Compared to Finite Things (vv. 25-26)

B. Compared to Despondent Ones (vv. 27-28)

C. Compared to the Strength of Youths and Draftees (vv. 29-31)

 

I. Our God Is Incomparably Great in His Power (Isa. 40:12-17)

    

     What can rival God's power or produce any sort of challenge that he could not easily overcome and supersede? Ancient Israelites, like modern inhabitants of the global village, must lift their sights and vision, for it is not simply that our God has been the Creator in the past; no, he is the present Regulator of the heavens and all the earth. That is why God's infinite power is exactly what we need for our present comfort and guidance. In fact, were this power of God more deeply seated in our thinking, we would not be so alarmed and disturbed by all the calamities, terrorists, and drug cartels that appear to be ruling and reigning at the present time.

     Compared to Nature. Isaiah posed five questions related to the power and omnipotence of God. He proposed five measuring devices and five items to be measured in order to help us think approximately on the high order of the God who is presently ruling and reigning over all heaven and all earth.

 

     The Measuring Devices        The Items Measured:

The hollow of his hand      the seven seas

A man's hand span           the entire heavens

One-third of a bushel       all the dirt of the earth

A scale for weighing           all the mountains of the world

      A double scale                 all the hills of the world

     ----------------------------------------------------------

    

     Three-fourths of the earth's surface is comprised of the seven oceans, and yet all that could be held in the hollow of God's hand? Really? Yes, in comparison---if we are thinking on the high order of the God of Scripture! Alternatively, think of the vastness of space and all the planets. Is this hugeness reducible to merely the distance from a man's thumb to his small finger? Yes; according to the Hebrew word picture used here and in comparison to the magnificence of the living God, all that space is insignificant. And can all the dirt and soil of the earth be reduced to just a third-of-a-bushel basket? Yes, if we compare that with the greatness of our God! And can all the mountains and hills of the world be dropped onto a steelyard scale, including a mountain almost six miles high named Mount Everest, and God still have no trouble balancing it and all others on the other side of this double scale? That's correct; that is, if we are thinking of God's power correctly and biblically. He is an awesome God, to say the least.

     Oh, if this power of God were only more deeply impressed on our souls! What a difference it would make as we faced all sorts of tests, alarming crises, and the vicissitudes of life!

     Compared to Individuals' Wisdom. But what if we were speaking not just about the power of God? Can we say with equal confidence that what we have ascribed to the power of God also can be said of his wisdom? After all, we have some very powerful computers and some extremely smart individuals on this earth. Will the brilliance of mortals rival in any way that possessed by our God and his omniscience?

     Isaiah asks five more questions to help us get our thinking where it needs to be if we are even to begin approximating the God who is beyond comparison. The five questions are:

 

Has anyone understood God's mind?

Has anyone instructed or counseled him?

Has anyone enlightened the Lord on any matter?

Has anyone taught the Lord the proper way to go?

Has anyone taught him knowledge, or did he go to any of our schools?

 

     What was ascribed to God's power and goodness in the previous section is now attributed to his wisdom and understanding. Just as the heavens, with all of their space, amounted only to the span of a mortal's hand in verse 12, so the same Hebrew word (tikken) is used to mean "to regulate" the mind of God in verse 13. In fact, the apostle Paul quotes verse 13 in Romans 11:34 to deter us from rash, brazen inquiry into the wisdom of God: "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"

     Compared to Nations. But some will protest, "We know that God is all powerful and all wise. But what we worry about are the rogue nations of our present era. Some of them are stupid and would do anything to get their own way." Isaiah gives three similes in verse 15 to show us that all the nations' powers are but a drop in the bucket and like dust on the scales, if not just fine dust! In this manner the greatness of God is not brought forth in an abstract or detached way but in a way that allows us to see that in comparison to our Lord there is nothing that should even come close to worrying us. So, let us not exalt nations or any of their rulers, especially at the expense of diminishing the power, wisdom, goodness, and knowledge of God.

     Compared to Our Models of God's Greatness. At this point we want to shout, "I understand. My view of God is so big, really! Let me show you by making a model of the enormity of my feeling for the incomparability of God. Suppose I take all the fabled cedar trees of Lebanon (comparable to the redwood forests of California) and all the cattle of that same country (comparable, say, to all the long-horned cattle of Texas) and make an offering to the Lord that is fifty miles long and seventy-five miles wide and twenty miles high, with thousands of the choicest cattle on top of it as a burnt offering! Will that not be a model worthy of showing, in a scaled-down version, how amazing this God is?"

     Isaiah has to decline such a model, for it does not even begin to approach the order or magnitude of what we are talking about here. Verse 16 says such a model is "not sufficient!" It is plainly inadequate despite the use and number of such valuable trees and the quantity and size of the animals. Accordingly, he once again summarizes in verse 17 that the nations in all their prestige, power, influence, and resources are "as nothing"; indeed, "less than nothing;" when compared to our God.

 

II. Our God Is Incomparably Great in His Person (Isa. 40:18-24)

    

     Despite all the progress made thus far, Isaiah presses on to demonstrate that God is more than just a doctrine, an idea, or even "the force"; he is a living person. What are we going to put up as an adequate comparison to God? To what image will we compare him? (v.18). Will any of God's rivals, past, present, or future, please stand up and show how they plan to meet such competition?

     Compared to Dead Idols. Modern readers of this text might wish to pass over all teaching on idolatry, believing that this indeed is not our cup of tea. But it is! The essence of idolatry is making some person, place, or thing equal to or superior to the Lord. It could be our ideas, our goals, our programs, our children or grandchildren, or our institutions, but it still is a form of idolatry, even though we may not bow down to a form made out of wood, metal, or ceramic molding called Baal, Asherah, or Anat. Has not Paul told us that evil desires and greed are "idolatry" (Col. 3:5)?

     True, idols are made to appear as if they have value and worth, for a wood-or metalworker shapes them, and then a goldsmith coats them with gold, and silver jewelry is placed on them. For those who are too poor to make such lavish gods, Isaiah has lots of fun offering advice. First of all, one should choose wood that will not rot. It would be devastating to have your deity come down with the rot or termites; it's just plain embarrassing! Oh yes, please get a craftsman who is skilled; some could not make a god if their lives depended on it! One thing more: nail that baby down! To come into your place for devotions in the morning to find your god dashed to pieces on the floor, as did the Philistines at Ashdod (1 Sam. 5), is really disturbing, especially if you did not bring Elmer's Glue to the worship services of your idol! Surely what one needs in an idol, or in any homemade god, is stability. So nail that idol down firmly and securely.

     But God is not made of wood, metal, or any such thing; he is a real, living person. Idols are created by those who reject the living God and go in for imitations and replacements. But there just isn't any match, no matter how one tries to rearrange the facts. True, public opinion has great force, and often what pleases the masses passes for the truth. But such "truth" will eventually come crashing down of its own weight.

     Compared to Princes and Nobles. So we must be asked once again: "Do [we] not know? Have [we] not heard? Has it not been told [to us] from the beginning? Have [we] not understood since the earth was founded?" (v.21). What is it that we have missed so badly? Just this: God is now enthroned in heaven, ruling over all the masses of humanity. It is he who created all the universe, and it is he who now is guiding this world in accordance with the plan he has in mind (v. 22).

     What shall we say for all the dictators, presidents, prime ministers, rulers, and generals currently in charge of things---even to the disruption of the work of the kingdom of God? We will say, according to this text, that God can and does remove princes and rulers of this world so fast that we hardly get to know them. No sooner do they appear than they are swept away into the dustbins of history by this omnipotent God. Thus, royalty and nobility are not exempt from the common lot. To think otherwise is to forget that our God cannot be placed on a par with any of the great leaders this world has or will yet ever see. God's authority and reality, as a person who exceeds the whole lot of all of these rulers combined, cannot be challenged or denied; he is absolute Lord!

 

III. Our God Is Incomparably Great in His Pastoral Care (Isa. 40:25-31)

    

    Compared to Finite Things. We wonder if all we have seen of God so far, with all his power and all his unexcelled personhood, is too high and too transcendent for mortals such as we are. Yet, the final area explored in this passage is the area of God's pastoral care. Despite his magnificent transcendence, he is not so high and exalted that he cannot feel for us and shepherd us---even in our limited nitty-gritty history and geography.

     So the prophet asks us once again, Do we still want to compare God to something besides himself? It seems the prophet lingers too long on this question, especially since there are no obscurities. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to repeat the question over and over again, for you and I tend to be more intimidated and terrified by all the empty masks of our time than we are strengthened by all the promises of the eternal God. We are so bombarded with saying after saying, commercial after commercial, and stories of terror and horror that we forget the eternal verities of the faith. So what do we say? Will we offer any comparisons, theoretically or practically, to the Lord himself?

     Compared to Despondent Ones. In this vein, then, the prophet takes up the cause of all despondent persons who, like Jacob and Israel, say, "My condition, my cause, and my case is disregarded by my God." But why would we be so skeptical and despondent about the promises of God? This is inexcusable. Even if we have not said this out loud, we feel that our personal pain is just too heavy for the Lord.

     What did we think? Did we suddenly think that God is not eternal? Did we think he might have become wearied and exhausted from doing good? (v. 28). God has not fainted (from any neglect of taking food), nor has he diminished in his capacity to take on work. Instead, his grace is all we need. What is true of our Lord is applied by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 to all believers. God knows, according to infallible criteria, when he should interpose his help and strength.

     Compared to the Strength of Youths and Draftees. In fact, just when we grow weary and weak, he supplies out of his fullness the power and strength we need. Why, even the youth and the young men in the prime of life and health stumble and fall all over the place out of exhaustion and weakness. But not this Lord. All true strength comes from him. The power of God comes to its peak thrust just when we are at our weakest point.

     So let us put all our trust and solid confidence ("hope") in the Lord, for that is how men and women, boys and girls, soar like eagles. They take off and fly. In fact, they keep on going, running and walking. Why? Because their help is in the Lord, who cannot be compared in one iota to anyone or anything else! Great is our incomparable God!

     So let us say to the cities of the world: "Hey, listen up all of you inhabitants: take one more steady, long look at our God, for behold he comes with all might, wisdom, and power. Instead of puffing up ourselves, our success, our churches, our institutions, our children, or our intelligence, we must exalt the Lord almighty to whom no one compares or even comes close" Let us sing with the hymn writer and Paul's benediction in 1 Timothy 1:17:

 

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,

     In light, inaccessible hid from our eyes,

Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,

     Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

(Walter C. Smith, "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise")

 

Conclusions

 

1. Why, then, should believers be so frightened and intimidated by all the empty challenges of our day if our Lord is beyond challenge and beyond comparison in his power, person, and pastoral care?

2. Name whatever we might think would be an issue, a problem, a relationship, or a situation that is unsolvable, and this teaching regarding our incomparably great God takes precedence over every competing force we could rally to the cause.

3. But more is called for than a mere cognitive recognition of God's greatness and incomparability; we need to invest our lives, our resources, our children and grandchildren in one of earth's most strategic contests.

4. If our God is a most secure winner on all fronts, why are we so hesitant to commit ourselves and all that we have to him and to his cause? Our proper response is to lay at his feet all that we are and have for the magnification of his name, honor, and success. [23-36]

 

Notes

  1. See Walter C. Kaiser Jr., "Hermeneutics and the Theological Task;" Trinity journal 12 (1991): 3-14, and Kaiser, Toward an Exegetical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1981):131-47, "Theological Analysis:'

 

  1. ISAIAH 40:9-31 NIV

9 You who bring good tidings to Zion,
       go up on a high mountain.
       You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem,
       lift up your voice with a shout,
       lift it up, do not be afraid;
       say to the towns of Judah,
       "Here is your God!"

10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
       and his arm rules for him.
       See, his reward is with him,
       and his recompense accompanies him.

 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
       He gathers the lambs in his arms
       and carries them close to his heart;
       he gently leads those that have young.

 12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
       or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
       Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
       or weighed the mountains on the scales
       and the hills in a balance?

 13 Who has understood the mind of the LORD,
       or instructed him as his counselor?

 14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,
       and who taught him the right way?
       Who was it that taught him knowledge
       or showed him the path of understanding?

 15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
       they are regarded as dust on the scales;
       he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.

 16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
       nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.

 17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
       they are regarded by him as worthless
       and less than nothing.

 18 To whom, then, will you compare God?
       What image will you compare him to?

 19 As for an idol, a craftsman casts it,
       and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
       and fashions silver chains for it.

 20 A man too poor to present such an offering
       selects wood that will not rot.
       He looks for a skilled craftsman
       to set up an idol that will not topple.

 21 Do you not know?
       Have you not heard?
       Has it not been told you from the beginning?
       Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

 22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
       and its people are like grasshoppers.
       He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
       and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

 23 He brings princes to naught
       and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

 24 No sooner are they planted,
       no sooner are they sown,
       no sooner do they take root in the ground,
       than he blows on them and they wither,
       and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

 25 "To whom will you compare me?
       Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One.

 26 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
       Who created all these?
       He who brings out the starry host one by one,
       and calls them each by name.
       Because of his great power and mighty strength,
       not one of them is missing.

 27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
       and complain, O Israel,
       "My way is hidden from the LORD;
       my cause is disregarded by my God"?

 28 Do you not know?
       Have you not heard?
       The LORD is the everlasting God,
       the Creator of the ends of the earth.
       He will not grow tired or weary,
       and his understanding no one can fathom.

 29 He gives strength to the weary
       and increases the power of the weak.

 30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
       and young men stumble and fall;

 31 but those who hope in the LORD
       will renew their strength.
       They will soar on wings like eagles;
       they will run and not grow weary,
       they will walk and not be faint.

 

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