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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 40:12-17

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, May 13, 2008

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?

Paul quotes this passage in Romans 11:34 and 1 Corinthians 2:16. There is a proverb that also points us in the same direction: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). But the point isn’t “Oh, look, God is just so much bigger than us and we can never understand him so look at how dumb we are.” No—the point is, by all human calculations, we should stand condemned for our sins. But we can’t put boundaries on God, and we will never fathom his mercy.

God’s mercy surges up and washes over us, tearing away at all of the sin in our lives. There is no protection when it comes to sin versus God (Numbers 14:9). There is only protection in God’s mercy (Joshua 20:3). The foxholes of our rebellion, the fields of our iniquity and the huts and temporary shelters of our sins are wiped away by the unstoppable tide of God’s forgiveness, and he has brought us into the protection of his walls forever.

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. (NIV)

Isaiah points our attention up to the scoreboard: All the nations of the earth, zero; God, infinity. And it isn’t as if we don’t know the final score before the game is over. There’s no question at all. We put our trust in God, who has already won the victory for us, the victory over sin, over the devil, and even over the grave. No matter what minor victory the devil may think he wins, God is already in the winner’s circle. And he brings us along with him by giving us the trust in him that we need.

I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

(Martin Luther’s Small Catechism: Explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed).

NOTE ABOUT VERSE 12: The “span” is the breadth of the hand with the fingers splayed far apart. This was the measurement of the breastplate that the high priest wore with twelve precious stones for each of the twelve tribes (Exodus 28:16, 39:9). So the image is of God laying out his hand and getting the entire sky within his grasp.      The verse also mentions a “scales” (Hebrew peles) and a “balance” (Heb. me’oznaim). These are simply different parts of what we would think of as a typical scale. The peles is the beam that swings, and the two me’oznaim are the pans that hold the items being measured.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.