God on Trial
Isaiah 40:12-17, 21-26
Dr. Jim Denison
A schoolteacher injured his back and had to wear a plaster cast around the upper part of his body. It fit under his shirt and was not noticeable at all.
On the first day of the term, still with the cast under his shirt, he found himself assigned to the toughest students in the school. Walking confidently into the rowdy classroom, he opened the windows as wide as possible and then busied himself with deskwork. When a strong breeze made his tie flap, he took the desk stapler and stapled the tie to his chest.
He had no discipline problems with any of his students that year.
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche claimed that the “will to power” is the basic drive in human nature.
We want more money, more fame, more status, more success, not for what they are in themselves, but as a means to power. Every crime is an expression of power. Nearly every item in the news reduces to a quest for power. Who will be in charge in Iraq? Who will win in Israel? Who will be governor of California, or the Democratic nominee for president? Who will have the power?
Faith reduces to this question: will I trust God’s power, or seek my own? Will I make Jesus the King of my ambitions, my future, my money, my family and friends, my life? Or am I on the throne, using faith and worship as a means to my end?
Judah is captive in Babylon. Does this mean their God is powerless? That he cannot or will not help his people? He is on trial, in the minds and faith of his people. Our text is a defense attorney’s speech on behalf of his client. He tells them, and us, why we should trust the power of God. Why we should make him King of our lives, our problems, our resources, our present and future. Let’s join the jury and listen in.
He is Lord of creation (vs. 12-14)
First, the attorney claims that the God on trial creates and controls all that exists. That he is Lord of all the universe. Therefore, he is God, and they are not. What data does he enter into evidence?
One: he is Lord of the oceans (v. 12a). He has “measured” them, a word which means that he has them under his complete understanding and control. And we do not.
The world’s oceans average 12,230 feet in depth, with a total volume of 322,280,000 cubic miles. How heavy are they? Each cubic mile of seawater weighs 4.7 billion tons. That’s what this God measures in the “hollow of his hand.”
By contrast, the deepest anyone has gone into the ocean without assistance and lived to tell about it was 236 feet, the dive of one Umberto Pelizzari in 1992. That’s just slightly longer than one New York City block. Who is more powerful, God or us?
Two: he is Lord of the “heavens,” the air and the universe beyond it (v. 12b). The part we can see is 90 billion trillion miles across. All the visible stuff in our solar system fills less than a trillionth of the available space. There are approximately 200 billion stars in just our galaxy. If you were randomly inserted into the universe, the chances that you would be on or near a planet would be less than one in a billion trillion trillion. That’s how large this universe is. But God measures it with the palm of his hand. Who is more powerful, God or us?
Three: this God is Lord of the earth, that he holds the dust of our planet in a basket (v. 12c).
We’re dealing with entities like protons, so small that the dot on an “i” in your Bible can hold 500 billion of them.
They make up atoms, which are somewhat larger. Find a “dash” in your Bible. An atom is to that dash as the thickness of a sheet of paper is to the Empire State Building. God holds and controls all of that.
And that he weights the mounts and hills of our planet in his balance as well (v. 12d). We’re dealing with 5.97 billion trillion metric tons. Who is more powerful, God or us?
Now the attorney claims that this God designed all of that, in far greater complexity than we can possibly imagine (vs. 13-14).
One cubic centimeter of air, about the size of a sugar cube, contains 45 billion billion molecules. What’s more, every atom you possess has passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms across the universe’s history, before becoming you. I learned this week that a billion of your atoms probably belonged to Shakespeare, and another billion to Buddha, and Genghis Khan, and Beethoven, and George Washington, and any other historical figure you care to name.
By contrast, I read recently that the average American rush-hour driver wastes 51 hours sitting in traffic each year. Now, who’s smarter, God or us?
You’d be pleased today if Warren Buffett were to volunteer to guide your investment strategy, or Tiger Woods agreed to give you golf instruction; if Pete Sampras were to be your tennis coach, Don Nelson agreed to coach your son or daughter in basketball, or Bill Parcells volunteered to help you turn around a business or a team. This almighty God of the universe is available and ready, right now, to guide your steps, direct your decisions, and give your life greater joy and purpose than you can imagine. But only if he is your King. Only if you agree.
He is Lord of the nations (vs. 15-17, 21-24)
Now the defense attorney claims that this God who creates and controls the universe is also Lord of our planet, of our nations, of our people. Of your life and mine.
He regards the nations and all their power as “dust on the scales,” as “fine dust” (v. 15). The world’s armies comprise some 22 million soldiers. The world’s economy produces some $18 trillion a year. All this is “nothing,” “worthless,” and “less than nothing” to this God (v. 17). When we learn that he measures the entire universe with the palm of his hand, we can see why.
Our people are “grasshoppers” to him (v. 22). He brings our rulers “to naught,” reducing them “to nothing” (v. 23); “he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff” (v. 24).
In the last century, at least 17 nations ceased to exist. One, the Soviet Union, became fifteen new countries, a phenomenon many of us never expected to see.
God controls the affairs of men on a level we seldom recognize at the time. For instance, on the morning of August 13, 1961, soldiers built a wall some 28 miles in length and 15 feet in height, on the border of East Berlin and West Berlin. Across the next 28 years, 80 would die at the Berlin Wall, and 119 would be wounded in their attempt to escape to the freedom of the West. But God was still Lord.
He proved it. In 1969, during the height of the Communist oppression, the authorities ordered a TV tower to be constructed in Alexanderplatz, East Berlin. It rose to a height of 1197 feet. When it was first unveiled, to the horror of the authorities, the sun’s reflection produced the clear image of the cross. The cross, suspended high over Communist East Berlin. Just one reminder that God is on his throne.
On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. I have a piece of it in my study. This week’s news brought reports of interest in preserving part of the wall as an historic monument, before it is completely gone. But the cross over Alexanderplatz remains. Because God is Lord of the nations.
The defense attorney concludes his remarks: “‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One. 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” (vs. 25-26). “Great power and mighty strength,” indeed.
Now the defense rests. Who is more powerful—God or us? Who is better able to direct our lives, give us purpose and significance, use our time, money, and abilities—God or us? Who should be the King of our lives and our days—God or us?
We have learned this fall that the God we worship is holy, thus deserving of our veneration and praise; he is forgiving, so that he will cleanse us of every sin we confess and make us able to come into his presence; he is love, so that he will answer our every prayer and meet our needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
Now we learn that he is powerful—the Lord of the universe, of our planet, of our nation, of our lives. We relate this fact today to worship at the point of our possessions.
The “offertory” has been part of worship since the beginning of time. Every ancient culture worshiped a god or gods, and always brought to their deities offerings, sacrifices, gifts. The Jews made offerings central to their worship, and the early church brought this tradition into our faith.
And so we receive an offering each week during worship. Not to pay the bills of the church, for there are other ways to receive money for such needs. We do this to bring our gifts to God. To return to him part of what he has given to us. To trust him with our money and our needs. To make him the King of our possessions and our lives.
Starting next Sunday, we will move our offertory time in the worship service to make it as meaningful as God intends for it to be. It will follow the sermon and the invitation, and give each of us opportunity to use this time to respond to what we’ve heard and done. Time to give our money, but also our hearts. Time to confess our sins, to intercede with God for our needs, to trust God with our lives. Time to do business with the God of the universe, and to make him our King again this week.
Through this time we will give God control of our money and our lives. We will return to him the tithes and offerings which his word asks of us, so that he can use them to advance his gospel and his Kingdom around the world. We will also yield to him that which we do not give, and make him King of our resources and our lives.
Such a decision is the most intelligent way we can respond to the Lord of the universe. To put him in charge of our lives is to live the very best lives we can know. How can we do less?
Bill Bright was one of the most influential Christians of the last 100 years. The Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ and developer of the “Four Spiritual Laws” tract, he also produced the Jesus film which has been seen by billions across the globe.
Dr. Bright died on July 19th of this year, from lung disease. Last year, speaking at the Southern Baptist Convention, he explained the secret to his life of service and effectiveness: “We’re crucified with Christ; we’re buried with Him; we’re raised with Him. Galatians 2:20 tells us, ‘I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me. The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.’
“This must be the pattern for our lives as well. In 1951, God led my wife, Vonette, and me to sigh a contract to be slaves of Jesus. I’d never heard of that being done, but it made a lot of sense. I was in business, and I signed a lot of contracts. But this was to be the most important contract Vonette and I would ever be involved in.
“We wrote it out one Sunday afternoon. At the time, I was in business, going to seminary, and had great dreams of serving the Lord Jesus—even though I didn’t know for sure where or how.
“About 24 hours later—after we had signed the contract—God, in a special way which words can never describe, gave me a vision we call Campus Crusade for Christ. Had there been no contract, in my opinion, there never would have been a vision. The vision followed the total, absolute surrender of our lives to the Lordship of Christ.
“The number one problem you and I will ever have goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. It is ego—self. Every problem that you can think of in your personal life, with your family, at your church goes back to self. We demand our rights and desires. All of that must be crucified with Christ.
“Every time self rears its ugly head we start to ask, ‘Why don’t people respect me more?’ ‘Why don’t they take me more seriously?’ ‘Why is this person criticizing me?’ ‘Why am I going through these experiences?’ The only solution is to die to self. In death, we find Christ truly is victor over all. . . .
“I can tell you that the last year of my life has been the most fruitful, productive and most joyful year—even though I’m on oxygen 24-hours a day. Circumstances do not contribute to misery. It’s our lack of understanding of who God is and His wonderful Holy purpose for us that frustrates so many. And the flesh rears its ugly head—always reminding us that we have our rights.
“Yet, you and I have no rights. We are dead. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God. We’ve been purchased with a price, the precious blood of the Lord Jesus. To surrender yourself totally, irrevocably, without reservations to the living Christ is the greatest privilege man can know in this life.
“To live the self-centered life is to live in self-imposed spiritual poverty. I’m eighty-one years old, and even though I’ve preached for many years, I’m just now beginning to truly understand the importance of being dead to Bill Bright
“Bill Bright has no rights in my life. Christ has purchased me. I belong to him. Now every morning you and I must get on our knees and acknowledge we belong to Jesus Christ. Only then can true revival begin.”
Bill Bright signed a contract to be the “slave” of Jesus. To put his life completely in the powerful hands of the Lord of the universe. Did he make the right decision?