One of the well-remembered verses from the Book of Isaiah is Isaiah 40:31. You can probably quote it now without looking. That verse was written during a time when God’s people had turned away from Him and had received His judgment. Their situation was bleak, and trouble was brewing from both the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The people had varied thoughts about their situation and about God. And so Isaiah was sent to write them these words which would comfort them in their difficult times.
It would be nice to spend our time just talking about that verse, but it will probably make more sense if we know the context from what God says in the verses preceding it. As we look at those verses, we will ask three questions about God and find some wonderful truths.
- Is God limited in his jurisdiction? (Isa. 40:18-24)
The people of Isaiah’s day must have thought that their current judgment from God indicated his inability to help them in certain situations. In other words, God was limited. But is this true? Is God limited to only helping people in Israel? No, He is not limited to where He can work. To what could they compare God?
He is not a man-made idol (18-20).
For those who thought God was limited in his jurisdiction, Isaiah brings up the idea of an idol which is limited. He talks about “one made of metal by a craftsman and then overlaid with gold and decorated with silver ornaments, and another selected by a poor man from wood and fashioned so that it will not fall over.”1 He purposely makes the idol seem lifeless and ineffective because that is what they are. And those who thought that God was limited were treating God as an idol instead of the Almighty God.
He is sovereign over all people (21-24).
Isaiah continues his point by showing how much different God is than an idol. Instead of being a created lump of metal or wood, God sits above the world and the people below are like grasshoppers to Him. He is so much bigger than people that it is as if he can use the heavens for a tent. Obviously, these statements are poetic terms to show how big God is. Nobody compares to Him. Princes and judges are nothing to God. They are put in place for a moment and then are removed.
As we consider “the greatest election of our lifetime,” remember that God is not impressed. We seem to think that every election is going to make a big difference, and it rarely does. Those who promise good or bad rarely accomplish anything. But their position is ultimately God’s doing. God puts people in place and can just as easily remove them.
During Isaiah’s lifetime, the people were frightened by kings like Ahab and countries like Assyria and Babylon. Today, we hear reports about China and Russia and can be worried about what could happen. But should we be worried? I don’t mean concerned, but worried. Is God limited in his ability to take care of His children? I think not.
- Does God have an equal? (Isaiah 40:25-26)
Once again, God asked what He could be compared to or be equal to. Is there anyone who is equal to God? Think of the most powerful people in the world: the US president, Putin of Russia, Xi of China, etc. These people have a lot of power and could send nuclear missiles hurtling across the globe. But how does that compare to God? Isaiah lists three things about God based on His relationship to the stars.
He created all the stars (26a).
Isaiah called on his readers to look into the sky at night. When you look at the starry sky in a dark area, it is amazing to look at all the stars. There are more than can be counted. I would imagine that each of those stars represents a solar system with planets circling a sun. The immensity of our own solar system is huge. How much more the ones represented by the stars in the sky.
Who made all of those stars? God did. What does this say about God? If God made all of those stars, He must be bigger than them. And He must be bigger than anyone on earth as well. Nobody is as big as God.
He knows all the stars (26b).
Isaiah also says that God brings out the stars and knows all of their names. To be in charge of bringing them out indicates that God controls their paths and keeps them going in their proper directions. He is in control. But He also knows their names. Can you imagine keeping track of all the names of the stars? At some point, you would forget, but God does not.
This ought to remind us of God’s knowledge of each of us. Of all the billions of people living today, God knows each person by name. None of us is unknown to God.
He cares for all the stars (26c).
The last thing Isaiah says about the stars is that God’s great power keep each of the stars from disappearing. “None of them is missing.” God is not some weak human who can look up at the stars and name a few, He is the God who makes sure that each of them is in its proper place at all times.
Now let’s get back to our second question: Does God have an equal? To answer that question, we must ask if we know anyone who has created the stars, knows all their names, and who keeps them in place. The answer is nobody. Nobody is equal to God. Knowing this ought to help us as we consider the next question.
- Is God able to help you? (Isa. 40:27-32)
After realizing that God is not limited in his jurisdiction and that God has no equal, the natural question is whether God can take care of us. The answer should be obvious, but let’s talk about it a bit as we look at the end of the chapter.
He is not oblivious to your needs (27).
The people thought that God didn’t know about their troubles. Instead of viewing God as the omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent God, they were thinking that God was oblivious. That doesn’t make sense—especially considering the things we saw about God in this chapter. “His covenant people should never think God did not see or remember them.”1
“It is easy, when distress or suffering becomes prolonged, to think that God has forgotten or is indifferent to what one is going through. But this is always wrong. He is ever concerned about His people, and in His own time will give deliverance; and until then His grace is available to sustain and strengthen the soul, that one may endure as seeing Him who is invisible.”2
If God knows all the leaders of the world and knows all the stars’ names. don’t you think that He knows about you and your troubles? If you are under the impression that God doesn’t know your troubles, I hope that your mind is changed as you read this. God does know and does care.
He is not too tired to help (28).
This afternoon, I had a sinus headache. Sometimes that causes me to need a nap before anything can be accomplished. God who is everlasting and who created everything doesn’t have these same problems. He doesn’t faint from hard circumstances. He doesn’t ever feel weary. And He understands everything about everything. He can help us in our troubles.
He is able to strengthen you (29-31).
Unlike God, each of us goes through times of weakness. At times, we lack the strength to accomplish our daily duties. That is where God comes in. He is able to provide power for the weak. When all others fail (youth or young men included) those who wait on the Lord will be given the strength to persevere.
What is waiting on the Lord? Waiting on the Lord is a patient endurance that comes from trusting God to handle those difficulties and then letting Him do just that. “As we wait for Him in patience we are delivered from worry and fretfulness, knowing that God is never late, but that in His own time He will give the help we need.”3
Let’s go back to our third question: Is God able to help you? Maybe you are considering a problem in your life that always seems to get the best of you. Maybe you are wondering how you can endure your current situation. Maybe you think that you won’t have the strength to make it through this next week. In all of those things, we must ask ourselves the question: Is God able to help me?
Our God is not limited in any way. Our God is unequalled in power, knowledge, and ability. Can God help me? Yes, He can. And the sooner we realize that and really believe it, the sooner peace will come, and the sooner we will gain His strength to keep going.
1 Martin 1093.
2 Ironside 243.
3 Ironside 244.
Ironside, H. A., Expository Notes on the Prophet Isaiah, Neptune: Loizeaux Brothers, 1952.
Leupold, H. C., Exposition of Isaiah, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977.
Martin, John A., “Isaiah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989.