A God Big Enough to Get Personal

"The Crucifixion: As Seen from the Cross" by James I. Tissot
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“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:28-29).
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
When Henry Norris Russell, Princeton astronomer, had concluded a lecture on the Milky Way, a woman came to him and asked: “If our world is so little, and the universe is so great, can we believe that God pays any attention to us?”
Dr. Russell replied, “That depends, madam, entirely on how big a God you believe in.”[i]
How big is your God? Is He big enough to create everything out of nothing and to keep it going with only His Word? Is He big enough that the sky serves as His tent and the inhabitants of the earth look like so many grasshoppers as He looks down from his heavenly throne? Is He big enough to move the rulers of world like so many chess pieces? Is He big enough to know the hearts and minds of His people? Is He big enough to care? Is He big enough to get personal?
 Apart from God’s revelation of Himself, none of us would know much about Him. Oh, we can look at creation and know that there must be a God who created these things. We can get a glimpse of His power and majesty. But we can’t really know what He is like, or what He thinks about us.  
This has led humans to fashion their own gods out of their puny, limited imaginations. In Isaiah’s day they created idols out of wood and precious metals. Though we think ourselves too enlightened for such silly, superstitious images, that doesn’t mean that we don’t make our own gods. In fact, the gods of our contemporary world are really no different in essence from theirs.
The god that so many fashion today appears as a tolerant old grandfather in the sky who smiles when we do good. He forgets and excuse our moral lapses. He accepts everyone and embraces them in his fatherly arms. He does not threaten punishment for anyone except the most heinous criminal. But that’s an idol as surely as the images of Baal and Dagon. It’s a far different god from the one Isaiah describes in our text—a God of holiness and justice. We have fashioned a god in our image and molded him to be the way that we want him to be. But, if we can create our own god, how big can He really be? What can He really do for us?
The four questions that open our text are blunt challenges to all of us who seek to create God in our own image. “Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?”  
God has not hidden Himself.  He has revealed Himself from the beginning. He talked with Adam and Eve in the garden. After they sinned, He continued to speak to them. Though He warned them of the consequences of their sins, He also revealed the promise of a Savior to come. He spoke to Noah before and after the destruction of the sinful world by the flood. God came to Abraham and promised him that the world would be blessed through Seed. God met Moses on the mountain and gave him the Law, which reveals His holy will. God made sure that what Moses and later writers wrote was His Word, not their own speculation. God inspired them, giving them the very words they were to write.
The truth has always been available. But the human mind has been so darkened by sin that it cannot imagine God as He truly is. God pictures Himself as the Creator and Ruler of the world. He sits high above the world He created. He stretched out the heavens as easily as one would pitch a tent. God is not created but uncreated and eternal, without beginning and without end. He is separate and different from the world He created. He is holy, infinite, perfect, and changeless.
In comparison, we humans are like so many grasshoppers. Because of sin, we are nothing like God. We are finite, temporal, and imperfect, subject to changes of all kinds, limited in our knowledge and understanding, and mortal. What arrogance for us to fashion our own God!  If we want to know about the one true God, we must humbly listen to what He tells us about Himself.
The one true God asks: “To whom then will you compare Me, that I should be like him?” God, the Holy One who is high above and separate, has always wanted His creatures to know who He is and what He has done. He is big enough to get personal. Through His Word, God instructs men and women in the mysteries of His love for the world and its inhabitants.
First, we are directed to look to the heavens and the stars. We know the answer to the question “Who created all these?” God did, of course, but God did not simply create the universe and then leave it alone. He continues to care for it. Astronomers and astrologers study the movements of the stars in the vast expanse of the universe, but God determines the movement. He controls the movement of the stars as a general would control his army.
What a contrast to those who think that the stars control their destinies and who consult their horoscopes to discover what life will bring them. God controls the stars; not vice versa. But God does not control them with impersonal detachment. Each of the stars of heaven have God’s personal attention; not one of them is missing without His knowledge. He calls them all by name, as a father would call His children by name. So powerful, vast, and loving is our God.
Still, God’s people are not beyond complaining that such a powerful and boundless God has forgotten them. All too often we fail to depend on God’s power and tender interest in the affairs of His created world. Therefore the Lord says through His prophet: “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Jacob and Israel are names for God’s people that recall the love of God and the origins of God’s Old Testament people. God cared for Jacob, blessed him, and protected him. God wrestled with him and changed his name to Israel. Then God repeated the promise made to Abraham and Isaac that the Savior would come through his descendants. All this God did out of grace and mercy. Jacob did not deserve any of it. Neither did Jacob’s descendants. As they became the nation of Israel and left Egypt, God continued to care for them. He delivered them from Pharaoh through the Red Sea. He led them through the wilderness by pillar of cloud and fire. He brought them through the Jordan and into the Promised Land. God marked every phase of their history with His gracious care and providence.
In view of God’s loving care, the complaints of His people are groundless. If God can call the stars by name, He certainly can care for His people. If God had demonstrated such love for the ancestors of His people, He will continue to care for His people now. God has pledged Himself to His people. He has bound Himself to them by promise. No matter what difficulties they face, He is powerful enough to care for them. He loves them too much to abandon them.
This message was important for the Jews who would be led away captive by the Babylonians. In the midst of their tears and heartache, God wanted them to remember that He was in control and continued to love them.
The lesson is just as important for us to remember. We are God’s people, not by blood but by faith in Jesus Christ, nevertheless, we are no less prone to complain when things go badly. God loves us not just when all goes well. He loves us always. He has His own reason for allowing trouble, pain, and tears into our lives. And He promises that He works all things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Whatever circumstances you might find yourself in today, remember that He is almighty and all knowing. You can trust Him to do the best for you. He loves you too much to do anything less.
To remind us of this, the Lord repeats two questions: “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” These questions direct us back to what God reveals about Himself in the Scriptures. That’s where we can discover who God is—in His Word. There God reveals Himself as “the Lord,” Yahweh, the God of free and faithful grace. This covenant-God reveals Himself to be the true God.
Here, the Lord reveals four important truths about Himself. First, He is the Creator. He has unlimited power and uses that power for the benefit of His creatures. He gave them life and provided a beautiful world in which to live.
Second, He does not become tired or weary. His power was not exhausted by creation nor does He grow tired caring for that world He called into existence.
Third, He is beyond human ability to grasp and understand. He is holy and unique. God must reveal Himself if we are to know anything about Him beyond the fact that He exists and He is great.
Fourth, God gives strength to the weary and weak. God turns Himself toward His creatures. He gives blessings to them out of love for them.
Humans are much different; we are not as big as God. We are creatures, not the Creator. We grow weary and weak. We can understand some things, but we are often confused and ignorant. We must learn; God knows all things. We stumble and fall, grow weary and tired; but God promises to give us strength.
How can we receive such a gift from the Lord? Our text provides the answer: “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” Faith in the Lord brings this strength. When we rely on our own strength, we will stumble. When we trust in the Lord for strength, He gives it.
What wonderful comfort for all “who wait for the Lord”! The entire life of God’s people—our walking, running, and soaring—is filled with the boundless and tireless strength of God. Even in death, we mount on eagle’s wings and soar to God in heaven, when God gives us joy forever.
All of this finds its ultimate fulfillment in Christ. God has been revealing Himself to man throughout human history. He has revealed His splendor and majesty in the magnificence of His creation. He has revealed His love and grace through His holy Word. Now He reveals Himself in Christ.
Jesus Christ is the ultimate Word and the perfect revelation of God. Jesus is the ultimate proof that God is big enough to get personal. And, I mean that literally. Jesus is the Lord Himself, who took on human flesh to take your place. He lived the perfect, obedient life that you could not live. He suffered and died on the cross to pay for your sins. He rose again on the third day, that you might have the certainty of the resurrection of your own body unto life everlasting. And now ascended into heaven, He promises to be with you always to the end of the age.
If you focus only on the circumstances of your life and look within yourself for strength, you will eventually fall into despair. You will see nothing but trials and troubles. You will see only your sin and the judgment you deserve. But our Lord bids you to lift up your head, to wait on the Him and His strength. He sets forth His Word and with it gives Himself to you, so that all things of His are yours and you, on the other hand, may cast your weakness off on Christ.
You are a sinner, but Christ is righteous. You are poor, but Christ is rich. You are foolish, but Christ is wise. If you are a captive, Christ is present to set you free. If you are forsaken, Christ takes you to Himself. If you are cast down, Christ consoles you. If you are weary, Christ refreshes you. Finally, He pours Himself out for you altogether, to redeem you and make you His own.
Jesus is a God big enough to get personal. And He does so today in His means of grace. Christ comes to you personally in His preached Word, calling you repentance through His Law and comforting you with His Gospel. In Baptism, He makes you a child of God and a co-heir with Christ, washing away your sin clothing you with His righteousness. In Holy Communion, the Lord feeds you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. Through His called and ordained servant He absolves you of all your sins. Indeed, it is my pleasure to proclaim to you today this Good News: You are forgiven of all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[i] Tan, P. L. (1979; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1997). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers (electronic ed.). Garland TX: Bible Communications.


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