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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Perseverance: A Choice of LIFE

James, the brother of Jesus and a major leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem, wrote his letter to the first century Christians spread out in the Roman Empire. You note this when he addresses his letter to the “twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad.” This letter speaks on how to be a Christian. James jumped straight into this task.
            James began his word of instruction with verse two and drew the reader and hearer to the realities of being a Christian: the testing of your faith. Before this, though, he reminded us to that which Christians are to cling: joy. James said in verse 2, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” A question arises upon hearing/reading this: how and why would you experience joy when you are facing difficult times? The answer James gave was that it produces endurance (vs.2). In case someone asks why anyone would want to produce endurance, James provided that answer in verse 4. He said, “so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” In verse 12, he reiterated this, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” Verse 18 goes even further in explaining why God allows hard times to happen to us. It says, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” James said, through these trials and tests God allows you to go through them to grow you and make you stronger in your faith. This growth brings you closer each time to being more Christlike. This is why you can count it all joy; you are being made more like Christ. In addition, you acknowledge that your end on earth, as a Christian, is not your eternal end. God is your Father and promised you eternal life in His kingdom.
            Before we get ahead of ourselves though, we must return to verse two. James said we must endure or persevere so that we may be perfect and complete. Peter said in 2 Peter 1:5-7 perseverance comes from diligence, faith, moral excellence, knowledge, and self-control. We must grow from our diligence in believing to apply the lessons of Christ in our lives so that we become moral, knowledgeable, and self-controlled. Perseverance comes from knowing the Lord, following His commands, and living by allowing the Holy Spirit to control our words and actions. Without God’s commands and promises and without the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, we cannot persevere. We must allow God to be our life first before we can achieve endurance. Let us understand the definition of endurance/perseverance. In the Greek, perseverance is hupomone. According to Strong’s New Testament Greek Lexicon, hupomone is the characteristic of a person who is not swerved from his or her deliberate purpose and his or her loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings. Perseverance is a patient, steadfast waiting and stance.
We must answer questions about perseverance now. What is it? Why do we have to go through trials? Why should we persevere? How do we get the strength to persevere? Why do people joyfully persevere? Strong's shows the answer to what is perseverance in his definition. A biblical reference is Revelation 14:12. This passage tells us, “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” Saints, Christians, are those people who keep the commandments of God and keep their faith in Jesus. That is what James said in chapter 1:5 when He spoke of asking for wisdom. Peter spoke of it in 1 Peter 1:5 when he said to add goodness and knowledge to your faith. Faith is great; faith in Jesus Christ is what saves you and keeps you, but you must add to it goodness, knowledge, and wisdom. These come from the commandments of the Godhead through Jesus’ life - words and actions. Without a firm faith in Jesus, bolstered by His teachings on inner attitudes and outer actions, we cannot stand strong and persevere through trials.
Our next question arises. Why do we have to go through trials and temptations? There are two reasons, positive and negative. First, we go through trials because we are followers of Jesus. Jesus said in Matthew 10:22, "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” [NASB]. In John 15:18 & 20, "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you…Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” [NASB]. Because we are followers of Jesus, people persecute and try us. People who are not believers do not understand and will mock and try us. On the positive side, our privilege is to go through trials because we have our reward in heaven. We know where we will be when God’s kingdom comes. Luke 6:22-23 says, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets” [NASB]. We have a reward, which nothing and no one can take from us, and we can persevere through trials and temptations knowing this.
This leads us to our next question: Why should we persevere? Luke 6:22-23 above gives us the best reason. We should persevere because we have a reward in heaven. James 1:12 tells us, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” [NASB]. This crown of life is that which Paul spoke of when athletes run the race (1 Corinthians 9:25). The crown will not be a crown of laurel in imitation of the crown of gold an earthly king wears, but it will be an imperishable crown because it comes from the immortal God. This is the crown given to each of God’s children in heaven when He commends them as the master in the parable did when he said, “Well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23, [NASB]). Hebrews 10:36 tells us why, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” [NASB]. We need to persevere to be approved by God, to receive our crown in God’s kingdom, and to be seen as Jesus’ followers.
How do we get the strength to persevere in the face of trials and temptations? Second Peter 1:5-6 tells us, as stated in the last paragraph. We persevere through faith, knowledge, moral excellence, and self-control. The people who have these are the good soil of which Luke spoke in Luke 8:15. They will endure because they “heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” [NASB]. This says those who go through these hard times have faith, moral excellence, and they are growing in the Word, bearing fruit. Hebrews says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (12:1 [NASB]). We must give up anything that keeps us from following Jesus closely and we must not succumb to sin so that we can run the race with endurance. This chapter also encourages us to endure because so many faithful followers have run the race before us, endured, and await us in heaven for our reward.
How do people joyfully persevere? James said to “consider it all joy” when the testing of your faith produces endurance (1:2). Luke 21:19 says, “By your endurance you will gain your lives” [NASB]. Paul said in Romans 5:2b-5, “We exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” [NASB]. Paul stated further in 1 Corinthians 6:4 & 10, “…in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses… as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things” [NASB]. Hope and perseverance are tied together, thus, joy is tied to perseverance. Joy comes from God. It comes in knowing God is in control and we are His children. How can we joyfully persevere? We do this by recognizing God is all-powerful and in control. Nothing can remove us from His hands, protection, or strength.
Let us return to James 1. James said,
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials (and temptations), knowing that the testing (the proving or trying) of your faith (your conviction of truth, Christ is the Son of God) produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect (mature/virtuous) and complete (free from sin, faultless), lacking in nothing, (5) But if any of you lacks wisdom (the knowledge and practice of the requisites for godly and upright living), let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach (without finding fault), and it will be given. (6) But, he must ask in faith, without any doubting, (a repetition for emphasis; with a hope that is grounded in who God is), for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. (7) For that man (human being) ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord (8) being a double-minded (doubting, hesitating) man, unstable (inconstant, restless) in all his ways (course of conduct). (12) Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial and temptation; for once he has been approved (passed the test; accepting, pleasing); he will receive the crown of life (immortality and a more perfect body). (Italics and bold type are my emphasis.) (James 1:2-7, 12 [NASB])
Perseverance comes through faith, knowledge of God the Father and Jesus, and their commands, and hope. Without the strength of almighty God keeping us strong through His Holy Spirit who dwells in us as Christians, we would falter and maybe fail to endure. We endure because Jesus endured persecution. We endure because He told His disciples the world hated Him and they would hate us, His disciples. We endure because God promises us hope of eternal life, a better life, in His kingdom. We persevere joyfully because God holds us up; we are not standing alone. We persevere joyfully because God is faithful to His promises. We persevere because we know God and recall His word in Romans 8:35-39, which says:
35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." 37 But in all these things, we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. [NASB]
Perseverance comes through knowledge, wisdom, faith, and self-control, which comes from God. Perseverance ultimately comes from God because we know, as Paul stated in Romans 8, nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Now, we have to ask ourselves a question. Do we believe in Jesus and know we can rely fully upon Him for the strength to endure? If you are not yet a Jesus-follower, now is the time to acknowledge Him as God’s Son, believe that He died to save you from your sins, and confess your sins to Him accepting His forgiveness and gift of eternal life. God will give you the faith to believe if you ask Him. It is up to you if you want to believe and choose to live life with Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Too Much Knowledge to Know

Acts 17:16-34

In Acts 17:1-15, we read that Paul had to be escorted out of Berea and he and his companions went to Athens. Paul sent a letter back to Silas and Timothy to join him when they could. We learned a fact about Berea that is important in our study of Athens. Berea was a free city, which means that though it was under Roman rule, Rome gave them free run of the city’s governance because Berea helped Rome defeat Cassius and Brutus. This week we find out that Athens was also a free city because of their help to the Romans in winning a battle.
Read Acts 17:16-34. What do you see first? Paul’s spirit was being provoked as he saw in the city idols to many gods. Paul, having trained to be a Jewish priest and then following His conversion being trained by God in the wilderness of Arabia knows there is only one true God. The Holy Spirit within him provoked him to take notice of all these gods and to realize God wanted him (Paul) to speak to the people of Athens. Normally when Paul entered a city or town he went to the synagogue to speak as that is where the learned people congregated to talk about God and other intellectual ideas. Paul does go to the synagogue, though there is not thought to be many Jews in Athens. He likewise goes to the market place, the Agora. While he spoke to people in the Agora, some Epicureans and Stoics also spoke with him (vs. 17-18). These philosophers wanted to know more about what Paul was speaking so invited him to the Areopagus.
We must understand that Athens was known for its philosophers and education. The people there were very inquiring and always wanted to know more and liked to debate. The Athenians were also known for their religious piety. This could be seen by all the idols that existed in and around the city. Diogenes Laertes says, in Lives of the Philosophers 1.10, these numerous idols were erected after city officials asked a prophet, Epimenides, how to be rid of the plague in their city in 6BC. Epimenides told them to let a herd of black and white sheep loose at the Areopagus and, wherever they lay down, to sacrifice them to the god of that place. Hence, some thought the Athenians had many gods because they had so many idols. As to the Areopagus, it was erected as a place to rule the law and to enact justice. Over time, it became a place to discuss religion and education matters so they could sensor what was spoken and taught within the city. Remember, the Athenians were proud of their education and could not allow everybody who wanted to enter the city spout her or her beliefs. Paul spoke with the religious and education leaders of the city in the Areopagus.
Now, we must understand about the Epicureans and Stoics to understand how they thought and why Paul taught the way, he did in the Areopagus. The Epicureans were one of the three major philosophies taught in Athens. The Epicureans believed the ultimate goal of life was happiness and the way to have that is to be free of pain and to have pleasure. They also believed that atoms combining or dispersing formed nature and every created thing randomly. They also believed in a form of evolution. To the Epicureans, there was no possibility of soul survival after death and, hence, they could disprove judgment after death. Their basic thought could be summarized as “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you will die.” The Stoics on the other hand were opposite of the Epicureans. The Stoics believed that emotions like fear, envy, or passionate love of anything arose from the false judgments and the person who had attained moral and intellectual perfection would not undergo these emotions. These persons are immune to misfortune and virtue is sufficient for their happiness. The Stoics emphasized the divine as the reason pervading everything. Reason was their god. Because of this, there was a bit of god in everything. They were pantheists. They held to Plato’s thought on the soul’s immortality, the soul is only immortal as it will be reincarnated into someone else with no remembrance of the previous life. Thus, the Stoics could not conceive of bodily resurrection.
Paul had his work cut out for him, but, through his own Judaical studies, I am sure he learned how to debate and reason and these people were reasoning people. He would need his wits and the leading of the Holy Spirit for these people who considered themselves learned and lacking in nothing. Look how they scoffed at Paul when they said, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?...He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities” (vs. 18). They took Paul to the Areopagus and said, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? 20 "For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean” (vs.19-20). Paul begins his talk by recognizing and affirming the listeners; he says he sees they are very religious. He is a good student of human behavior; he started with a positive of his listeners. He affirmed them (vs. 22). They are willing to listen now. Paul noted they had idols to so many gods, but he wanted to point out something he could teach them. Remember these Athenians were always looking to learn more. They prided themselves on being learned. Paul continued and said, let me tell you about your unknown god. Paul spends the next eight verses telling them about the one True God.
1.    He tells them this God made the world and all things in it because He is the Lord of heaven and earth so He does not dwell in places made with hands, or in idols. When Paul speaks of God being bigger than heaven and earth and the Creator of them he is using rhetoric of the time. When the people spoke the words, “of heaven and earth” it referred to all man knew about the universe. Therefore, this God is the God of everything and nothing is big enough to contain Him nor is more powerful than He is. (verse 24)

2.    Human hands do not serve this God because He does not need anything. There is nothing they can materially give Him that He needs because, since He made all things, He can get anything He would required, if He even required anything, which He does not because He created all things of Himself. In addition, how can the created, who requires Him for their breath, think there is anything remotely that they would find necessary for Him. (verse 25).

3.   To add to this, God not only created each of them, but He did it from just the one man, Adam. He created a multiplicity and every nation of humankind came from this man, Adam, and determined, not only their beginning, but their end. (verse 26)

4.   This one true God desires that we seek Him and find Him. He is never far from each of us. (verse 27)

5.   It is not that we must serve this God our material goods, but it is from Him that we even move and exist. We are His children, not He ours that we have to provide for Him. (verse 28)

6.   Paul has spent five verses telling us of our smallness and God’s greatness and undefinability and unfathomability.

7.   Since we understand we are the children of God, His creation, and He created all things, including the ores in the ground, we cannot think that the Divine nature is like gold, silver, or stone which we can shape and mold at our will. They are created, too, and when we humans mold them, they are moldings of our limited creative ability. Nothing is great enough to serve/offer to this God. (verse 29)

8.   God, in His graciousness and mercy, overlooked each of our times of ignorance of Him, but God is now declaring to humans everywhere they should repent of worshipping the wrong God, the only God. God has provided a witness to Himself and a way back to Himself and now we cannot declare ignorance to this knowledge of Him and His ways. He has determined a day when He will judge the world, all humankind, in His righteousness and will require righteousness from humans before they can be given access to His kingdom and eternal life. The proof He gives of His power to do this is the resurrection of the Son of Man from the dead. (verses 30-31)
As you have read and now know about the Epicureans and Stoics, this idea of resurrection from the dead met much resistance. The people in the Areopagus began to sneer at Paul. A few were interested and wanted to hear more another time. The Epicureans and Stoics, who wanted to hear the education Paul would bring to their city denied him and sneered at him. Paul’s knowledge would not be accepted in Athens. We do not hear in the Bible that a Christian church was started in Athens. Dionysius, an Areopagite (one of the leaders of the Areopagus) and a woman named Damaris along with a few others believed about God. The Epicureans and Stoics remind us of people now. These people are educated and feel they need nothing; they are self-secure and self-satisfied. They are tolerant of others and their beliefs but want to have nothing of it for themselves. Often these self-sufficient ones are the ones who have the most difficult time accepting the fact of God and the Son, Jesus. Many times, the people who are in a place of need or who recognize they are in need recognize the reality of God and believe in Him. They recognize Him as all-powerful, all-wise, and loving, greater than anything they could fathom and the author of creation and they recognize that they need bodily and spiritually what God gives freely, provision for their temporal life and their eternal life. They believe God is the one true God.
In our day now, we are told to be tolerant of others and their beliefs and lifestyles. We do not have to like them, but we must tolerate other people’s choices. We cannot determine what is truly right others tell us. Therefore, we must let people live for themselves. By allowing them to do this, we respect them, we are told. But, from whom do we receive our reward and to whom are we called to be obedient? Is it not God, the Creator of heaven and earth? Since this is the case, we must obey and tell everyone about Him. The people who preach tolerance and let people be are being led astray by the lies of Satan. He tells them that everyone has a right to what they want to do with their lives. Is this not what Satan told Adam and Even before they ate the fruit off the tree, that they had a right to do what they wanted and to be what they wanted? It is the same lie in new clothes he is saying now.
We must take the Word of Truth to the nations who are descended from the one man, Adam. We are all related and we must care for them just as we care for what God would have us to do, out of love. Two questions arise: What is stopping you from telling others about the one true God? Or, what is stopping you from believing the truth of God, that He is the one true God and has a plan for your life, here and for eternity?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Great and Good is Our God

Isaiah 40
As we begin this study of Isaiah 40, we must note a few things. First, we know that Isaiah was a prophet for the Israelites. Most theologians consider Isaiah prophesied 60 years, but according to Jewish tradition, as reported by, he prophesied for God for 90 years. In Isaiah 1:1, we find that Isaiah was the son of Amoz, who was also a Hebrew prophet. Jewish tradition says that Amoz was the brother of King Amaziah, who was a king of Judah, the southern kingdom. We must also remember that God used prophets repeatedly to call His people back to Him from worshipping the idols and gods of other nations. By the time Isaiah began prophesying, the northern kingdom's (Israel) punishment from God via conquering by the Assyrians and their subsequent dispersion was almost upon them. Assyria captured Israel in 712 BC. The Assyrian king, Sargon II, chose to disperse the Hebrews of the northern kingdom among people of other nations. These became the “lost ten tribes” of Israel. It began the times of the Diaspora.
Another fact we need to note and is commonly taught is that Isaiah 40 is the beginning of Isaiah’s heralding of their eschatological hope, their hope for the Messiah and life after His arrival. Isaiah 40 through Isaiah 66 not only speaks of the gross idolatry of the current time, but refers back to the past times of all the prophets of God, and goes forward speaking of the future of the Israelites with Yahweh in His kingdom. It is believed that the first thirty-nine chapters are historical, Isaiah’s pleading with/prophesying for God to the Israelites to turn from their wicked ways back to the one true God, Yahweh. The second section of Isaiah, from chapter 40, is filled with hope for the future of Israel, that God would redeem them and would provide for them a home in His promised land, His kingdom.
Upon my reading of Isaiah 40 this time (and, yes, I did sing some of it since it is a very famous song of hope for Christians and Jews), I was struck for the first time on the obvious statements about God. I know the first part well because of the song made from this chapter. I know the last two verses, “Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (40:30-31 [NASB]). Many of us have harkened back to these two verses when we were going through hard and trying times. This time, upon reading the chapter anew, God’s attributes jumped out at me. All of His attributes appear in this one chapter. I do not know how often that occurs in the Bible, but in Isaiah 40, every one of God’s attributes show.
Maybe this whole concept of God’s attributes is new to some of you. Let me tell or remind you what we know and see are God’s attributes/characteristics. They have been categorized under different titles by different theologians, but the two titles I want to use because I have found these easiest to understand is God’s greatness and God’s goodness. His attributes of greatness are seen in who He is. His attributes of goodness are His greatness reflected through His actions in relationship with His creation. If you are like me, this makes more sense in a list.

Attributes/Characteristics of Greatness
Attributes/Characteristics of Goodness
Spirituality – He is spirit and not composed of matter and does not possess a physical nature.
Moral Qualities:
Holiness – He is unique, totally         separated from creation, and absolutely pure.
Righteousness – Because God is holy, His laws are right and just; thus, they are the standard for moral living.
Justice – God acting in accordance with His laws and administering His laws
Personality – God is personal. He is an individual being with the self-consciousness and will, capable of feeling, choosing, having a reciprocal relationship with other personal and social beings.
Genuineness – He is real, not made up, and true.
Veracity – God represents things as they really are. What He says is accurate and true.
Faithfulness – God’s faithfulness means He proves true; He keeps His promises.
Life – His name, I AM, indicates that He is a living God. He is existence.
Benevolence – God’s concern for the welfare of those He loves. His concern is unselfish.
Grace – God gives based on what people need, not what they want, not because of what they have done or will do.
Mercy – This is God’s tenderhearted compassion. It is pitying concern.
Persistence – God’s endurance and faithfulness. He endures and withholds judgment while continuing to offer salvation and grace.
Infinity – God is unlimited and He is illimitable. He is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), and always and everywhere present at the same time (omnipresent).
Constancy – He is unchanging. There is not quantitative or qualitative change in God. He cannot increase because He is perfect and His nature does not undergo modification.

            With these characteristics in our tool belt, let us look now at Isaiah 40 and see it through a different window.

Is. 40:1-2 [NASB]–
1 "Comfort, O comfort My people," says your God. 2 "Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins."
            What we most obviously understand in these two verses is God’s justice. He sees that the punishment of His people (Jerusalem in particular, but metaphorically, all His children over all time) is sufficient. His children have been disciplined enough according to His just, perfect, and righteous laws. He speaks through His prophet Isaiah as the voice of all the prophets to all God’s children that His people not only should take comfort now because their dispersion and captivity are over, but because, eschatologically (regarding the end times) speaking, He is drawing them to Himself for all time as His children. Their disciplining is over because He has provided the adequate redemption for their and our sin. This speaks from the prophets of all times, past and present, and it speaks to the future for all God’s children, “You are to be comforted because I have removed your sins once and for all. You have paid for your sins doubly and I have provided the adequate sacrifice once and for all.”
            The attributes of God we see in these verses are God’s personality; He is capable of having feelings for His people and for choosing to stay in a relationship with us. He is life; He was, is, and will always eternally exist. We know this and that is why we can derive such hope from His statements regarding our future with Him. If He were not eternal, we would get no hope from this statement. God is also constant; He cannot and will not change. These are His characteristics of greatness shown in these two verses. His characteristics of goodness are: holiness, righteousness, and justice; faithfulness; benevolence, mercy, grace, and persistence. He is holy and requires holiness in His presence. To that end, He has provided a way for His loving relationship with us to continue. His righteousness follows on His holiness and His righteousness requires justice. He shows His faithfulness by neither giving up on Israel then, nor His children over the ages. He keeps holding out hope for us to turn from our ways and receive the salvation He has provided through His Son, Jesus Christ. His love is shown to us in all the categories of His attributes.
Is. 40:3-5 –
3 A voice is calling, "Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; 5 then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
            This voice calling are the voices of all prophets past and present. It is also a foretelling of the one calling out to the people before Christ’s ministry began, John the Baptist. Many times before a prince or king arrived in a province, city, or town, criers/messengers went before him proclaiming his arrival so that the way would be prepared for him – palm branches lay on the ground as a carpet or “pot holes” filled in so his horse would not stumble. It was also for the people to prepare themselves – removing from the mind any thoughts that were in the way of worshipping/revering a king - anger, annoyance, anxiety, and trials. This is the same way the prophets were telling the people to be prepared for the coming Messiah.
            In these three verses, we see the God who is seen by the prophets. He is seen as holy. As holy, He is to be revered and all things must be made ready for His arrival so that nothing, internal or external to ourselves, keeps us from worshipping Him.
Is. 40:6-8-
6 A voice says, "Call out." Then he answered, "What shall I call out?" All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.
            The voice calls out again, the voice of the prophets, messengers. In case you do not know or have forgotten, says the voice of the prophets, here is who God is. He is the One who does not die or fade away. Here is the One who holds life and death within His breath. He brings beauty and life to plant and people. Though these fade and die, God and His Word will never fade away; they stand forever. Isaiah says this twice for emphasis so the people will know without doubt that God is the everlasting God.
            God’s attributes in these verses are His attributes of greatness. His might and power are seen by His ability to give and take life. His greatness is seen in His infinity and constancy. He does not die because He does not have a perishable body. He is I AM. He is existence. It is from Him that anything else receives the blessing of existing, in all its loveliness.
Is. 40:9 –
9 Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your God!”
            This is an anxious, anticipation-creating verse. After reading this, I cannot wait to hear what is coming next. The messengers, the prophets, are calling from a hilltop to Jerusalem, be prepared and do not fear. The messengers tell them to go tell the other cities of Judah, God is here. After they failed God and He sent them into exile, to have their hope restored that God had not forgotten or left them, the prophets brought this word of the Lord to them. In Isaiah, this prophecy of God’s presence took on a long-term role of heralding the coming awaited Messiah. John the Baptist was His herald. He tells them not to keep it to themselves, but to tell all the children of God to renew their hope, for God is here. For the times after Christ’s ascension, this passage also gives us hope that God is still with us and He is still in control and awaits our arrival in His promised kingdom.
            God’s attributes here are His life, infinity, and constancy. Without this understanding of God, His promises would hold no effect. Because we know that He is, has been, and always will be, we know we can hold onto this promise of being with Him in His kingdom. He has not left us or forsaken us.
Is. 40:10-17 –
10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him. (Spiritual Power) 

11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. (Personality/Personification – Fatherly love) 

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance And the hills in a pair of scales? (Infinity - Omniscience and Creation) 

13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD or as His counselor has informed Him? 14 With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding? (Infinity – knowledge and wisdom) 

15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. 16 Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering. 17 All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.” (Greatness – comparison between God’s greatness and creation)
            The voice speaking for the Lord, Isaiah, other prophets, and John the Baptist, spoke of the greatness of God. God puts these words in their mouths and quills to remind all people and us just how magnificent He really is. In these eight verses, His attributes become obvious. God shows His spiritual power in verse 10. He shows His personality and love in His personification as the shepherd caring for the sheep in verse 11. He shows His knowledge and wisdom, omniscience (attribute of infinity), in creation in verse 12. To make matters more clear through verse 13, He rhetorically asks from whom did He consult or ask advice. Who taught Him justice and gave Him understanding when He is the Holy One. His righteousness is the standard for laws. Finally, just to make sure we understand, verses 15-17 remind us who created whom and tells us there are not enough trees to build an altar of worship for Him nor enough cattle to offer as a sufficient sacrifice to Him for His greatness. These final three verses return us to rhetorical question of verse 10: who is greater than God, the One who created all things by His knowledge and in His strength because of His love.
Is. 40:18-20 -
18 To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him? 19 As for the idol, a craftsman casts it, a goldsmith plates it with gold, and a silversmith fashions chains of silver. 20 He who is too impoverished for such an offering selects a tree that does not rot; he seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman to prepare an idol that will not totter.”
            Should we try to capture the image of God, what in all of the earth that God created is glorious and magnificent enough to represent Him? What image would capture His essence? None God says, and, God told us in Exodus, we are not to worship an image, an idol. Nothing is great enough to represent God, not even the things we consider in our greatest thoughts can capture the image of God. God is superlative to all we can think of or imagine. In case we do not understand, God has these next things to say in verses 21-25.
Is. 40:21-25 –
21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. 23 He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. 24 Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble. 25 ‘To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?’ says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.”
            Here God, through His prophets Isaiah and all His prophets in time, asks another rhetorical question leading to the same answer. He says think on these things and tell me your answer. He is the one who is great enough to sit in heaven, who is big enough that creation seems like mere grasshoppers. God is the one who created the heavens and stretched them out like a tent. He is the one who shows the strength, power, and wisdom of rulers is like foolishness and folly. They are nothing compared to His wisdom and might. These rulers think they have great plans. God is greater still and can confound their plans or completely make their plans come to a standstill by removing the rulers. His breath that created them will make them wither and blow away. These rulers to whom you look, would you like God to them? Our obvious answer is I think not. In addition, in case you cannot imagine someone that great, look up to the sky and try to count the stars. God not only created and counted them, He named them and knows them all.
            God’s attributes of greatness abound in these verses. He is creator of everything – grasshopper to king. He is not just Creator, but also ender of all things. It only takes His breath to create and to end life. God’s might and knowledge is greater than that of our highest earthly authority, kings. His might and knowledge are infinite. What can compare to Him? He is no man’s equal nor is He equal to anything man could imagine and create.
Is. 40:27-31-
27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God’? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. 29 He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. 30 Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, 31 yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not get tired; they will walk and not become weary.” 

            God gets to the end and He, in essence, says, “Since I am greater than all these things, you have no reason to think I have disregarded you. You know I am greater than all creation or what man can think or imagine. You know I love you and have not only provided what you need on earth, but have promised to prepare a way for you to me with me in My kingdom forever. You know I am faithful and will fulfill My promises. What would make you think I would not care about you when you are living - your strength, power, and energy?” God is not so great that He would overlook/miss the needs of humankind, nor of His children of the covenant. For those who wait for the Lord (those who are conscious of their responsibility to the Lord because He is God), God cares enough to carry you through life, to give strength and power. The youthful men who are chosen by kings for their vigor will be weaker than those who wait for the Lord; He will give them His strength. He will keep His children strong to run the race of life on earth. God will not fail those who wait on Him. They will sail upwards toward God, swiftly and strongly. They will press forward running without wearying toward heaven following God’s commandments. They will walk in the ways of God in the name of the Lord and not be weary because they are leaning on and trusting in Him.  

            God’s greatness in all areas fathomable is uncontestable. He is spirit, not matter, so does not and will not die. He is personal - has a name and communes with us. He is life, existence Himself and the cause of existence of creation. He is infinite – in knowledge, wisdom, power, strength, time, space, and measure. He is constant; he never changes but is always the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. 

Isaiah gives us all the attributes of God in one place. This is the answer to “why” we should clear a way for the Lord from verse 3. He spends twenty-nine verses telling us and/or reminding us who God is and what He has done, is doing, and has provided for us in the future. These encompass the attributes of His greatness and goodness. Lest we become busy battling life or seeking our own greatness and importance, Isaiah provides for us today the remedy for battle-weariness and self-importance. He provided a voice for God’s hope to the desperate Israelites during their dispersion and captivity and a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His promises of a place in His kingdom.  

For those of us who follow after these Israelites, Isaiah continues to offer these same promises to those who are children of God through His covenant. There is the catch – to God’s children through His covenant. You have to decide whom you will follow and Isaiah has laid it out nicely for each of us. None of us is greater or better than God. Each of us must decide whether we will follow God through His plan of salvation for humanity, the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. If you say, “Not now,” you are saying no and these promises are not yours to hold. If you say, “Yes” to God’s gift of salvation, these promises by the faithful one true God are yours for now and always.  

We each must come to this point of decision-making. What will you decide? Whom will you worship and praise? That is really what it is all about, a love relationship between God and humanity, individually. Who is your god, you or the only true, never-changing, infinite, life-giving, personal God? It really is your decision.