The Greatness of God.
Isaiah 23-14, 2 Peter 1
The Lord of Hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” – Isaiah 14:24 ESV
Our God is unstoppable. His plans are unalterable and His will unchangeable. He will finish what He starts and always accomplish what He purposes. For Isaiah, the future was a mixed bag of God’s coming punishment upon the people of Israel, as well as eminent destruction of their enemies. God was giving Isaiah a panoramic view of His divine plan concerning Israel and the nations. Babylon, which in the days of Isaiah, was still not yet a powerful nation, would rise to prominence and become a key world player. But the pride and arrogance of that great nation, personified in its kings, would be brought low by the Lord God Almighty. From a human perspective, the things that happen in our world can appear so random and uncontrolled. The events of our day can seem so arbitrary and as if they are nothing more than the outcome of blind fate. But God wanted Isaiah to know that His will was being done at all times. He was behind the affairs of men, orchestrating events and individuals in such a way that His plan was always being accomplished. God asked Isaiah, “For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27 ESV). God had plans for the people of Israel. Those plans included their ultimate punishment for their sin and rebellion. But those plans also included their future restoration and redemption. God would use the Babylonians and Assyrians to carry out His judgment on the people of Israel, but He would also eventually turn the tables and exalt Israel while humbling their enemies.
What does this passage reveal about God?
Sometimes we can find ourselves judging the efficiency and effectiveness of God based on what we can see. We look around us and see nothing but trouble, trials, difficulties and despair. It can appear as if the enemy is winning and our side is losing. But in those moments, it is not our God who is lacking, but our perspective. We are limited in our outlook. And our nearsighted approach can blind us to the reality that God is in control, whether it looks like it or not. Some of the problem lies in the fact that we often confuse our plan with God’s plan. When things don’t turn out quite the way we envisioned, we can jump to the conclusion that God’s will is not being done. But what we fail to understand is that His ways are not our ways. He sometimes works in ways that are contradictory and contrary to our expectations. Captivity and enslavement was the last thing they Israelites expected. They saw themselves as God’s chosen people, the descendants of Abraham. They were the apple of God’s eye. But it was their very position as His people that made their punishment inevitable. God was not going to allow them to live in open rebellion to His ways. God was going to discipline them as a father disciplines his children. Their seemingly negative circumstances were actually a sign of God’s love for them. “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:5-6 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about man?
Our goal in this life should be to learn to see God in all the ups and downs of life. The enemy and the world are constantly attempting us to take our eyes off of God and to focus on anything and anyone else but Him. Our greatest temptation will be to forget that God is in control and to wrongly conclude that our lives are nothing more than a series of random events left to chance and our own limited powers. Even as believers, we can somehow conclude that our spiritual lives are completely up to us. We may fully believe that our salvation was the work of Jesus Christ, but wrongly assume that our sanctification – our growth in Christ-likeness – is somehow up to us. For many of us, our spiritual growth is nothing more than an ongoing attempt at self-improvement, done in our own strength and marked more by failure than success. We forget that our sanctification is just as dependent upon the work of God as our salvation. Paul reminds us, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV). It is God who must complete the transformation of our lives into the likeness of Christ. And Peter echoed these sentiments when he wrote, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV). The New Living Translation puts it this way… “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” How easy it is to forget that.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
But that does not mean I have no role to play. God sovereignty does not eliminate my responsibility. Peter goes on to say, “In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone” (2 Peter 1:5-7 NLT). God has given me all that I need to live the life He has called me to live. He has provided me with His Spirit. He has equipped me with His Word. He has placed me within the body of Christ, the Church. But I still must supplement my faith. I must seek to add to my life the qualities that are characteristic of Christ-likeness. And I must grow in my understanding that God uses anything and everything in my life to accomplish His will for my life. My troubles and trials are instruments in His divine hands. The circumstances of my life are actually opportunities for me to witness God’s power as He exposes my sins and expresses His strength through my weakness. The goal is to grow in my awareness of His greatness and in my dependence upon His grace. The discipline of God should remind me of His love. The difficulties of life should drive me to my knees in dependence upon Him. The successes of life should cause me to rejoice in His blessings. God is accomplishing His will in my life, whether I recognize or realize it.
Father, You are a great God and greatly to be praised. You are working out Your plan in my life and in this world in ways that I cannot always see or fathom. Your will is unstoppable. Your plan is unalterable. May I learn to trust You more. May I learn to lean on You more. May I grow to understand that You have given me everything I need for living a godly life. But I must turn to You for help and hope. I must lean on You for strength. Because You alone are great. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men