Our word ‘majesty’ comes from the Latin; it means greatness. When we ascribe majesty to someone, we are acknowledging greatness in that person, and voicing our respect for it: as, for instance, when we speak of “Her Majesty” the Queen. Now, majesty is a word which the Bible uses to express the thought of the greatness of God, our Maker and our Lord. “The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty. . . Your throne was established long ago” (Ps 93:1-2). “They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works” (Ps 145:5), Peter, recalling his vision of Christ’s royal glory at the transfiguration, says, “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet 1:16).
Our word ‘majesty‘ is a Latin word meaning greatness.
When we use the word majesty to describe someone—
– we are acknowledging greatness in that person, and
– we are expressing our respect.
A good example for this would be when someone speaks of “Her Majesty” the Queen.
Now, majesty is a word that the Bible uses to express the thought of the greatness of God, our Maker and our Lord.
“The LORD reigns, He is robed in majesty. . . Your throne was established long ago” (Ps 93:1-2)
“They will speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and I will meditate on Your wonderful works” (Ps 145:5)
Peter, recalls his vision of Christ’s royal glory during the transfiguration:
“We were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pet 1:16)
In Hebrews, the phrase the majesty twice does duty for God; Christ, we are told, at his ascension sat down “at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven,” “at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” (Heb 1:3; 8:1). The word majesty, when applied to God, is always a declaration of his greatness and an invitation to worship. The same is true when the Bible speaks of God as being on high and in heaven; the thought here is not that God is far distant from us in space, but that he is far above us in greatness, and therefore is to be adored. “Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise” (Ps 48:1). “The LORD is the great God, the great King. . . Come, let us bow down in worship” (Ps 95:3, 6). The Christian’s instincts of trust and worship are stimulated very powerfully by knowledge of the greatness of God.
In the book of Hebrews, we see that in two places, the phrase ‘the majesty’ is used instead of ‘God.’ In both these places we see that Jesus is seated at God’s right hand in heaven.
. . . After making purification for sins, He (Christ) sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Heb 1:3)
. . . we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven (Heb 8:1)
When the word ‘majesty’ is applied to God:
– it always declares His greatness and
– it is an invitation to worship Him.
In the same way, when the Bible speaks of God as being on high and in heaven:
– The idea is NOT that God is far and distant from us in space, but that
– He is far above us in greatness,
– And so, He has to be adored.
When Christians understand the greatness of God, they are instinctively driven to trust God and worship Him.
“Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise” (Ps 48:1).
“The LORD is the great God, the great King. . . Come, let us bow down in worship” (Ps 95:3, 6)
But this is knowledge which Christians today largely lack: and that is one reason why our faith is so feeble and our worship so flabby. We are modern people, and modern people, though they cherish great thoughts of themselves, have as a rule small thoughts of God. When the person in the church, let alone the person in the street, uses the word God, the thought is rarely of divine majesty. A well-known book is called Your God Is Too Small ; it is a timely title.
Sadly, most Christians today lack this knowledge—of God’s greatness.
And that is one reason why
– our faith is so weak and
– our worship is so flabby.
We are modern people, and modern people usually cherish—
– great thoughts about themselves
– but small thoughts of God.
When Christians use the word God, they are not usually thinking of divine majesty. By the way, when we say this, we are not talking about the unbeliever on the street, but sadly, we are talking about believers in church, who do not understand the greatness and majesty of God.
A well-known book is called Your God Is Too Small, and it is a good title for these times.
We are poles apart from our evangelical forefathers at this point, even when we confess our faith in their words. When you start reading Luther, or Edwards, or Whitefield, though your doctrine may be theirs, you soon find yourself wondering whether you have any acquaintance at all with the mighty God whom they knew so intimately.
It is at this point—the point about understanding the greatness of God—that we are so very different from our evangelical forefathers, people like
– or Edwards
– or Whitefield
Your beliefs are the same as theirs,
but when you read their writings,
you cannot help wondering whether you actually know the mighty God who they knew so closely.
Today, vast stress is laid on the thought that God is personal, but this truth is so stated as to leave the impression that God is a person of the same sort as we are—weak, inadequate, ineffective, a little pathetic. But this is not the God of the Bible! Our personal life is a finite thing: it is limited in every direction, in space, in time, in knowledge, in power. But God is not so limited. He is eternal, infinite and almighty. He has us in his hands; we never have him in ours. Like us, he is personal, but unlike us, he is great. In all its constant stress on the reality of God’s personal concern for his people, and on the gentleness, tenderness, sympathy, patience and yearning compassion that he shows toward them, the Bible never lets us lose sight of his majesty and his unlimited dominion over all his creatures.
Today, a lot of stress is given to the thought that God is personal,
but people state this truth in such a way as to give the impression that God is a person like us—
– ineffective, and
– a little pathetic.
But this is not the God of the Bible!
You cannot compare Him to us. Our personal life is a finite thing.
It is limited in every way—
– in space,
– in time,
– in knowledge, and
– in power.
And, God is not limited like that.
– infinite and
He has us in His hands—and not the other way around—we do not have Him in our hands.
Like us, He is personal, but unlike us, He is great.
The Bible constantly stresses how God has a personal concern for His people. This is an absolute reality.
We read about—
– His gentleness,
– His tenderness,
– His sympathy,
– His patience and
– His yearning compassion.
But in spite of highlighting the truth of this personal side of God,
the Bible never lets us lose sight of His majesty and His unlimited dominion and authority over all His creatures.
Personal Yet Majestic
For illustration, we do not have to look further than the opening chapters of Genesis. Right from the start of the Bible story, through the wisdom of divine inspiration, the narrative is told in such a way as to impress upon us the twin truths that the God to whom we are being introduced is both personal and majestic.
God is both personal and majestic.
To illustrate this truth, we have to only look at the opening chapters of Genesis.
Keep in mind that the Bible writers wrote with God’s wisdom—being inspired by the Holy Spirit.
So, right from the start of the Bible account,
the story is told to us in such a way as to show us the twin truths that—
– the God to whom we are being introduced is a personal God, and
– the God to whom we are being introduced is a majestic God.
Nowhere in the Bible is the personal nature of God expressed in more vivid terms. He deliberates with himself, “Let us . . .” (Gen 1:26). He brings the animals to Adam to see what Adam will call them (2:19). He walks in the garden, calling to Adam (3:8-9). He asks people questions (3:11-13; 4:9; 16:8). He comes down from heaven in order to find out what his creatures are doing (11:5; 18:20-33). He is so grieved by human wickedness that he repents of making them (6:6-7).
The Bible expresses the personal nature of God very vividly in the early chapters of Genesis.
He deliberates with Himself—This means that He thinks through matters carefully and discusses them with Himself.
– Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen 1:26)
He brings the animals to Adam to see what Adam will call them.
– “Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. (Gen 2:19)
He walks in the garden, calling to Adam.
– And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:8-9).
He asks people questions.
– He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen 3:11-13)
– Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9)
– And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” (Gen 16:8).
He comes down from heaven in order to find out what His creatures are doing.
– And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. (Gen 11:5)
– Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to Me. And if not, I will know.” . . . Then Abraham drew near and said,”. . .Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?” . . . And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Abraham answered and said, “. . . Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went His way, when He had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place. (Gen 18:20-33)
He is so grieved by human wickedness that He regretted that He had made them.
– And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen 6:6-7)
Representations of God like these are meant to bring home to us the fact that the God with whom we have to do is not a mere cosmic principle, impersonal and indifferent, but a living Person, thinking, feeling, active, approving of good, disapproving of evil, interested in his creatures all the time.
When the Bible represents God like this—personal and relatable—it is supposed to show us very clearly that God is not some impersonal, indifferent, abstract idea.
God is a living Person who is all the time—
– approving of good
– disapproving of evil, and
– being interested in His creatures.
But we are not to gather from these passages that God’s knowledge and power are limited, or that he is normally absent and so unaware of what is going on in the world except when he comes specially to investigate. These same chapters rule out all such ideas by setting before us a presentation of God’s greatness no less vivid than that of his personality.
But from these passages, we are not to conclude
– that God’s knowledge and power are limited,
– that God is normally absent in the world,
– and that as a result, God is unaware of what is going on in the world except when He comes specially to investigate.
Such ideas can be completely ruled out, because—
these same chapters actually present God’s greatness even more vividly than how they present God’s personality.
The God of Genesis is the Creator, bringing order out of chaos, calling life into being by his word, making Adam from earth’s dust and Eve from Adam’s rib (chaps. 1—2). And he is Lord of all that he has made. He curses the ground and subjects mankind to physical death, thus changing his original perfect world order (3:17- 24); he floods the earth in judgment, destroying all life except that in the ark (chaps. 6—8); he confounds human language and scatters the builders of Babel (11:7-9); he overthrows Sodom and Gomorrah by (apparently) a volcanic eruption (19:24-25). Abraham truly calls him “the judge of all the earth” (18:25), and rightly adopts Melchizedek’s name for him, “God Most High, maker of heaven and earth” (14:19-22 RSV). He is present everywhere, and he observes everything: Cain’s murder (4:9), mankind’s corruption (6:5), Hagar’s destitution (16:7). Well did Hagar name him El Roi, “the God who sees me,” and call her son Ishmael, “God hears,” for God does in truth both hear and see, and nothing escapes him. His own name for himself is El Shaddai, “God Almighty,” and all his actions illustrate the omnipotence which this name proclaims. He promises Abraham and his wife a son in their nineties, and he rebukes Sarah for her incredulous—and, as it proved, unjustified— laughter: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (18:14).
We see that the God of Genesis is the Creator (Gen 1—2).
– He brings order out of chaos,
– He calls life into being by His word,
– He makes Adam from earth’s dust, and
– He makes Eve from Adam’s rib.
We see that the God of Genesis is Lord of all that He has made.
– He curses the ground,
– He makes humankind experience physical death—and by doing this, He changed His original perfect world order (Gen 3:17-24),
– He floods the earth in judgment, destroying all life except for the life that was in the ark (Gen 6-8),
– He confuses human language and scatters the builders of the tower of Babel (Gen 11:7-9), and
– He overthrows Sodom and Gomorrah by what seems like a volcanic eruption (Gen 19:24-25).
We see that Abraham was able to perceive the greatness of the God of Genesis and articulate it.
– Abraham was absolutely right when he called God “the Judge of all the earth” (Gen 18:25).
– When Melchizedek meets Abraham, he refers to God as “God Most High,” and Abraham rightly uses the same term, saying, “God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth” (Gen 14:19-22).
We see that the God of Genesis is present everywhere, and He observes everything.
– He sees Cain murdering Abel (Gen 4:9)
– He sees humankind’s corruption (Gen 6:5)
We see that Hagar experienced firsthand the truth that the God of Genesis both hears and sees, and that nothing escapes Him.
– He sees how destitute Hagar was. (Gen 16:7)
– She is asked to name her son Ishmael, which means “God hears.” (Gen 16:11)
– Hagar responds to God by aptly referring to Him as El Roi, which means “the God who sees me.” (Gen 16:13)
We see that God’s own name for Himself is El Shaddai—“God Almighty.” All His actions prove that the God of Genesis is omnipotent—all powerful.
– He promises Abraham and his wife a son in their nineties, and He tells Sarah off for laughing in disbelief.
“Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, in the spring, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Gen 18:14)
And it is not only at isolated moments that God takes control of events, either; all history is under his sway. Proof of this is given by his detailed predictions of the tremendous destiny which he purposed to work out for Abraham’s seed (12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:13-21; and so on).
And it is not only at isolated moments that God takes control of events.
All history is under His control and direction.
We can see proof of this control in His detailed predictions of the tremendous future that that He had planned to work out for Abraham’s descendents.
Some passages that touch on this are:
– Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:1-3)
– The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (Gen 13:14-17)
– Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” (Gen 15:13-21)
Such, in brief, is the majesty of God, according to the first chapters of Genesis.
This, in short, is what the first chapters of Genesis have to say about the majesty of God.
How may we form a right idea of God’s greatness? The Bible teaches us two steps that we must take. The first is to remove from our thoughts of God limits that would make him small. The second is to compare him with powers and forces which we regard as great. For an example of what the first step involves, took at Psalm 139, where the psalmist meditates on the infinite and unlimited nature of God’s presence, and knowledge, and power, in relation to people.
How can we form a right idea of God’s greatness?
In answer, the Bible gives us two steps to take.
Step 1: Remove all the limits that make God small, from your thoughts of God.
Step 2: Compare God with powers and forces that you regard as great.
As an example for understanding Step 1, let us look at at Psalm 139.
Here, the psalmist meditates on how infinite and unlimited—
– God’s presence is with people,
– God’s knowledge is of people, and
– God’s power is over people.
We are always in God’s presence, he says. You can cut yourself off from your fellow human beings, but you cannot get away from your Creator. “You hem me in—behind and before…. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens [the sky], you are there; if I make my bed in the depths [the underworld], you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,” I still cannot escape from the presence of God: “even there your hand will guide me” (vv. 5-10). Nor can darkness, which hides me from human sight, shield me from God’s gaze (vv. 11-12).
God’s Presence is always with us.
You can cut yourself off from your fellow human beings, but you cannot get away from your Creator.
You hem me in behind and before,
and You lay Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I go up to the heavens (the sky), You are there;
if I make my bed in the depths (the underworld), You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there Your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to You;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to You. (Even darkness, which hides me from human sight, cannot shield me from God’s gaze.)
And just as there are no bounds to his presence with me, so there are no limits to his knowledge of me. Just as I am never left alone, so I never go unnoticed. “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise [all my actions and movements]; you perceive my thoughts [all that goes on in my mind] from afar…. You are familiar with all my ways [all my habits, plans, aims, desires, as well as all my life to date]. Before a word is on my tongue [spoken, or meditated] you know it completely, O LORD” (vv. 1-4). I can hide my heart, and my past, and my future plans, .from those around me, but I cannot hide anything from God. I can talk in a way that deceives my fellow creatures as to what I really am, but nothing I say or do can deceive God. He sees through all my reserve and pretense; he knows me as I really am, better indeed than I know myself. A God whose presence and scrutiny I could evade would be a small and trivial deity. But the true God is great and terrible, just because he is always with me and his eye is always upon me. Living becomes an awesome business when you realize that you spend every moment of your life in the sight and company of an omniscient, omnipresent Creator. Nor is this all.
God’s knowledge of us has no limits.
And just as there are no bounds to God’s presence with me, in the same way, there are no limits to His knowledge of me.
Just as I am never left alone, in the same way, I never go unnoticed.
“You have searched me, LORD,
and You know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise (all my actions and movements);
You perceive my thoughts (all that goes on in my mind) from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
You are familiar with all my ways (all my habits, plans, aims, desires, as well as all my life to date).
Before a word is on my tongue (spoken, or meditated)
You, LORD, know it completely.” (Psalm 139:1-4)
From those around me, I can—
– hide my heart,
– hide my past, and
– hide my future plans,
but I cannot hide anything from God.
I can talk in a way that deceives my fellow creatures, so that they do not get to know what I really am.
But nothing I say or do can deceive God.
Maybe, I do not show my emotions and feelings to those around me.
But God sees through all my pretense.
He knows me as I really am.
Actually, He knows me better than I know myself.
Just think, if there was a god from whom I could hide my thoughts and actions, wouldn’t he be such a small and unimportant god?
But the true God is great and terrible, because
– He is always with me, and
– His eye is always upon me.
Living becomes an awe-filled business—
when you realize that you spend every moment of your life
– in the sight and
– in the company
of an omniscient, omnipresent Creator.
And there’s more.
The all-seeing God is also God almighty, the resources of whose power are already revealed to me by the amazing complexity of my own physical body, which he made for me. Confronted with this, the psalmist’s meditations turn to worship. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful” (v. 14). Here, then, is the first step in apprehending the greatness of God: to realize how unlimited are his wisdom, and his presence, and his power. Look at job 38—41, the chapters in which God himself takes up Elihu’s recognition that “with God is terrible majesty” (37:22 KJV), and sets before Job a tremendous display of his wisdom and power in nature, and asks Job if he can match such “majesty” as this (40:9-11), and convinces him that, since he cannot, he should not presume to find fault with God’s handling of Job’s own case, which also goes far beyond Job’s understanding. Many other passages of Scripture teach the same lesson. But we cannot dwell further on this now.
God’s power over us has no limits.
The all-seeing God is also God almighty with limitless resources of power.
One evidence of God’s power is the amazing complexity of our own physical bodies, which He has made for us.
When the psalmist thinks about this, his meditations turn to worship.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful.” (Psalm 139:14)
We are still looking at the first step that has to be taken to understand the greatness of God, which is to realise how unlimited His presence, His wisdom and knowledge, and His power are.
Another example in the Bible where we see God’s wisdom and power is in the book of Job.
Elihu who recognises the majesty of God says:
Out of the north He comes in golden splendor;
God comes in awesome majesty. (Job 37:22)
In chapters 38 to 41 of Job, we read about how at this point, God Himself enters the conversation and continues with Elihu’s point about His majesty.
God sets before Job a tremendous display of His wisdom and power in nature.
Then He asks Job if he can match such “majesty” as this.
Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low” (Job 40:9-11)
God teaches Job that when he cannot match God’s majesty, neither should he find fault with God’s handling of Job’s own case, which also goes far beyond Job’s understanding.
Many other passages of Scripture teach this lesson, but we need to move on to Step 2, where we compare God with powers and forces that we regard as great.
The Incomparable One
For an example of what the second step involves, look at Isaiah 40. Here God speaks to people whose mood is the mood of many Christians today-despondent people, cowed people, secretly despairing people; people against whom the tide of events has been running for a very long time, people who have ceased to believe that the cause of Christ can ever prosper again. Now see how God through his prophet reasons with them.
As an example for understanding what Step 2 involves, let us look at at Isaiah 40.
Here God speaks to people whose mood is like the mood of many Christians today.
These are people—
– who are discouraged,
– who are bullied,
– who are secretly-despairing,
– for whom life has not been going well for a very long time, and
– who have stopped believing that the cause of Christ can ever thrive again.
Now see how God reasons with these people through His prophet Isaiah.
Look at the tasks I have done, he says. Could you do them? Could any man do them? “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?” (v. 12). Are you wise enough, and mighty enough, to do things like that? But I am, or I could not have made this world at all. Behold your God!
Look at the tasks I have done.
Would you be able to do them?
Can any human being do them?
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?” (Isaiah 40:12)
Are you wise enough to do things like that?
Are you strong enough, to do things like that?
But I am, or I could not have made this world at all.
The prophet Isaiah says: Here is your God! Look and be amazed!
Look now at the nations, the prophet continues: the great national powers, at whose mercy you feel yourselves to be; Assyria, Egypt, Babylon—you stand in awe of them, and feel afraid of them, so vastly do their armies and resources exceed yours. But now consider how God stands related to those mighty forces which you fear so much. “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket, they are regarded as dust on the scales;. . . Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing” (Is 40:15, 17). You tremble before the nations, because you are much weaker than they; but God is so much greater than the nations that they are as nothing to him. Behold your God!
Look at the great and powerful nations.
The prophet Isaiah was referring to: Assyria, Egypt, Babylon—
You feel that you are at their mercy.
You are terrified of them.
You know that their armies are bigger than yours, and they have far more resources than your nation does.
Now, look and see how small these nations are before God—
these same nations that have such mighty armies, which make you so afraid.
“Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket, they are regarded as dust on the scales;. . .
Before Him all the nations are as nothing;
they are regarded by Him as worthless and less than nothing.” (Isaiah 40:15, 17)
You tremble before the nations, because you are much weaker than they.
But God is so much greater than the nations, so much so that they are as nothing to Him.
The prophet Isaiah says: Here is your God! Look and be amazed!
Look next at the world. Consider the size of it, the variety and complexity of it, think of the nearly five thousand millions who populate it, and of the vast sky above it. What puny figures you and I are, by comparison with the whole planet on which we live! Yet what is this entire mighty planet by comparison with God? “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in” (Is 40:22). The world dwarfs us all, but God dwarfs the world. The world is his footstool, above which he sits secure. He is greater than the world and all that is in it, so that all the feverish activity of its bustling millions does no more to affect him than the chirping and jumping of grasshoppers in the summer sun does to affect us. Behold your God!
Look next at the world.
Think of how big the earth is.
Think of how complex it is.
Think of the nearly 5000 million people who live in it.
Think of the vast sky above it.
What puny figures you and I are, when compared with the whole planet on which we live!
Yet what is this entire mighty planet when compared with God?
“He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” (Isaiah 40:22)
The world dwarfs us all, but God dwarfs the world.
The world is His footstool, above which He sits with confidence and power.
He is greater than the world and all that is in it—
The prophet Isaiah explains this by pointing out that all the feverish activity of its bustling millions does not bother God at all,
just like the chirping and jumping of grasshoppers in the summer sun does not bother us.
The prophet Isaiah says: Here is your God! Look and be amazed!
Look, fourthly, at the world’s great ones-the governors whose laws and policies determine the welfare of millions; the would-be world rulers, the dictators and empire builders, who have it in their power to plunge the globe into war. Think of Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar, think of Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler. Think, today, of Clinton and Saddam Hussein. Do you suppose that it is really these top men who determine which way the world shall go? Think again, for God is greater than the world’s great men. “He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing” (Is 40:23). He is, as the prayer book says, “the only ruler of princes.” Behold your God! But we have not finished yet.
Look, fourthly, at the world’s great ones.
Think of the governors, whose laws and policies determine the welfare of millions.
Think of the would-be world rulers.
Think of the dictators and empire builders.
Some of these people are powerful enough to plunge the world into war.
The prophet was getting them to think of men who the Bible mentions—men like Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar.
To this list, we can add Alexander, Napoleon, and Hitler.
Today, we have other powerful men like Clinton and Saddam Hussein.
Do you think that it is really these top men who decide which way the world will go?
Think again, for God is greater than the world’s great men.
“He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.” (Isaiah 40:23)
(‘The Prayer for the Queen’s Majesty’ in the Book of Common Prayer—is perfectly right when it refers to our God as “the only Ruler of princes.”)
“O Lord our heavenly Father,
high and mighty, King of kings, Lord of lords, the only Ruler of princes,
who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth . . .
The prophet Isaiah says: Here is your God! Look and be amazed!
But the prophet is not finished yet. We have one more point.
Look, lastly, at the stars. The most universally awesome experience that mankind knows is to stand alone on a clear night and look at the stars. Nothing gives a greater sense of remoteness and distance; nothing makes one feel more strongly one’s own littleness and insignificance. And we who live in the space age can supplement this universal experience with our scientific knowledge of the actual factors involved—millions of stars in number, billions of light years in distance. Our minds reel; our imaginations cannot grasp it; when we try to conceive of unfathomable depths of outer space, we are left mentally numb and dizzy. But what is this to God? “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” (Is 40:26). It is God who brings out the stars; it was God who first set them in space; he is their Maker and Master—they are all in his hands and subject to his will. Such are his power and his majesty. Behold your God!
Look, lastly, at the stars.
If you have ever stood alone on a clear night and looked at the stars—you would know that there is nothing more awe-inspiring than that.
People everywhere have experienced this strange sense of remoteness and distance, when they look at the stars—
At such times, they are very aware of their own littleness and insignificance.
We who live in the space age can experience this feeling even more intensely, because our scientific knowledge points out to us that the universe in fact contains millions of stars, which are billions of light years away in distance.
Our minds reel.
Our imaginations cannot grasp it.
When we try to understand the depths of outer space, we are left mentally numb and dizzy.
But what is this to God?
“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.” (Isaiah 40:26)
It is God who brings out the stars.
It was God who first set them in space.
He is their Maker and Master—
They are all in His hands and subject to His will.
Such is His power.
Such is His majesty.
The prophet Isaiah says: Here is your God! Look and be amazed!
Our Response to Majesty
Let Isaiah now apply to us the Bible doctrine of the majesty of God, by asking us the three questions which he here puts in God’s name to disillusioned and downcast Israelites.
1. “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One” (Is 40:25 RSV). This question rebukes wrong thoughts about God. “Your thoughts of God are too human,” said Luther to Erasmus. This is where most of us go astray. Our thoughts of God are not great enough; we fail to reckon with the reality of his limitless wisdom and power. Because we ourselves are limited and weak, we imagine that at some points God is too, and find it hard to believe that he is not. We think of God as too much like what we are. Put this mistake right, says God; learn to acknowledge the full majesty of your incomparable God and Savior.
Isaiah asks the disheartened and discouraged Israelites three questions about the majesty of God.
Let us allow Isaiah to ask us those same questions,
– so that we may learn the Bible doctrine of the majesty of God.
Question #1 sharply disapproves wrong thoughts about God.
“To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” (Is 40:25)
We think of God as if He were a human being like us, and this is where we go wrong.
“Your thoughts of God are too human,”
(Luther to Erasmus in Bondage of the Will)
Our thoughts of God are not great enough.
We do not take into account the reality of His limitless wisdom and power.
Because we ourselves are limited and weak—
– we imagine that God is like that in some ways.
– and we find it hard to believe that He is not limited and weak at all.
We think that God is too much like what we are.
God is teaching us to—
– correct this mistake, and
– learn to acknowledge the full majesty of our incomparable God and Saviour.
2. “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord and my judgment is passed away from my God?” (Is 40:27 RV). This question rebukes wrong thoughts about ourselves. God has not abandoned us any more than he abandoned Job. He never abandons anyone on whom he has set his love; nor does Christ, the good shepherd, ever lose track of his sheep. It is as false as it is irreverent to accuse God of forgetting, or overlooking, or losing interest in, the state and needs of his own people. If you have been resigning yourself to the thought that God has left you high and dry, seek grace to be ashamed of yourself. Such unbelieving pessimism deeply dishonors our great God and Savior.
Question #2 sharply disapproves wrong thoughts about ourselves.
“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”? (Is 40:27)
God did not abandon Job, and He has not abandoned us.
He never abandons anyone on whom He has set His love.
Christ does not abandon those He loves either.
The good Shepherd never ever loses track of His sheep.
If anyone accuses God of—
– forgetting the needs of His people
– overlooking their pitiable state, or
– losing interest them—
Then, they are—
– accusing God falsely, and
– being extremely disrespectful to God.
If you have allowed yourself to think that God has abandoned you—
if you have assumed that He has left you helpless and alone—
then, you need to
– ask God to give you grace to be ashamed. (In other words, you would need His help to properly feel shame.)
It is deeply dishonouring to our great God and Saviour—
when we are—
– unbelieving and
3. “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the
everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?” (Is 40:28 KJV). This question rebukes our slowness to believe in God’s majesty. God would
shame us out of our unbelief. “What is the trouble?” he asks. “Have you been imagining that I, the Creator, have grown old and tired?
Has nobody ever told you the truth about Me?”
The rebuke is well deserved by many of us. How slow we are to believe in God as God, sovereign, all-seeing and almighty! How little we make of the majesty of our Lord and Savior Christ! The
need for us is to “wait upon the LORD” in meditations on his majesty, till we find our strength renewed through the writing of these things upon our hearts.
Question #3 sharply disapproves our slowness to believe in God’s majesty.
“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.” (Is 40:28)
It is almost as if God wants to get us to snap out of our unbelief by shaming us.
In this scripture, God asks us:
“What is the trouble?
“Have you been imagining that I, the Creator, have grown old and tired?
“Has nobody ever told you the truth about Me?”
Many of us deserve this criticism.
How slow we are to believe
– that God is God,
– that He is sovereign,
– that He is all-seeing, and
– that He is almighty!
How little we understand and acknowledge of the majesty of our Lord and Saviour Christ!
We need to “wait upon the LORD” by meditating on His majesty,
– till these truths are written on our hearts.
When that happens, we will be strong again.