Isaiah 40 is designed to take your focus away from everything else and consider the Sovereign Lord, the one true, living God. The chapter begins with a message of comfort and redemption from the Lord (verses 1-2). It points to the coming of Christ and good news (9-11). Isaiah then directs you to consider the immensity and wisdom of the Lord to do all he promised (12-14).

Everything mentioned is to persuade you to trust God, that his heart is as tender as it is strong. He is no less willing than able to save: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him,” (Psalm 103). 

There are challenges, obstacles to trust in God and faith in his word. A great one is the power of men, the strength of nations of men. So the Lord addresses this in verses 15-17. Verse 15 reads: “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.”

The Lord says pay close attention and don’t forget this; if you fill up a bucket of water, and when you turn a drop sloshes out, it is irrelevant, inconsequential. The same thing if you are weighing something of value on scales. A piece of dust is not even noticed. The “coastlands” are symbolic of man’s marshalled wealth and strength to impress. Yet, they are not impressive to God, nor can they hinder his purposes and promise.

This is the reality. But when we are faced with threats from nations or allurements, we have to choose whom we will cast our lot with. As an example, let me summarize the story of King Ahaz of Judah. When Syria and the Northern Kingdom assembled their forces to invade Judah, Ahaz was given a choice. Isaiah was sent to tell Ahaz the Lord would help him and not to be worried at all. 

Ahaz already had another message of the impending invasion that made all Judah tremble.  Faced with this dilemma, he decided to look elsewhere than the bare promise of the Lord God. He chose poorly. It didn’t work out well at all for Judah or Ahaz. 

We shouldn’t judge Ahaz too quickly. Powerful nations of men can seem like the only refuge or biggest threat. Rome was the greatest power at the time of Christ. Men looked to her in hope, or fear, or hate; but they looked. When God says behold the nations, he means look in comparison to who the Lord is, what the Lord has said, what the Lord has done.

The Lord makes his case in Christ. Christ was born during Rome’s peak power. He was crucified by the authority of Rome. The church began and spread despite Rome and other opposition. In Acts 1, the resurrected Lord Jesus commanded his Apostles to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then to then ends of the earth.  This they did.

The Apostles barely had begun their mission before they were arrested and warned not to speak of Jesus name again. They got together and prayed: “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and earth and the sea and everything in them….Lord look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with boldness… (Acts 4)”

They were staring right at the power of men and nations they had no power to resist (and eventually were put to death by), but they continued preaching Christ. They chose wisely. When the Lord Jesus told people to count the cost of following him he also told them he would never leave them or forsake them. He promised an incorruptible inheritance, redemption from sin, fellowship with the living God. He required faith and still does.

He promised in contrast to what the world offers. God fills the whole earth and heaven with his presence. He offers himself to us. It is good to lose all for God, because we have all in him. If we lose our life for him, he will save it. There is nothing the Lord can’t do. He is the infinite, eternal, unchangeable God.

The nations Ahaz feared more than God didn’t last very long. The treasures he sought to protect, he lost. The idols he set up to give aid and permission to his iniquities crumbled. And Ahaz died. When God tells you to behold the nations, he is saying look very carefully. He is saying choose whom you will serve, and to whom you will commit your soul.

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