GOD IS AWESOME!
Most of us get the idea, we just don’t have a clue about the magnitude of His awesomeness. When we call something awesome these days, we mean “cool” or “wow” or “what an upgrade!” Awesome is our label for everything superlative.
The lid on the cookie jar slams, and I hear “Mom, these cookies are awesome.” Your coworker praises you, “Awesome job on that project!” A neighbor kid brags, “Check out my boom box—the subwoofers are awesome!”
Then we come to church and sing, “Our God is an awesome God,” and wonder why our worship falls flat.
We’ve ruined another word.
God is awesome indeed, but our flippant use of the term has made it as interesting as vanilla. At best, a cliché.
Only when we encounter the One who is truly awesome—only then are we speechless. We have no words left that belong to Him and Him alone.
But maybe speechless is the best way to approach God’s awesomeness. By far, I think this unique aspect of God’s character is His coolest. Everything that is God is awesome, and everything that is awesome is God. At my house, you’re not allowed to use “awesome” for anyone or anything except God. It’s the rule . . . because it’s the truth. To call anything else awesome is a joke. The real kind of awesome sends shivers up your spine.
At the risk of sounding simplistic, awesome means “producing awe.” Look it up; you won’t find any warm, soft synonyms for awe. They’re serious and threatening. Awe promotes fear and terror. Dread and fright. Awesome says, “Watch out!”
Hebrews 10:31 says it right: “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
But the flip side is that when you are gripped by God’s greatness, His awesomeness runs like a river of joy through the very center of your being. You know beyond any doubt that you were created for Him, for this moment. Isaiah knew all about God’s awesomeness. He proclaimed it without apology to an apathetic and aggressively wicked audience. Within the limitations of language the Holy Spirit gave Isaiah the greatest description of God’s awesomeness ever penned; his words are God’s words about Himself, and they are worthy of our careful study.
CLEAR THE WAY FOR GOD TO WORK
I’ve got to warn you. We each have obstacles in our lives that hinder us from hearing God’s Word. That’s why Isaiah begins chapter 40 with “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God” (v. 3). When it comes to communicating with His people, God wants nothing to hinder His truth from reaching you. He wants every single obstacle out of the way. So what’s blocking His access to your life? Could it be you? Are you trying to work things out on your own, refusing to let God’s awesomeness shake you out of your self-defined comfort zone? Get out of His way! Perhaps other people are hindering His truth from reaching you. Or perhaps you’ve talked about your problems till you’re weary of your own voice—still, no answers.
I challenge you to stand still in the severity of the moment and let God’s awesome power transform your perspective.
In these beginning verses of chapter 40, Isaiah tells of another voice that says, “Call out.” And we would then ask, “‘What shall I call out?’” How could we possibly find words to describe an awesome God to our generation?
Isaiah felt the same way as he said, “The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (vv. 7–8).
He’s right. Our words are like grass—they dry up and blow away. But God’s Word endures forever. Let’s dive into what God says about Himself in the Bible.
WHICH GOD DO YOU KNOW?
Isaiah begins his description of God with what sounds like a contradiction. Most people know either the God of verse 10 or the God of verse 11. Which side of God’s nature are you most familiar with? But both are true. Both are powerful.
In his first description, Isaiah writes:
Behold, the Lord God will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense [justice] before Him. (v. 10)
Do you know the God who rolls up His sleeve, bears His powerful arm, slams it on the table, and says, “C’mon people—get it together! Live right.” Have you experienced that strong arm of God? Good! But if that’s all you know, then be gripped by His other arm described in verse 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.
In other words, God is a shepherd, scooping up His lambs and carrying them close to Him. God provides special treatment for special needs. At certain times your shepherd would say, “This one is hurting. Careful of his wound. We’re going to have to carry her for a while.” This tender arm of God reminds us of His unique and personal care for us.
God has two arms . . .
One arm is mighty and powerful, demanding holiness and righteousness.
One arm tenderly cares for the weak and wounded.
Almighty and tender . . . one awesome God. We’ll talk more about that later.
THE WHOLE EARTH IS YOUR CREATION . . .
GOD, YOU ARE AWESOME!
This may sound silly, but take a good look at your hand. Hold it out. Inspect your fingers and your palms. Pretty useful tools, aren’t they? Maybe that’s why Isaiah uses them to describe creation. He tells us that God is one “who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span” (v. 12).
“Measured the waters.” Cup your hand. Look at that little place down there in the middle. Think about all of the water in all the world—God measured the oceans from the hollow of His hand. To be a little more exact, that’s 912,500 cubic miles of water. That’s a mile by a mile by a mile, 912,500 times. And God’s like, “Got it right here in My palm.”
“And marked off the heavens by the span.” The span of your hand is the distance from the tip of your thumb to the tip of your baby finger. In biblical days, a hand’s span was a common measuring tool. I can almost get my span around an orange. You try it. You’ve seen Shaquille O’Neal on the basketball court, right? He could probably get his span around half a basketball. God, on the other hand, can palm the world. God says, “See the Earth? It’s 25,326 miles all the way around—got it right here in My palm!” And it’s only because of His mercy and patience that He doesn’t slam dunk us all. Doesn’t that blow you away?
Next Isaiah tells us that God “calculated the dust of the earth by the measure.” Ever try to move the dirt around in your backyard? Amazing to learn that in creation our awesome God laid down all the soil on the whole planet and said, “That’ll be about a cup, thank you.” And it’s done.
Notice also the agency of God in creation; He is calculating, measuring, spanning. Those who would say that somehow God began some evolutionary process and then withdrew haven’t understood Isaiah 40. Clearly, God spoke the world into existence. He was personally the agency and the instrumentality of its creation.
With all my heart, I believe that God did all this in six literal twenty-four-hour days. I’m not troubled by scientific skeptics who think they know more than what God’s Word says. The historians, geologists, and evolutionary scientists of the world have often challenged the Bible, only to be proven wrong. It’s almost laughable to think of them trying to figure out God’s program. I’m going to stick with what God has said in the matters yet to be verified by science. I’m sure He’s not holding His breath, waiting to be validated. As if, “Whew, they’ve finally proven I’m real; what a breakthrough!” I don’t think so.
Notice God’s majesty in the next phrase. “And [He] weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales.” Picture the mountainscapes of the world. God said, “OK. Put the Rockies on this side of the scale. Bring them up into Canada. Now let’s make the Himalayas. How big do We want those? There . . . there, balance them out, and, yes, done!”
Now, friend, isn’t that awesome? Doesn’t that make you feel tiny?
Let’s jump down to verse 21. I love Isaiah’s attitude here.
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? 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. (vv. 21–22)
You can almost hear him say, “Duh! Haven’t you heard? Where have you been?” If you feel small when you imagine God’s creation, it’s because you are! God says we’re like grasshoppers! Picture yourself on a hot summer night out on the deck with your family and friends having a barbecue. How much do the grasshoppers in your lawn affect your evening? A little background noise maybe? Hardly a distraction. That’s the entire human race before God and His awesome purposes.
Now look at verse 22. “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth.” Twenty-two hundred years before Christopher Columbus, God said our planet was circular and not flat. Here it was in God’s Word all along. Ditto on the science versus Scripture comment above. I’ll go with God’s explanation every time.
THE HEAVENS ARE YOUR HANDIWORK . . .
GOD, YOU ARE AWESOME!
But God “stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in” (v. 22). The word heavens describes all of God’s created universe. He said, “Now, let’s make the universe,” and poof . . . as easily as you put up an umbrella, it was all there.
Do you have any idea the immensity of the universe God spoke into existence? I’ve tried for many years to find a decent description. Try this on for size: We’re on planet Earth, and we are 93,000,000 miles from the sun. Imagine that distance as the thickness of a piece of paper. From the Earth to the sun, 93,000,000 miles equals a piece of paper.
With that in mind, the distance to the nearest star is a stack of paper seventy-one feet high, with every single piece of paper representing 93,000,000 miles. (Stay with me; this is getting outrageous.) The size of our galaxy is represented by a stack of paper 310 miles high (the distance from Chicago to St. Louis), with every single piece of paper in that stack representing 93,000,000 miles. That’s just our galaxy, and it’s one among millions. You say, “Oh, I understand that.” Well, think about this then.
The known universe is a stack of paper 31,000,000 miles high with every single piece of paper representing 93,000,000 miles! Now for those of you who like math, there are 10.4 million sheets of paper in a stack one mile high. Therefore, the known universe is 31,000,000 miles of paper, with each mile representing 10.4 million sheets of paper and each sheet of paper representing 93,000,000 miles. Are you getting a headache?
In every description we see of God’s reality, we are struck by the immense distance that exists between us and God—in power, in size, in ability, in majesty. The gap is too great to measure. This must be what the astronauts felt viewing the Earth from the moon’s surface. We are so small . . . so infinitesimally tiny. God, on the other hand, could inhale the universe in a single breath. The writer of Hebrews understood this. Check out Hebrews 1:10–11:
You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands; they will perish, but You remain; and they all will become like a garment, and like a mantle You will roll them up; like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.
In other words, God can roll up and toss away the universe as easy as rolling up an old shirt. The immensity of it all is really so much more than we can grasp. That’s why we reserve the word ___________ (fill it in yourself) just for Him.
THE NATIONS ARE YOUR INSTRUMENTS . . .
GOD, YOU ARE AWESOME!
A drop in the bucket—you’ve heard that expression. It means almost nothing, like $100 to the national economy. Bloop, “just a drop in the bucket.” That’s what God thinks about the nations who disregard His awesomeness. Of course there are a lot people who don’t give a rip about God’s Word or His invitation of grace. Did you ever wonder what God thinks about them? Verse 15 makes it pretty clear that the feeling is mutual. Isaiah says, “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket.” They are like a speck of dust on the scales, Isaiah goes on to say.
All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless. To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him? (vv. 17–18)
Isaiah is beginning to stutter as he tries to think of words to shatter man’s tiny perception of God. He’s not like this . . . and He’s so much bigger than that . . . and so far beyond—??? Then what can we compare Him to? How can we describe how awesome He truly is?
And to that question, we . . . we have no words.