Above and beyond? Isaiah 40:21-31
The psalmist presents us with two descriptions of God that are so natural and obvious that they seem as ‘given’.
The first is the picture of a God who is above and beyond. In a world still ignorant of Galileo’s revolutionary model of the universe, of course. The Psalmist sees God as being so above and beyond that he leads the stars out on their nightly journey, rallying them with military precision.
The second is of a God who knows, understands and responds to our inherent human weakness which can afflict even (or especially?) the young. Far from being a God who is above and beyond, this is a picture of a God who is at work beneath and within human lives.
If each of these pictures of God is so natural and obvious, how can they be reconciled with each other? The psalmist doesn’t explain it, he just states it. It is the tension with which people of a faith in a living God have always lived.
When we look to Jesus, who is both suffering servant and enthroned Son of God, we can begin to see how these two pictures of God come together in a most unexpected, profound and life-changing way.
Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told 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 like a tent to dwell in;
who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.
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”?
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.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.