Show Me Your Picture
Begin with “I Thank You God”
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, God who has brought us thus far on the way. God who has by Thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray. Oh gracious God of all creation, thank you for another chance to proclaim your goodness. I ask now that you stand up in me the way that you stood up in those who came before me. Anoint my voice to not only sing your praises, but to preach Your holy word. Give me fire, conviction, and pour Your oil on me that someone might want to know the God that I preach about. This time is yours, we are yours. Have your way, Oh God. In the name of the immigrant refugee son of a teenage mother who died a victim of state sanctioned violence and rose as savior of the world, Amen.
One of the early church fathers, Gregory of Nazianzus once said: “No one has yet breathed the whole air, nor has any mind entirely comprehended, or speech exhaustively contained, the being of God. But we sketch Him by His attributes, and so obtain a certain faint and feeble and partial idea concerning Him. Our best theologian is he who has not, indeed, discovered the whole, for our present chain does not allow of our seeing the whole, but conceived of Him to a greater extent than another, and gathered in himself more of the likeness or sketch of the truth, or whatever we may call it.”
The writer of our text today points out that as vast as God is, we can start to know God through what God does. Millennia and centuries have been asking the question “who is God?” Though we won’t answer that question today, our text helps us to get at it. This morning, I want to offer that…
We can come to know God by observing the character of God.
As we can tell, there will never be a time that we ever fully understand God, but in our text today, the writer of Second Isaiah gives us a few pointers on how we might get to know God by observing who God reveals Godself to be throughout history and Scripture.
First of all, this text teaches us that…
- The greatness of God was self-evident and long established
Here in our text, the opening verse, v. 21 asks in a somewhat Socratic manner, “don’t you know who our God is?” The questions here are rhetorical, not meant to be answered, but to stir a response in the reader.
21 Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
Wasn’t it announced to you from the beginning?
Haven’t you understood since the earth was founded? Is 40:21 (CBE)
Here, “foundations” refers to the teachings and the truth imparted on God’s people Israel from the beginning. The foundations are those things which are the very origins and structural components that give stability and meaning. Though our text is from Isaiah, the writer is saying that the greatness of our God is that which was set up through God’s first act of redemption in the days of Moses. Reaching even further back than that, God was revealing Godself ever since God put people in control of God’s universe under Them in the book of Genesis. The Word of God says in Ps 19:1, “the heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaim God’s handiwork.” All creation proclaims the greatness of our God and has from the beginning of time.
When this pandemic hit last March, I, like many others, scrambled to make ends meet. As I have mentioned time and again, I started March with two jobs, and ended March with none. I had to lean and depend not only on the God that I knew would provide, but on my community that I was sure loved and cared for me. By the grace of God alone, I was able to make ends meet over and again, and I thanked God every day for a roof over my head and food to eat. However, there are people right now who are still feeling the effects of this global crisis. There are families that wait with eager anticipation for the next stimulus check with an amount that is still to be determined. Even if God doesn’t send a relief the way we might expect, even if the bills that are overdue remain overdue, even if we cannot afford the medicine that we desperately need, the Scripture tells us that God’s greatness is self-evident. God will reveal Godself whatever way God sees fit.
While we anticipate God’s coming and doing, I wonder what we could do to be better stewards of what God has blessed us to have. Could we perhaps be less gluttonous? Could we perhaps distribute our wealth, or even our lack for the sake of those who are less fortunate? Could we acknowledge where our privileges lie in interaction with those who are oppressed in different ways than we are? While we know our God is a great God and the heavens declare it, in our pursuit of being God-like, I wonder if we might seek to serve like God instead of sound like God.
Not only is the greatness of God self-evident and long established, but this text reminds us that…
- God has all power in Their hands
Our text reads,
22 God inhabits the earth’s horizon—
its inhabitants are like locusts—
stretches out the skies like a curtain
and spreads it out like a tent for dwelling.
23 God makes dignitaries useless
and the earth’s judges into nothing. Is 40:22-23 (CBE)
The locusts mentioned here have nothing to do with God’s plan of rescuing Israel. The locusts are us humans here on Earth. In these verses, God’s distance from us is highlighted. From a distance, people seem as insignificant as locusts in the Scripture here are. To God who is stretching out the heavens, people have no inherent power or relevance. God can make or break us, can establish us in power or determine the length of our lives with all of the influence and power, and can make them into nonentities. God can take away our power in an instant. God can do that because God is all powerful, God is omnipotent.
I remember as I was leaving Texas in preparation to move (back) to Georgia, I had my plan all set! On Monday, I was gonna shoot down to Austin for a photo shoot with my brother. Tuesday, I would pick my dad up from the airport in Dallas and finish packing my apartment. On Wednesday, I would turn in my keys and spend a little time saying goodbye to the city of Waco. And by Thursday, I’d be ready to hit the road! Needless to say, my week did not go as smoothly as I anticipated. I found myself on Tuesday night calling up my friends to come help me finish packing up, as I hadn’t done much in the months and weeks prior because of the overwhelming sadness of grieving a place that I knew as home for so long. In my daily prayer, I thank God for my friends, as I see them as evidence of God’s love for me here on earth. In my own power, getting out of Texas seemed impossible, but with the help of God and some reminders of God here on earth, I was able to meet my deadline of getting out of the apartment on that Wednesday. Those days after Wednesday, I gave up whatever schedule I thought I had up to God. I discarded and disregarded my schedule and told God, “have Your way.”
Have you ever felt like something on your own was impossible to do? Have you ever tried to make ends meet when they were as far as the east is from the west? Have you ever looked at your situation and wondered how? I’m almost sure that’s how God’s people Israel felt as they journeyed toward Zion without being sure of anything about it. They put their trust in the omnipotent, all powerful God who is in control. How might our lives look if we trusted in that God?
The final thing I want to leave you with is the reality that…
- There is no God like our God
Written throughout this Scripture passage is the truth of the incomparable God. In verse 25, the writer says
25 So to whom will you compare me,
and who is my equal? says the holy one. Is 40:25 (CEB)
Isn’t it unfathomable to liken anything to God who is ruler of all creation? God is the be all, end all of everything. The songwriter said, “I searched all over, couldn’t find nobody. I looked high and low, still couldn’t find nobody. Nobody greater. Nobody greater than you.” There is no God like our God. We can cross the universe a million times over and come to find out that there is no God like our God. Our God cannot be compared because our God is incomparable.
Think of your favorite artist, living or dead. I’m doing it now. Any time they are brought up in a comparison conversation, I find it difficult to do so. When this person is at the top, the pinnacle, and is the standard, who can compare them to anyone else? Unlike Whitney Houston, however, there is no one that even comes close to who God is. There are no lists to be made. I find good news in the fact that even though God is incomparable, God comes down to us and desires to know us though we may never fully know Them. God interacts with us and cares for us in ways that are immeasurable and unexplainable. God heals, provides, delivers, saves, and the list goes on and on. God does all of those things and desires to know us fully.
Art Linkletter saw a small boy drawing a picture. He inquired, “What are you drawing?” The small boy replied, “A picture of God.”
Linkletter told the lad that no one knows what God looks like, to which the boy confidently responded, “They will when I get through.”
All of us are holding pencils, pens, crayons, and even permanent markers drawing who our God is. Your God may look like you because we are made in God’s image according to the first book of Genesis. Whatever your God looks like, there are a couple of things that we know: The greatness of our God is self-evident and long established, God has all power in their hands, and there is no God like our God. This morning, I ask you and you and you… Show me your picture.
May the Lord add a blessing to the doers, hearers, and the readers of God’s Word.