(Exposition for 4-14-13 sermon: Providential Super-Aboundings)
Psalm 23 is so very familiar to most of us, there may be a tendency to marginalize the spectrum of glorious character defining our Shepherding Lord in this beloved song. It is important that the anthropomorphic language of this famous passage is not taken as license to paint a picture of God in our own image. Isaiah 40:11-18, as a companion text, may help retool our frame of reference for Psalm 23. Let us consider in context the theological meditations of Isaiah and their staggering scope. In the same breath the prophet portrays the Lord as the Great Shepherd and as the architect of time and the cosmos. Three areas of His sovereign reach are witnesses to our Shepherding Lord’s acclaim in this chapter.
1. THE NATURAL REALM:
that which impels the awe, childlike discovery, and limitless aspirations of the natural sciences…
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?” (Isaiah 40:12)
If all the waters of the universe including every frozen atom embedded in distant comets, meteors, and planets, every liquid molecule of water across the surface of the earth, every cubic inch in the depths of every sea, every aquifer carefully chambered within the crust of this mysterious life-bearing orb, every droplet soaring heavenward in the atmosphere as steam, every bead clinging to blades of grass as dew, every airborne raindrop plummeting earthward in torrential storms…if every last drip were poured together in a colossal vat, the waters of the entire cosmos would remain insufficient to wash the hands of our Shepherding Lord! He measures them in the hollow of His hand!
The heavens themselves are the equivalent of our Great Shepherd’s solitary cubit! The Hubble telescope scanning the reaches of the known universe with the highest resolution, and the longest range of sight man can engineer has assuredly yet to travel, by vision alone, from the elbow to the forearm of our Great Shepherding Lord’s celestial span!
See our Shepherding Lord lifting a tiny vile close to His eye for the minutest inspection. In this translucent thimble, are the sediments of the entire terrestrial expanse. Like a master chef, He carefully weighs the ingredients of all the material universe and formulates the geological elements of the intercontinental mountain ranges with no margin of error!
2. THE METAPHYSICAL REALM: That which confounds and compels philosophers over millennia…
“Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40: 13-14)
He IS inscrutable transcendence! He IS the causeless cause! He IS the self existent eternal genius! He IS the archetype of all being, personality, reason, consciousness, value, beauty, nobility, power, glory, and prestige! His Son IS wisdom personified, prior and eternal, the wellspring and everlasting fount of glory! He Is revealed in ancient Proverbs, declared in the first breath of the Gospels. He was, and IS, and IS to come! Of him, and through Him, and to Him are all things! The Word was in the beginning with God, and He IS God! The matchless first cause of knowledge itself, our Shepherding Lord IS epistemological preeminence! The source, authority, ground, meaning, limit, and worth of knowledge in the first place!
3. THE ADMINISTRATIVE REALM: The self-evident establishment of unrivaled dominion, government, authority, and jurisdictional prerogative…
“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. Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.” (Isaiah 40:15-17)
The nations are a single drop in the watering can of our Great Shepherding Lord who alone sovereignly preserves them or instantaneously dispatches them according to the unsearchable wisdom of His holy will ever flourishing in the garden of His glory! The nations are but dust on the scales of the Shepherding Lord who might blow them off from time to time as a grocer would. Not on account of their measurable weight (they have none) but instead so as not to dirty his produce. The greatest of nations in our eyes representing the most tangibly formidable of powers and the golden age of earthly bounty could never hope to supply sufficient fuel for an altar by their old growth timber standing sea to sea, let alone supply sufficient sacrifices even if every last beast of the field was slain in offering to the deserving glory of our Shepherding Lord!
Empires, Kings, alliances, epochs, civilizations, regimes, edicts, industry, legacies, governments, fortunes, wars, war machines, revolutions, religions, defenses, executives, treaties, campaigns, idols, enemies, principalities, philosophies, cultures, celebrities, heresies, aristocracies, conspiracies, armies, policies… when the celestial books are finally balanced, all of these added together are nothing. Less than nothing!
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4) Humanism’s heights of self-aggrandizing accomplishments like the ostensibly historic space race and subsequent moon landing are comparable to a flea jumping several inches off a pillow shouting at the top of his microscopic lungs: “I am god, I am god!” The heavens laugh in derision.
“To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?” (Isaiah 40:18)
The question rings with rhetorical and substantial authority following this systematic process of elimination, destroying every preconceived notion of any aspect of life or thought that might so much as be compared to the Almighty and thus insult His primacy. The question would appear absolutely unanswerable to the reader if it had not been answered already in verse 11: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” What a staggering revelation that the object of verses 12-17 is tangibly, intimately, lovingly, and sacrificially pictured as a shepherd in verse 11!
ISAIAH 40 BRINGS TOGETHER THE EMINENCE AND IMMINENCE OF GOD, reminding us that, in reality, they are never separated. How trustworthy and capable the Shepherding Lord’s compassionate arms if His cubit spans incalculable light years? How surely will we want for nothing if He has gathered the dust of the earth in a measuring cup, carefully weighed the mountains in scales, and apportioned the hills from His balances?” How secure will our still waters be if they rest as a drip in His astronomical palm? What shadow of death could possibly loom over one whose Spirit is immeasurable and whose power compared to the sum of the nations renders them less than nothing?
What pompous fool would presume to counsel Him? What gross ignoramus would assume He is questionable? What arrogant buffoon would dare boast in His presence? Which craven reprobate will stand before His judgement seat?
At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father! His sheep hear His voice and confidently follow while the voices of strangers become vapid, hollow, distant, and feeble sounds indeed!
Soli Deo Gloria.