“TO WHOM THEN WILL YE LIKEN GOD?”
Isaiah 40:18 (First sentence)
This question has been in my mind as I have been considering this occasion: “To whom then will ye liken God?”. How well do you know Him? There are many people who say they do not believe that He exists. That is Satan’s attempt to dull the conscience so they will not think about Him. Every one of us is going to meet Him; you are going to meet Him; I am going to meet Him. We are going to meet Him soon; I am sure it will not be long: we are going to meet God. I might say as the prophet did, ‘What will He be like?’.
For many years some of us did not want to think about that. We wanted to put that out of our minds. We did not want to meet God. Why did we not want to meet God? Because, in the depths of our hearts, we knew that we were sinners. We were not fit to be in the presence of God; we were not fit to appear before Him. And we knew very well that the last thing that we wanted to do was to meet God. But the fact is we will have to. I can tell you now, my friend, that there are many here who are not afraid of meeting God now. God has met us; He has met us in grace; He has met us in the Person of His own Son. What a wonderful thing it is to think that God should come out in such a way. What is He like? What is God like?
Well, this word came through the prophet Isaiah. Some of us were speaking earlier today about Isaiah, and there are many chapters which are quite dark. There are chapters of burdens and there are chapters of woes, but through it all, and after them all, comes the brilliant light of the glad tidings - the gospel - God’s glad tidings. He prophesies like none other of the fact that there was One coming, who would be the answer to everything that has come between God and man, the One who was coming who was going to take it all upon Himself.
In the days in which Isaiah lived, God was known as a righteous God. I suppose right from the outset He was known as a holy God. Right from Adam’s time, when Adam was driven out of that garden of Eden, the way to the tree of life was guarded by the cherubim and the flame of the flashing sword. Who could go that way? Did God ever give up on man? A brother once helped me to see that the way to the tree of life was never closed; it was not taken away: it was guarded, guarded by the cherubim and the flame of the flashing sword. God’s holiness was preserved. God always intended that man should come to the tree of life and partake of it, but His holiness prevented man in his sins from coming there. The flame of the flashing sword was there and none could pass that way. Israel saw the flame of the flashing sword. They came out of Egypt and they were in Sinai and they came to the foot of the mountain and the whole mountain quaked and was on fire and there was “the sound of the trumpet, exceeding loud”, and the people were terrified: think of that. Six hundred thousand men plus their families - probably two million people - and they were terrified. What could terrify two million people? The flame of God’s flashing sword was there. His holiness was being maintained; His righteousness was being maintained. These attributes of God will never go away. They are maintained and maintained forever. And Israel was terrified. What did they do? They said to Moses, ‘You go up the mountain but we will not come near it’; and God actually spoke to Moses and He said, ‘Do not let them come near because they will perish’, Exod 19. But you know there was one man and he went up that mountain. It says later, that “Moses drew near to the obscurity”, Exod 20: 21. One man was able to go up to the presence of God.
Think of how that speaks of our Lord Jesus, does it not? The One who came down here into this very scene in which we are, as a real Man, taking his place amongst men. What wonderful grace! This is what God’s circumstances were like. Grace was being displayed. It had been displayed through every dispensation of time: even the law contained grace. Think of it; that is what God is like. “To whom then will ye liken God?” The law provided a way through for man, but man could not keep it. But the Lord Jesus came. He came - the One who magnified the law and made it honourable. It is not just that He fulfilled it to the letter, but that He was the spirit of the law; the spirit of it was seen in Him. In that wonderful and perfect life He displayed all that God had in mind in relation to man. He displayed the heart of God to man; He displayed perfect manhood to God: wonderful life of Jesus! Think of the greatness of what was set out in that life. He came near to people; He came near to the lowest of man. Even as to His incoming, as to the circumstances into which He came, He did not come in as you and I have. Normally we have come from loving parents. We have been taken, nurtured and cared for, and the best provided. When the Lord Jesus came there was not a roof over His head. There were no comforts, no crib. No, He was laid in what had been constructed for animals; that was where He was laid. This was the Son of God! These were the circumstances into which He came! Why did He come so low? He came so low in order that you and I should be able to reach Him, that He should come into our circumstances. None was below the circumstances into which He came. He said, “the Son of man has not where he may lay his head”, Luke 9: 58. Nobody was poorer than He was: He made Himself poor. There is a verse in the Proverbs which says, “There is that feigneth himself rich, and hath nothing”, chap 13: 7. Think of that; that is the whole world system, what man is: he “feigneth himself rich, and hath nothing”. Then it says, “there is that maketh himself poor, and hath great wealth”. Think of the Lord Jesus.; He made himself poor; He came into such circumstances. “For your sakes he, being rich, became poor”. Why? “That ye by his poverty might be enriched”, 2 Cor 8: 9. Oh beloved, what a wonderful matter for our contemplation. Think about it dear friend; think about it when you are alone. If you wake up in the night, what do you think about? Problems perhaps; I know what it is like. Learn to train your mind upon the Lord Jesus, and think about Him. Think about the things that concern Him. You will find that you will sleep easier afterwards; you will find that the things of life have changed.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus!
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Helen H Lemmel (1922)
These are precious words and how true they are. ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus’. Well, there He was beloved, the Object for all who would come to Him, available to all for the feeblest cry. We have been speaking of Him at the mount of transfiguration, Matt 17: 1-8. When He came down from that mountain, what He encountered was a young person who was under the power of Satan, v 14-18. The Lord Jesus came from the greatest elevation right down to the lowest depths of humanity. This boy was helpless and Satan’s power was active there. What was His reaction? Just the same as if He had not been glorified on the mountain; He was coming to bring salvation to men.
Think of the wonder of salvation. Do you really know salvation? You may say, ‘I know my sins forgiven’. Yes, but do you know salvation? To be free. That boy was released from the power of Satan: how precious that is. Saved: we need to be saved from our sins; we need to be saved from the power of Satan; we need to be saved from the world. Ultimately believers will be saved even in relation to these conditions. Salvation is a wonderful thing - full salvation. And that is what God has in mind for us. “To whom then will ye liken God?” Who could have thoughts like this in relation to man? Well, it involved that the Lord Jesus must go and suffer and die. He went to the cross, beloved. Even as going to the cross, He still considered for His own, did He not? Remember He came out of Jericho and He heard a cry. He had the cross before Him; He was going up to Jerusalem; the next thing on the divine calendar was that Jesus was going to be rejected and taken and crucified. That was what was immediately before Him, and He heard a cry from a poor blind man. And it says, “Jesus stood still”, Luke 18:40. He stood still. And beloved, He will stand still for you tonight; this afternoon: do not put it off till tonight. He will stand still for you just now if you cry out in your heart to Him; He will stand still. There are many here in this room who can say that He stood still for them. Because when you turn to the Lord Jesus in all your need, what you find is that He is occupied with you alone, and nobody else can intrude. He is just occupied with you, because He has died for you.
He went that way for you, my friend. He suffered there upon the cross in order to free you from your sins. He bore the terrible judgment of God against sin there upon the cross, and everyone who puts their faith in Him can know what it is to have their sins forgiven and to be free of sin, to be justified. Everyone who puts their faith in Him can know what that is. He suffered there, and He went into death. He shed His precious blood. It is a wonderful witness, is it not, to the maintaining of every divine right? God’s righteousness, God’s holiness that I spoke about, the flame of the flashing sword, Sinai: He bore it in its fulness. You and I could never bear it. He bore it in its fulness. There was the Lord Jesus, upon the cross, and He shed His precious blood and that was the witness that every divine claim has been met. And it is the witness that the way is now open for you to come into the presence of God where He is. That is, the great eternal witness is the ground on which you stand before God.
You remember in Leviticus the blood was taken into the holy of holies and it was sprinkled upon the mercy seat, sprinkled once upon the mercy seat, chap 16: 14. Divine claims have been met once and for all, but then it was sprinkled before the mercy seat. Typically, there upon the ground the blood was sprinkled for you. Was it sprinkled once? Once, twice, three times, four times - seven times there before the mercy seat; so you should have full assurance that you have a way into the presence of God and your standing before God is based on the blood of Jesus; that precious blood. When we speak about the blood of Jesus, we feel compelled to use the word precious because it is so precious - precious to God and precious to us. And the blood is the basis of our standing before God. We can stand there in all boldness and suitability because the blood of Jesus has been shed. And our faith and our joy is in the greatness of the One who shed His precious blood.
And then He was buried; He was placed in the tomb. It says in Isaiah 53 that “men appointed his grave with the wicked”, v 9. They would have put His grave at the foot of the cross like they did with criminals. God saw to it that that did not happen. The Lord Jesus was not put into a grave; He was laid in a tomb. The difference is that a tomb has a door. The angel said, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay”, Matt 28: 6. “See the place”; He was put in that new tomb, a place that had never seen corruption. He was placed there but He could not remain there. As soon as that third day arrived, He was raised. He was raised by the glory of the Father. What does that involve? Everything that God is was involved in the resurrection of Jesus; God’s love was involved. He could not leave His Son in death; His love was involved. He had to have His Son with Him. His righteousness was involved; He could not righteously leave Christ in death, the One who had established righteousness for Him, the One who had met every claim of the throne. He could not leave Him there. It was a matter of divine righteousness that He should be raised. His holiness was involved. He could not remain there: “neither wilt thou allow thy holy One to see corruption”, Ps 16: 10. Every attribute of God was involved in this, that Christ should be raised, that He should be brought out of death.
And think of the greatness of what took place that morning when Christ was brought out of death. He was on new ground entirely. And the believer’s portion with Him is on new ground. So there was that dear sister, Mary; she came to the tomb. She had nothing here apart from Jesus. If the Lord Jesus was not here, what did she have on earth? Nothing! She came to the tomb in all her affection, and He met her there. He entrusted her with the greatest message that was ever given to anyone. Why? Because she was there in affection. She was there in affection for Him. Have you got real love for the Lord Jesus? I ask you - have you? It is a challenge. There are those whom we love according to nature, and if we love them then we are prepared to sacrifice for them, are we not? We give them things; we sacrifice. Have you got love for Jesus? Have you got love for the Lord? You see what He has done: He has suffered for you; He has died; He has shed his precious blood; He has been buried, indicating that all that we are according to nature has removed from God’s sight. He has now been raised, He has now been exalted in heaven, and He is there now a blessed living One. Do you love Him where He is? You may be glad that you can see the work that He has done upon the cross, but, oh beloved, the One who holds the heart is a Man who is now in the glory. He is no longer upon the cross, but He is now the centre of another world, a world of glory, a world where we belong. We belong there because we belong to Him! We are united to Him. How can I say we are united to Him? Because all those who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit are united to Him. The Lord Jesus having ascended up on high, the Holy Spirit has been given. And here is another milestone in your life: have you received the gift of the Holy Spirit? He is available. Ask the Father in all sincerity, be in exercise before God, be earnest before God. Let us never be casual before God in relation to divine things; things relating to our souls. Let us be in real earnest about them. God is ready to give; God is a giving God, and He would give His Holy Spirit to those who ask Him, to those who obey Him. God is willing to do that; He is more ready to give than we are to ask. That is the kind of God He is.
“To whom then will ye liken God?” You see what He has done? You see the lengths to which He has gone? He has sent His own Son, who has taken this way, who has been delivered up and has settled the whole matter of sin and sins for time and eternity, and is now exalted in the Father’s presence. Soon He is coming again; and He is the One, beloved, who is the Centre of God’s world and He is to be the Centre of our world. We do not know how long it will be until the Lord comes. We do not think it will be very long at all; we hope not! But in the meantime, is He the Centre of your world as He is the Centre of God’s world? God would have Him to be; God would have you to have the same thoughts of the Lord Jesus as He has. That was made clear on the mount of transfiguration. Peter had great thoughts of the Lord Jesus, but also of Moses and Elias, and the Father intervened and, in effect, He said, ‘Peter, I want you to have my thoughts about Him. I want you to share in my appreciation of my Son’. Beloved, let us increase in our appreciation of that One. Let us be here as those who are held in relation to Him. That is God’s desire that we should be here as held in that way, so that we are here walking by faith and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, there is a power here to walk here apart from evil. There are temptations around but we do not have to give way to them. I remember a brother years ago saying in the meeting that the believer has power, for example, to see a newspaper headline and just turn the page; He does not have to read the article. The believer has the power to do that. That is the power of the Holy Spirit, to be able to avoid evil, to keep ourselves in relation to Christ, in relation to God, to hold ourselves in relation to divine things; the believer has the power to do that. Beloved, what a wonderful thing that is, and if you have the Holy Spirit you have that power. And what is more, if you have the Holy Spirit you will find yourself as part of the most glorious thing that has ever been created, the assembly: the most glorious vessel - you are part of it! And everyone who believes on the Lord Jesus and has the Holy Spirit is part of this most wonderful entity that exists in the whole creation. And that is your part and it will be your part eternally.
Well, beloved, all these things are in God’s mind. Who is a God like this? ‘To whom will ye liken me?’, says God. The whole of man’s world, the whole of men’s systems, the whole of men’s careers, whatever it may be, what is it compared to God? Everything down here is going to be rolled up and done away with, and what will go through is your link with God, your link with the Lord Jesus. That will go through and that is the only thing that will see you through, beloved. The work of God in you is going to keep you and will preserve you to all eternity.
May the Lord bless the word.
Preaching of the glad tidings, Kirkcaldy
6th November 2016