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Who is like God?

Isaiah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:44
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Isaiah 44:1–22 ESV
1 “But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! 2 Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. 4 They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. 5 This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.” 6 Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” 9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? 11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together. 12 The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. 14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” 17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” 18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. 19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” 20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” 21 Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. 22 I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.

God is Faithful to His Covenant

Chapter 44 follows the promise of a new covenant for the nations and a reminder of Israel’s unfaithfulness. This may have caused some who listened to wonder if God was through with His people. But this is not the case. God will continue to be faithful. In verse 2, God declares, “I will help you.” But why should God do this? The answer is two-fold. God has chosen Israel to be his servant, and God “formed them in the womb.” Israel needed to recognize that God gave them their value based upon His creation and will. They did nothing to earn God’s grace. They only received it. God calls them Jeshurun, a special name given way back in the book of Deuteronomy. By calling them by this name, God reminded them of his long history. Although the people historically acted unfaithfully, God would remain faithful to his covenant plan. Although they lived a spiritually dry life, God would once again pour out his Spirit. Although the people would experience consequence and judgment, God would reverse things and give his personal presence. The effect on the people is profound. They will once again recognize that they belong to God alone to become True Israel. The prodigal people have come home back to their God.
The Bible reminds us that God alone is the author and creator of life. God also loves all that He has created John 3:16. God has expressed his complete love in sending Jesus Christ to deal with the problem of separation and broken relationship with God. When we are separated from God because of sin, we may wonder if God could ever love us. When we fail does God want to give up? No, God desires for us to return to him so that we may know what it means to belong to Him. It is no coincidence that we deeply desire to be loved by someone and belong to someone through because of love. If we are in Christ, we have a new identity, “God’s Property” and “God’s Child”. And because of Christ, we too have the promise of the Holy Spirit. The promises of Isaiah 44 are fully realized in Jesus Christ.
Galatians 4:3–6 ESV
3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Who is like God?

In the following section, God reminds Israel that He is unique. He identifies himself with four names:
YHWH - the sacred name of God alone identifying the One True God
King of Israel - although God allowed Israel to have a king, He alone was the true King that directed the people
Redeemer - Israel experienced slavery and defeat, but God was the One who brought them out
LORD of Hosts - this is the strong, victorious name of the God who wins all battles and defeats all enemies
If God is all the above, who can challenge His greatness? None before or after Him can come close to Him. Since He is all-powerful and holds all authority, whatever He declares will surely come to pass. God’s name and his power are the foundation for His people to “Fear Not.” This is the second time He gave the command not to fear. Those who rely upon God must not live in fear but faith. People in our lives may give us multiple reasons to distrust their words, but any promise God makes is to be taken seriously.
Numbers 23:19 ESV
19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Hebrews 6:18 ESV
18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
As Christians, we are called to trust God and not live in fear. If you struggle with fear, then re-examine on what you are basing your hope. Only God is worthy of your hope and trust.

The Uselessness of Idolatry

In verses 9-20, God analyzes the practice of idolatry and concludes that all who trust in idols will be put to shame. He also condemns idolatry as an abomination. What is idolatry?

Idolatry technically refers to the worship of an image or figure considered a representation or copy of a deity. Due to Yahweh’s prohibition of images, the worship of any image was worship of a god other than Yahweh—an act that amounted to rejection of and rebellion against the only true God.

These verses describe the process of idol making in reverse order. The irony is this the idol maker has constructed an item of worship from the same material he uses to cook his food. The process of making an idol was more than an artistic project. It involved many rituals and prayers along the way for this sacred activity. The idol functioned as a primary way for the god to be present on the earth. Although the idol was not the god in total, the idol was necessary for the worshipper/god interaction.
God strictly forbids idolatry among His people. He would not allow himself to be worshipped through an image of himself. Although the temple and ark of the covenant contained figures and symbols, these never represented God. They served to remind the worshipper of a particular action of God toward them. An image could never contain or represent God.
By the time of Jesus, Israel mostly rejected idolatry and held to a belief in God alone. But idolatry was rather normal in the Roman Empire. The early Christians lived in a world where idols and shrines were as common as grocery stores. Those who came to faith in Jesus Christ had to leave behind all concepts and practices of idolatry to embrace God alone, just as ancient Israel had to do to be fully dedicated to God.
But what about today? Although modern American living may not be filled with idolatry as in the past, it is still not too uncommon to come across idolatry from other religions. We mostly we encounter forms of spirituality that do not look to God alone. This is just as sinful. Christians ought to be very clear that God is our God, and there are no other spiritual paths that lead to Him. This Christian viewpoint may be unpopular with our society, but it is the only option that scripture gives us. We can not endorse the religions of the world as viable options and stay faithful to God. Doing so would be the same as rejecting God. When we interact with our society, let us never bend our knees to saying that there are other paths than Christ. We must agree to disagree. As Christians, to give in to the pressure to validate all religious paths is to commit the same unfaithful act of idolatry.

God Redeems

The last verses of this study echo the thoughts of the first verses. The covenant people belong to God. He is the Creator of all life and will be faithful to His created beings. Verse 22 clarifies the action that God must do for His unfaithful people. He will blot our their transgressions and sins. He promises that the problem of sin can be cured, but only by Him. For them to receive this, they must return to the God who redeems them. The term “redeem” implies that they were in danger or in slavery and needed to be made free and brought to safety. When they do, they will find that they have come into a special relationship with their Creator. They will become His people.
As we read the Bible, we must recognize the overarching narrative. God is the Creator of humanity. He invites humans to know Him and become His. But we are placed at a distance from God because of sin. Sin separates us but God is willing to bring us back to Himself. To do so, God must deal with our sin. Sin can only be cured by Him, therefore we come to him on His terms. He requires us to recognize our sin and turn from it to turn only unto Him. Jesus Christ is God’s cure for our sin.

How Important is the Topic of Sin?

Sin is an important issue throughout the scriptures. It is impossible to read the Bible and not come across some discussion of sin that separates us from God. Since sin is an important topic for the Bible, how important should it be to the Christian Church? How much should we emphasize it? For the Christian Church, we should not shy away from discussing sin because it is an important part of the gospel message. Sin may be an uncomfortable topic, but it is an essential conversation that we must regularly have.
Unfortunately, the topic of sin is handled differently by some Christians. Some find the terms too offensive to use in conversations with non-Christians because it might cause them to lose interest in Christianity. Some avoid the term in favor of other words that take the harsh edge off. They may choose to call them “mistakes” or “poor choices.” This approach may be less offensive, but it also may cause the unbeliever to be less responsible for their sin. Today, to call someone a “sinner” is often perceived as offensive. But scriptures like Isaiah 44 do not give us that perspective. God confronted the sinful issue of idolatry and unfaithfulness among this people and the nations. And when we consider the message of Jesus Christ, we discover that Jesus often spoke about sin.
Jesus was gracious with “sinners” but did not neglect to remind them that they had to repent. John 8:10-11
He warned about the self-righteous evaluation of sin. If we look at the sin of others without recognizing our own sin, we deceive ourselves and remain in our sin. Matthew 7:3-5
Jesus challenged the outward appearance of looking “righteous” by requiring people to look at their inward sinfulness. Matthew 5:27-28
Jesus' mission was not to “improve” the lifestyle of people so that they could be successful or prosperous. He came to seek and save the lost. Those who were spiritually sick in sin needed a physician. Luke 5:32
May the Christian Church never stray away from talking about the topic of sin. If we do, we will distort the message of the Gospel. We will never see our need for the Savior. Nor will we see our need to repent from all sin, inward or outward. The Good News will eventually devolve into Good Advice. We may find the words of Isaiah concerning sin to be offensive, but that is okay. Sin is offensive to God, so we should feel the sting of our sin because it is a real enemy. The Prodigal Son was only able to come back to his father after he realized he was a sinner. May we never take that away from a person who needs to repent. Let the conviction of the Holy Spirit continue to remind us of our need to repent and continue to follow God in all areas of life. May we be willing to share this “offensive” message with courage because it is just what God has called us to consider. Never underestimate the power of the Gospel.
Acts 17:29–34 ESV
29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” 32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
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