“We need to see first and foremost that God is God—that he is perfect and complete in himself, that he is overflowingly happy in the eternal fellowship of the Trinity, and that he does not need us to complete his fullness and is not deficient without us. Rather, we are deficient without him; the all-sufficient glory of God, freely given in fellowship through his sacrificed Son, is the stream of living water that we have thirsted for all our lives” (Piper, The Pleasures of God, pp. 18-19, his emphasis). Obviously, what Dr. Piper writes—and more importantly, what the Bible teaches, is completely at odds with the so-called wisdom of mankind and all its ideas, attitudes, words, and actions. Yet only in the glorious God can defeated, debauched, and dying people find real hope. The truth revealed in these verses serves to exalt God’s Servant as Matchless Redeemer, and so this brings more glory to God. This is the best thing that can happen to people, because when we know the glory of God in Christ, then we can enjoy eternal life and all the overflow of his glory to us.
In our previous articles on this passage, we saw that verses 5-9 of Isaiah 42 are a unit, put together something like a sandwich. And we have already considered the innards of the sandwich, the great Servant of the Lord and what he does. But the outside, the “bread” of the sandwich is just as important and provides us with a clear view of the glory or value or shining brilliance of the Lord God.
God identifies himself as the Sovereign Creator (Isaiah 42:5). We hear three couplets in which God describes his creative acts. First, the Lord God talks about his creation of the heavens. In Biblical thought, God’s creation of the vast, spectacular heavens reveals his majesty in a special way (cf. Psalm 19:1-6). Anyone in their right mind who looks at the sun, moon, and stars, and ponders their immensity and the great display of light connected with them begins to wonder. A sense of awe strikes them. And when we think from a Biblical perspective that the Almighty God made them all, we are humbled and stirred to worship. Also when we think of heaven, we think of the place that speaks of God’s throne (Matthew 5:34), of his absolute rule over everything (Daniel 4:25-26). God’s throne was made by God alone. His sovereignty flows from his most excellent being.
Second, God talks about his creation of the earth. He made the earth; in poetic language, he spread it out, like he was unrolling a map. Picture it, as God spread it out. “Hmm, let’s put a large inland sea in the midst of three continents, and while we’re at it, let’s have two large continents cut off from the others by two mighty oceans. Now, where should we draw the rivers? And mountains, hills, and valleys can also show our glory!” God also made what comes out of the earth, like vegetation and animals. To use our picture again: “And we need to make fertile places from which people can get food and build their civilizations. And let’s give them animals and their environment to rule over wisely; then they can reflect our glory in the way they live. When they are wise, caring rulers of creation, they will show our surpassing glory.”
The Sovereign God talks about his creation of people. God created people, too. He made mankind, men and women, to bear his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). This is what gives every person value and significance. This also means that we must respect everyone (James 3:9-10). This is why every word we speak must be spoken in order to build others up (Ephesians 4:29).
Someone might object, “But there is so much that is wrong with that person’s attitudes, words, and actions!” I answer, “Perhaps that is true, but we’re talking about how you must please the Lord. You please him by building others up by your words. And if you can’t think about how you can do that while you disagree with them, then clearly you ought not to get in conversations with them until you learn how to talk godly and wisely.” God gives life and breath to all people. Therefore, all are dependent on him! And it should generate a great deal of holy reverence when we realize that the God to whom we must all give account has such total control over our lives.
All this is not isolated truth; we should admire it, learn it and submit to it. Here, God tells us this in order that we might exalt God’s Servant, who is our covenant and liberator. The Sovereign Creator’s power was displayed in his Son. We are wise to submit to him by living for his glory.
Grace and peace, David