Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Transcendent God

Listen as the Spirit speaks through the prophet. Listen as the old prophet magnifies the name of God.

Isaiah 40:
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?
15 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.
16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

The question is rhetorical and the answer is God. The LORD, Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel is much larger than we often imagine. We are small creatures, and to us, the universe we live in seems large, foreboding. You and I, thanks to the wonders of science, are much more aware of the size of our universe than was Isaiah some 3000 years ago. I once heard a cosmologist use the following analogy to help explain the scope and size of the universe we live in. He said that if one were to place a quarter on the sidewalk on a street corner in Manhattan, and that if this quarter represented the sun, then the next closest star system, Alpha Centauri, would be represented by a quarter placed on a sidewalk in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

That's quite a distance. And that's our nearest star. Now imagine a universe filled with billions of stars in millions of galaxies. Astronomers say there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches of all the world.

Isaiah, can you measure these? Isaiah, can you know these things? Obviously, no. And neither can we, even in our age, actually measure these things with traditional implements. It is an impossibility. We cannot actually count the stars, neither can we even see them all. Ours is an educated estimate. But not only does God know, not only does he measure, but these things are small to him.

It is a way of saying that God is infinite, immeasurable. Not only are these things small to God, but he is intimately knowledgeable of them. He calls his stars by name.

Isaiah 40:
To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.

O LORD, teach us your transcendence. Remind us of it. Help us to see your greatness and, in seeing it, help us to recognize our smallness. Help us not to doubt you or your ability, but help us to trust you. Though we are small, and many, yet you call us by name and know us intimately. Praise your name. Amen.

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