Writing to the Old Testament church on the eve of the Babylonian exile, Isaiah’s prophecy begins by announcing the pending judgment of Jehovah. In chapter 39, after King Hezekiah showed the Babylonian envoys all of his house and riches, Isaiah said, “Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD” (39:6). Then comes Isaiah 40, and in verse 1 Jehovah shows himself to be concerned with his people. Though the enjoyment of covenantal blessing was to be forfeited because of sin-and this people led into exile-the promise of the covenant hadn’t perished. And from Isaiah 40:3-11 three voices issue three words of gospel comfort. Then in verse 12 and following the Prophet declares Jehovah’s supremacy, that is, his complete separateness from the created order. He is a God of mystery, “dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see” (1 Timothy 6:16). This is what we call God’s transcendence.
And what is it that sets God apart from the rest of creation? Isaiah explains:
- His Power: “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span?” (vs. 12)
- His Wisdom: “With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him and shewed him the way of understanding?” (vs. 14)
- His Royal Dignity: “All nations before him are as nothing” (vs. 17)
- His Complete Sovereignty: “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth” (vs. 22)
- His Authority: “and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither” (vs. 24)
- His Holiness: “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One” (vs. 25)
The transcendent character of God puts him beyond all of creation. He cannot be likened to any, he can be compared to none. And Isaiah speaks this to Israel because he knows soon they will be led into exile, and when they’re in exile there will be the temptation to say, “My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God” (vs. 27). That is, “God do you even care?”
Have you, as a believer, ever wrestled with that question? We might be apt to conclude from the transcendence of God that he’s too high, too exalted, too glorious to care about little ole’ me–my weariness, my exhaustion, my problems, etc. But the point of Isaiah is that this is the wrong conclusion. The transcendence of God doesn’t mean he’s too great to not care; rather, the transcendence of God means that he’s too great to fail his people. In the midst of his vast, diverse, and expanse creation, a creation he has named, his people are his central concern. And in Isaiah 40 we have the union between God’s greatness and his gentleness, his power with affection, and his transcendence with his condescension. And it points us towards the reality of the incarnation. Where this eternal God, in the second Person of the Trinity, took to himself a human nature; being fully God and fully man in one person. Complete otherness united to complete identification. That’s how much God cares for his people.