This morning in my devotions I read Isaiah 40. Isaiah has always been one of my favorite books and I think Isaiah 40 has to be one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible. It is a wonderful and striking picture of a God who is both mighty and gentle. That is why I love this chapter. It illustrates both the transcendence and immanence of our God. Both of these attributes are worthy of praise, but it is the combination of the two that is really amazing.
Isaiah 40 tells us of the might and power of a God who is sovereign over His creation. “See the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him” (Isaiah 40:10). We are given pictures of Him measuring the waters in His hand and weighing the dust of the earth in a basket (Isaiah 40:12). We are told that “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in” (Isaiah 40:22)
These pictures of God certainly put me in awe of Him. I stand amazed at a God who is so beyond me. However, I think if all we knew of God was the He was mighty, sovereign, and transcendent, we would no doubt fear Him and honor Him, but I am not sure we would love Him or trust Him. A God who is merely transcendent is great, but He is not personal. He may have no reason to care for the worries and woes of the weak and finite creatures of the earth.
Yet Isaiah 40 tells us that our God is both transcendent and immanent. He is both far beyond us and yet ever near us. With the same arm that rules with power, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (Isaiah 40:11). The God who sits enthroned over all the earth, who does not grow tired or weary, comes near to us in our weakness so that He may “give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29). Just as He calls out the starry host by name (Isaiah 40:26) , so He also calls out His children by name and reminds them that He will be with them and protect them through every trial and struggle (Isaiah 43:1).
I treasure the truth of my God’s transcendence and His immanence. If He were only transcendent, I would fear Him, but not know Him. If he were only immanent and not transcendent, He would care for me, but not be able to work good for me through His sovereign power. Yet He is both, both sovereign over all and yet a very present help in times of trouble. He is both full of might and power and also full of love and gentleness toward the sheep of His pasture. What a glorious God we serve, who is both able and willing to meet us and provide for us in our weakness and need.
In Christ, we see find the greatest portrayal of this wondrous truth. It is simply astounding that the transcendent God who knows nothing of weakness or need should condescend so far as to come down to be Immanuel, God With Us, with us in our frailty, our weakness, and our desperate need for salvation. Could we ask for a greater Shepherd than the One who, in love, came to dwell among us and lay down His life for us and who, in sovereignty and power, rose to life in defeat over death and sin? Surely this God who is beyond us in wisdom and strength is to be ever praised and surely this God who is for us and near us with love and grace is to be ever trusted.