There is no surer sign that you have lost sight of the greatness of God than when you begin to grumble. No sooner had Israel crossed the Red Sea did they begin to grumble against God. The water was too bitter, the food was too sparse, and on and on it went. Never mind the fact that God had just delivered Israel with a remarkable display of His power, in the eyes of Israel God seemed impotent to provide the basic necessities of life. And so rather than asking God to meet their need, they grumbled to Moses about it.
Their complaining reminds us that we all have an incredible capacity to zero in on our present circumstances and lose sight of the greatness of God. In seasons of trial this is especially true. We can become so nearsighted that God’s faithfulness to us—past and present—becomes something of a blur. All we can see is our present crisis and nothing beyond. The greatness of God is out of view.
The people of Judah had a similar experience. Along their way to Babylonian exile, Judah’s view of God had been in rapid decline. In exile it hit rock bottom and Judah became fixated on themselves and their situation. In a salvation prophecy written over one hundred years before the exile, Isaiah addressed this issue and reported Judah’s complaint against God in Isaiah 40:27. The verb tenses in this verse suggest that Judah had adopted a perpetual murmur against God that went like this:1 Wilhelm Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautzsch, trans. A. E. Cowley, bilingual edition (Mineola, NY: Dover, 2006), § 107.
My way is hidden from the LORD,
and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God.
In other words, in the midst of their trial Judah had begun to think that God had lost sight of them (“My way is hidden from the LORD”); somehow, things kept slipping by Him (“the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”). They were suffering and, from their point of view, God was unaware and unconcerned with their plight. They had reduced God to a being altogether like themselves—a God who was forgetful and finite. The result was that they were now left with no comfort and no hope. Naturally, they grumbled. And how many times have we done the same?
According to Isaiah, the remedy to Judah’s grumbling was a renewed vision of the greatness of God. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he spent the first twenty-six verses of Isaiah 40 proclaiming the grandeur of the God Judah had forgotten. Verse by verse he exalted the greatness, the majesty, the tenderness of God to the people of Judah and called them to lift up their eyes and behold their God! He reached a crescendo in verse 26, where he exhorted Judah with the following words:
Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.
On a clear, moonless night, Judah would have been able to “lift up her eyes” and see somewhere around 2,500 stars2 Megan Garber, “How Many Stars Are There in the Sky?,” The Atlantic, November 19, 2013, accessed February 2, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/11/how-many-stars-are-there-in-the-sky/281641/.—all created and sustained by God. That is not to mention the billions of stars out of vision for the naked eye nor the one trillion stars that make up the entire Milky Way Galaxy.3 Sten Odenwald, “Counting the Stars in the Milky Way Galaxy,” HuffPost, March 17, 2014, accessed February 2, 2021, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/number-of-stars-in-the-milky-way_b_4976030. God created every one of them and He “leads forth their host by number.” In fact, He “calls them all by name.” And because of His greatness, “not one of them is missing.” He is, in this sense, the cosmic Shepherd. He Shepherds the stars with total, absolute care and precision. He knows them by name and leads them out by number.
Isaiah’s point is profound. If God has such meticulous oversight and command over the billions of stars in the universe, if He “leads forth their host by number” and calls each one of them “by name,” why would you ever think such a God could lose sight of you? How could your suffering possibly “escape His notice”? Elsewhere in Scripture, God’s people are called the apple of His eye (Deuteronomy 32:10). They are precious to Him (Isaiah 43:1-7). They are called His prized possession (Titus 2:14), and His inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:9). He says of them, “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” (Isaiah 49:16). And most astonishingly of all, God gave His most valuable treasure to reconcile His people to Himself (John 3:16; Romans 8:32; 2 Corinthians 5:19). Through faith in Christ, all of these realities are true of you (Ephesians 2:11–13). If He purchased you at the cost of His own Son, you can rest assured that He has not misplaced you. You are exactly where the Great Shepherd would have you be. After all, do you think the Great Shepherd orders and keeps the stars but does not order and keep that which is immensely more valuable to Him? (Matthew 6:26).
It’s a simple argument: If God shepherds the stars with exactness and care, He will certainly shepherd you with the same fidelity. That is simply who He is. To grumble against such a God is madness. But this is the inevitable trajectory of those who lose sight of the greatness of God. And so we must endeavor (with the strength God provides) to remember that our Great, Loving Shepherd is the one who governs and appoints every trial and every difficulty according to the perfect counsel of His will (Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Ephesians 1:11). He shepherds the cosmos with ease, care, and precision and we can be certain that He is shepherding His beloved people with the same measure of care.
This blog was originally posted at CBCD. View the original post here.