(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today:
If J. Vernon McGee is the greatest Bible teacher (as Franklyn stated on 1/6/13), then "How Firm a Foundation" must be the greatest hymn. After all, it is used at the beginning of McGee's "Thru the Bible" radio program. But even if you can find a better teacher than McGee, you would be hard pressed to find a better hymn. This beautiful piece of poetry, written by an unknown soul, has inspired believers for the last 200 years. And where we stand now in Isaiah is the same place where the writer of this hymn stood in the late 1700's, right in the thick of chapters 40-43.
There is so much found in these four chapters- they have the density of lead. So instead of following one of the many excellent verses or ideas, I decided to stick with the hymn writer. He writes:
What more indeed! This hymn starts right where Isaiah 40 does- the Scripture. I am so grateful that we have been given the very Word of God (Jesus Christ & His Testimony). There are many important things that we need to hear and many important people we ought to listen to, but the Word is the final say of everything. I am grateful I don't need any further revelation from anyone or anything, including an angel (that's where Islam & Mormonism went wrong). The Son of God and His inspired Bible are sufficient. (Hebrews 1:1)
That doesn't mean God can't speak to people today, but it does mean that if I or anyone else say anything about God, it better line up with what God has already spoken. Unlike man's words, the Word stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
In this passage, God reaffirms His power to overcome our fears and despair. If you are anything like me (Much-Afraid), you see the immense value in knowing we don't have to be a slave of fear or darkness. Apart from God there is lots to scare us: terror, war, unjust laws, no respect for human dignity, poverty, economic collapse, accidents, illnesses and the list goes on. Only God's enduring promises enable us to not just cope with, but to thrive in a very fallen world.
Here in today's reading we find the inspiration for verse three. God's ever ready presence is what keeps us when we pass through the turbulent waters and rivers and flames of this life. Notice how it does NOT say that God grants us some special exemption from suffering. Instead, in Him we find a steadfast companion and the truth that all our sufferings can and will be redeemed.
And finally we, by name, identify the One that Isaiah and the whole Old Testament have been proclaiming since page one: Jesus Christ. He is the Chosen Servant of God (Isaiah 42: 1-3) that works out all of these promises. Twice in these chapters God announces that He will not forsake His people. The hymn writer goes as step further, in reference to Hebrews 13:5, and gives a triple guarantee: never Never NEVER!!! God is making it very clear that He is committed to us, so committed that He was willing to allow His very own Son to feel that abandonment that we all deserve (Mark 15:34). Now instead we have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams.
I encourage you to chew on the meat of this hymn and, more importantly, the meat of Isaiah 40-43. You'll be gnawing away on it for some time and find yourself grounded in its brilliant truths.