Thus said God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth…
The first of the two verses is a description of God; the second is a declaration of His purposes. What is the declaration which is introduced so impressively? It is often an idiom of prophetic speech, and especially of the style of Isaiah, when a declaration is to be made respecting the work of redemption, to give it the form of a direct address to the Messiah, and to declare to Him the thing which God was about to perform. Such is the idiom now before us. "I," that is, "the God of nature" who had just been described, — "I, the Lord, have called Thee in righteousness" — that is, "I who created the heavens, have summoned Thee as the Redeemer of men, in execution of My righteous purpose." "I will hold Thine hand, and will keep Thee" — that is, "I, the Former of the earth, will be faithful unto Thee." "I will give Thee for a covenant of the people, and for a light of the Gentiles" — that is, "I, the Author of the souls of men, will give Thee as a pledge of My love, and the nations shall be redeemed." The sentiment is that the God of nature is the God also of redemption. From the fact that the Author of nature and the God of revelation are one, we may infer —
I. THAT RELIGIOUS INVESTIGATION SHOULD BE CHARACTERISED BY THE SPIRIT OF DOCILE INQUIRY. If there be one thing which more than another vitiates the methods by which men form their religious opinions, it is the want of the humility of inquirers after truth; and yet, if there be one thing more firmly settled than another in the methods of science, it is that the docility of inquiry after truth is the only spirit becoming to scientific discovery. How often are we compelled to note the distinction, that in religion men feel at liberty to create their opinions; while in natural science, and in all that domain of truth which lies outside of the realm of conscience, they feel bound to seek for their opinions. In the one case we assume that we know, in the other we consent to be taught.
II. THE PRESUMPTION THAT IN A REVEALED THEOLOGY WILL BE FOUND A DEFINITE AND POSITIVE SYSTEM OF TRUTH. Side by side with Christian dogmatism there grows up a Christianised scepticism, within the range of scriptural thought. We must presume, especially, that when we open this revelation of God in language, we shall come upon certain verities which shall be patent, on the face of the record, to unperverted inquiry. We do not so much find them here, as that they find us. They are verities which unbiassed readers in all ages will read here, and will believe; verities which infidelity will always read here; and verities which it is as unphilo-sophical for a believer in the inspiration of the Bible to deny, as it is for any sane mind to refuse credence to the elementary facts of geology, or of anatomy. Moreover, we must presume that these Scriptures contain a theology, not only of robust material, and of graphic outline, but of such firmness of construction that it can be positively preached. It must be free from self-contradictions, as other sciences are, so that an athletic faith can use it. And we must look for a theology which, when it is thus preached, shall prove itself to be a power in the earth.
III. THE CERTAINTY THAT THE PACTS OF THESE TWO DEPARTMENTS OF GOD'S WORKING WILL NEVER CONTRADICT EACH OTHER.
IV. THAT WE SHOULD EXPECT TO FIND THE REVEALED GOVERNMENT OF GOD TO BE A SYSTEM CHARACTERISED BY SACREDNESS AND UNIFORMITY OF LAW. In the natural world we find no such thing as caprice. Why, then, should we not expect to find in a revelation respecting the moral world, a similar omnipresence and omnipotence of law? It would be instructive to pursue this analogy between law in the natural world and law in God's moral government to certain other results. We might see —
1. How accordant with nature it is that the laws of religion cannot be violated with impunity.
2. How natural it is that fatal consequences in respect of religion should follow from apparently trifling disobedience of God's commands.
3. The foundation which is laid in the nature of things for that law of God's government by which sin often reaches over from the time when it is committed, and strikes its penalty in a remote experience of the sinner.
4. We might infer the credibility and the probability that the sins of one brief life on earth should pass on, beyond the grave, to reap their reward in eternity.
5. The naturalness of the faith that, if God has devised any remedial scheme to meet the emergency of sin, it must be one that shall honour delicately and rigidly the sacredness of law.
V. THAT WE HAVE REASON TO EXPECT THIS OCCURRENCE OF MYSTERIES IN A REVEALED THEOLOGY. The mysteries of theology always meet us before we have travelled far on any track of religious inquiry. But this is no anomaly peculiar to religious thought. Science in the world of matter is thwarted in all its investigations, sooner or later, by insolvable mysteries.
VI. A CONFIRMATION OF OUR FAITH IN THE CERTAINTY OF THIS WORLD'S CONVERSION TO CHRISTIANITY. We are too often unmindful that the creation of this world and the redemption of this world are, in a truthful sense, parallel acts of omnipotence. It is as certain that the one will occur as that the other has occurred; for the revelation of that which God will do in the one case is as worthy of trust as the history of that which He has. done in the other. This luxuriance of metaphor which the kingdom of nature yields up to the portraiture of the kingdom of grace, springs from no fortuitous resemblances. Our God is one God; and therefore it is that a mind inspired to foresee the success of omnipotence in redemption, carries over into this moral kingdom its conceptions of the working of omnipotence in nature. The mountains, rivers, seas, flocks of Kedar, sun, moon, in which God has wrought, become, not only the emblems, but the pledges of the mighty works which He will do for man's recovery.
(A. Phelps, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:
WEB: Thus says God Yahweh, he who created the heavens and stretched them out, he who spread out the earth and that which comes out of it, he who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk in it.