To whom then will you liken God? or what likeness will you compare to him?
What similitude can ye place beside him? This and similar appeals in the later portion of Isaiah bear directly upon the idolatries with which Israel was surrounded in Babylon, and exerted a most important influence on the delivery of Israel, once and for ever, from idolatrous sentiments and sympathies. Isaiah's plea is, "How should the image-deities of idolatrous Babylon be compared to the almighty and unsearchable God of Israel?" The incomparableness and uniqueness of God are in the prophet's mind; and his plea may be compared with the argument of the Apostle Paul at Athens (Acts 17:29, "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device"). The Babylonian gods were also the gods of Assyria, and they were, for the most part, of Accadian or pre-Semitic origin. "The Babylonian lived in perpetual dread of the evil spirits which thronged about him; almost every moment had its religious ceremony, almost every action its religious complement. In Babylon we find the remains of scarcely any great buildings except temples." During the Captivity, God's people were closely associated with a most elaborate idolatrous system, and the appeal is therefore most effective. "Look around you. Notice all the forms in which deity is represented. See all the thought-figures of God which men can fashion, and say, is there any one of them to which you can liken your God?" We may let the appeal take its widest forms.
I. CAN YOU FIND A LIKENESS FOR GOD IN HIS CREATION? His works are a revelation of himself, but no one of them is a picture of his form. They are no more like him than the machine which a man makes is like the man. The machine reveals the man, tells us of his skill, his thought, his patience. And so God's handiwork reveals the attributes of God; but if men try to find a likeness for God in the material creation, they will do, as the Egyptians did - begin with the sun and end with the slimy reptiles of the Nile-banks.
II. CAN YOU FIND A LIKENESS FOR GOD IN MAN'S CREATIONS? They may vary, from the mere upright block rudely carved to represent a face, to the splendid Jupiter fashioned by the highest genius of the Greek. Art may paint exquisitely; but no brush, no chisel, no graving tool, in civilized or uncivilized lands, ever fashioned anything worthy to be likened to God. Illustrate from the unsatisfactoriness of the best faces of the manifested God Christ Jesus; and by the painfulness of all attempts to paint God the Father.
III. CAN YOU FIND A LIKENESS FOR GOD IN MAN'S MENTAL CREATIONS? For he thinks figures of God, when he does not make statues. Philosophy has its conceptions, and now men say law is such a name as may henceforth stand for God. But the images of men's thoughts are no better than the idols of men's hands. Thus we are brought to face the question - How can God be known? The answer is this - He cannot be known in himself; but he can be known in his relations to us, and that is the knowledge wherein is "eternal life." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?