Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Making Nothing Out of Something with Nothing

Reading: Isaiah 41; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31  
When God made the world, He made something out of seemingly nothing: words—His words, to be exact (Hebrews 11:3). However, in God's interactions in the world He made—the fallen world—He is busy making nothing out of something with nothing. We've been studying 1 Corinthians on Sunday mornings, and I addressed this on Sunday, March 11, 2012. In that message we saw how God had chosen the “nobodies” (the foolish, the weak, the lowly and despised) to “nullify” or “bring to nothing” the somebodies of the world (the wise, the powerful, and the well-born).
27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
God doesn't save the nobodies of the world because they are the only ones interested; they are interested because He chooses to save them. (With Saul on the road to Damascus Christ demonstrates that He can save whom He wills!) He used Moses, the baby sentenced to death and thrown into a river as a last ditch effort to save his life, to defeat Pharaoh—the one1 who sentenced him to death. He used the shepherd boy, David, who was despised to defeat the giant whom everyone feared. Why? Because God gets all the glory. He is the One in whom we should have our confidence; He is the One we should hold up for others to trust in (1 Corinthians 1:31). That is what it means to boast (Psalm 34:2-3 HCSB)!
Isaiah 41, starting with vs. 8, is all about how God will use the nothingness of His people to turn the power of the wicked (that which appears to be something for sure) into nothing. All of this begins with an encouragement to not be afraid. Why might they be afraid? Because in Isaiah 41:1-4, the Babylonian Kingdom is advancing across the land and turning nations into dust. The Sovereign Lord has evidently ordained it to be. But that is only part of the story. While the whole earth trembles, they turn to their man made idols for refuge (Isaiah 41:5-7). This offers no real refuge from their fear. However, because the Lord called His people, and is with them, they are instructed, “Do not fear... do not be afraid...” (Isaiah 41:10).
When Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:28 speaks of God using nothing to make nothing of something, in order that we might not boast in man but in the Lord, it is seems Paul has been reading Isaiah 41. First the Lord tells His people, who will be taken into captivity by the Babylonians, that the seemingly unconquerable wicked nations and peoples of the world will become as nothing.
All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. 12Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. (Isaiah 41:11-12)
Then, the Lord tells them how it is that He will turn the powerful into nothing: He will use the seeming nothingness of His own people.
"See, I will make you into a threshing sledge, new and sharp, with many teeth. You will thresh the mountains and crush them, and reduce the hills to chaff. 16You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up, and a gale will blow them away. But you will rejoice in the LORD and glory in the Holy One of Israel. (Isa 41:15-16)
In the previous verse, the Lord addresses them as “you worm, Jacob” (Isaiah 41:14). Now He will take that worm, the lowly and despised, and make them like a threshing sledge. That sledge will reduce the mountains enemies of the Lord into chaff. Chaff is like nothing; something even the lightest wind will blow away. The result? We will rejoice in, glory in, even boast in the Lord!
The weapons we fight with—the Gospel and the life it creates in us—are powerful to the pulling down of strongholds (the powerful of the world and their systems). Isaiah 41 tells us that what seems powerful in this world, all that it worships in its exaltation of the created over the Creator, are wind and emptiness. Their power is a delusion. This is important to remember as we face a world system that endorses and even promotes the killing of children through abortion. While we Americans must vote, and vote for righteousness in this regard, the answer is not in a political party. I would be very depressed if my hope were in the political parties. They too will be as nothing. Their seeming strangle hold on power is a delusion. Our hope is in God and our weapon is to put forth the Gospel, and live the Gospel before others.
Look, all of them are a delusion; their works are nonexistent; their images are wind and emptiness. (Isaiah 41:29)
God is making nothing out of something with nothing. I believe it is safe to say that Isaiah 41:8-29 is fulfilled in the Gospel and church. Paul is confirms this in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 as he identifies the no ones as those whom God has called and chosen for this very purpose. What is the weakest thing that identifies you? Have you ever considered that God might just use that to transform the world around you?  Even the seeming powerlessness of suffering can be used by God to change the world.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

1Whether the same Pharaoh or his heir is insignificant as far as this point goes.