Our God Reigns - from Ortlund's Commentary on Isaiah 13:1–20:6

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Here's another quote from Ortlund on Isaiah 13:1–20:6

The Supremacy of God Over the Nations I

Secondly, Isaiah declares that, high above the passing spectacle of human arrogance called history, God reigns in unchallenged sovereignty.

The Lord of hosts has sworn:

“As I have planned,
so shall it be,
and as I have purposed,
so shall it stand,

that I will break the Assyrian in my land,
and on my mountains trample him underfoot;
and his yoke shall depart from them,
and his burden from their shoulder.”

This is the purpose that is purposed
concerning the whole earth,

and this is the hand that is stretched out
over all the nations.

For the Lord of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?

His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back? (Isaiah 14:24–27)

Dear friends, we are in God’s hands. He is here, directly involved in our world today. He has a purpose for this world. And his purpose is not an ideal that he hopes might pan out. As you can see in the logic of these verses, the purpose of God is the very hand of God at work, and who can turn it back? You need to believe that. You have God’s word on it: “The Lord of hosts has sworn.” He can’t be telling the truth sort of. Either God is telling us the truth here, or he’s lying. Is God sincere when he tells us that his good purpose will prevail in our world? If you believe he’s sincere, will you swallow his word whole and trust him, come what may? His final purpose is not judgment but graciously inclusive salvation: “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance” (19:25). This takes us to Isaiah’s third major emphasis in these chapters.

Look to Him

If it’s true that the ultimate decisions are not made in Washington or London or Baghdad but in Heaven, then one thing follows. There is no security for us in this world but only in God himself. Therefore, let’s not put our trust in man but in God alone.

In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense. (Isaiah 17:7, 8)

God is calling us to look away from the little world we have made to the One who made us. God is calling us to stop putting our hope in what we can do and start putting our hope in the divine Doer. Regard him with desire and glad expectation, and you will discover that he is enough. Reject everything incompatible with him—the idolatrous altars of your heart. If you will suffer the loss of all things to gain Christ, he will make you too happy to care. That is faith, and God is calling you to live by that faith. Stop trusting in your own altars of incense. Let Christ alone be your sweet incense before a holy God. Reject yourself. Embrace Christ as your offering acceptable to God, and he will accept you without your own works-righteousness. No matter what you lose in order to gain Christ, don’t worry about it. He’s worth everything.

The Bible speaks of a faith that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). But too many American Christians have a faith that is more American than Christian. Their faith is not overcoming the world; the world is overcoming their faith. But God is calling us to an overcoming faith in him, because he rules over the nations. That should be enough to stabilize us. What more could we ask for than our God involved in our world?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism of 1648 teaches the strong theology of the Isaianic vision. B. B. Warfield, the Princeton theologian, asked, “What is the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism?” He answered by recounting this story:

We have the following bit of personal experience from a general officer of the United States army. He was in a great western city at a time of intense excitement and violent rioting. [Was this the San Francisco earthquake of 1906? Warfield doesn’t say.] The streets were overrun daily by a dangerous crowd. One day he observed approaching him a man of singularly combined calmness and firmness of mien, whose very demeanor inspired confidence. So impressed was he with his bearing amid the surrounding uproar that when he had passed he turned to look back at him, only to find that the stranger had done the same. On observing his turning, the stranger at once came back to him and, touching his chest with his forefinger, demanded without preface: “What is the chief end of man?” On receiving the countersign, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”—“Ah!” said he, “I knew you were a Shorter Catechism boy by your looks!” “Why, that was just what I was thinking of you,” was the rejoinder.[10]​
[10]“Is the Shorter Catechism Worthwhile?” in John E. Meeter, ed., The Selected Shorter Writings of B. B. Warfield (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970), I:383, 384.

Ortlund, R. C., Jr., & Hughes, R. K. (2005). Isaiah: God saves sinners (pp. 130–132). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
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