What does Isaiah 40:15 mean?
This verse is couched in questions about God. The point of the passage explores his greatness, how he is greater than any idol a person can make. Isaiah describes God with questions, showing that he has been around since all of creation.
On the other hand, idols are made by human hands. And not only this, but they are made from already existing parts of creation. They do not have God’s infinite perspective. This is what the questions from the immediate section of Isaiah 40:12-14 highlight.
Then we get to Isaiah 40:15-16 where Isaiah switches from questions about creation and God’s power and perspective to how much greater God is than all the nations. As far as God’s greatness concerning the nations, or the gods of the nations, the idols they make for themselves, he is infinite.
The nations are like a drop in the bucket compared to the plans of God and what he does behind the nations. He is the God of history, sovereign, controlling it from the very beginning. He uses the nations to his purposes.
They don’t even know that he is the God who is intimately familiar and involved with every chess move on the world stage. In fact, he is the ultimate Chess Master. He decides things in advance and they happen just as he wishes every time.
The drop in the bucket, the dust and the scales, and the coastlands and dust show how small they are compared to God. It even shows how small they are compared to his plans for the world and its nations.
Nations try to exert their will on the entire world. But they have no idea that they don’t even come close to dominating anything as far as God’s plans are concerned. Whatever he decides to do happens. A nation may fail in its efforts to dominate the world stage.
But God never does. Every move he makes the nations do without question. They probably think they were the ones to come up with the idea in the first place. But it is God who exerts his sovereignty and will over the earth.
Humans play at world politics but God allows nations to rise and fall based on his will. This doesn’t mean that he intricately works every part of all of human history as his own whim. But he has that ability easily.
Isaiah 40:16-18 go into details about specific nations in Isaiah’s day. As great as Lebanon is at the time of Isaiah’s writing, with its GDP of cedars and wood, it will not be enough fuel for God’s world stage plans.
Even the huge amount of animals it has would not be enough to sacrifice to God what he deserves. As much as nations make of themselves, and their greatness on the world stage, they all pale in comparison to God and his plans. They are just a small thing, as tiny as the earth is compared to the rest of the universe.
The next section in Isaiah 40 begins to talk specifically about the futility of making idols because they don’t compare to God himself. Isaiah 40 is a fascinating chapter that tells us all about God’s greatness and sovereignty.