God sits enthroned above the circle of the earth (Isa. 40:22). And he will hold his people fast even as all the nations continue to rage, just as he has for all the millennia gone by.
By one account, there were twenty nations already at war before Russia made it twenty-two. This latest aggression has produced daily heart-numbing scenes of death and devastation, leaving us in speechless grief over man’s brutality to man.
Yet I marvel over Russian citizens emboldened to take to the streets in protest against their leaders, fully aware that there likely will be a high retaliatory price to pay. And I’m amazed at the video of a steel-spined Ukrainian family singing the Ada Habershon and Keith and Kristyn Getty hymn “He Will Hold Me Fast”—all the while in the crosshairs of super-power aggression.
A Prophecy for Then and Now and Always
Isaiah 40 was written for ancient Israel and for every believer ever since who has ever been threatened by evil powers. Originally proclaimed to God’s people when violently displaced by a wicked nation (Isa. 39:5–6), Isaiah 40 comforts us (Isa. 40:1–2) by reminding us that God dwarfs the nations in at least four ways.
First, the nations matter nothing to God’s existence. Every nation—whether of the geopolitical sort or of the ethnic and tribal variety—is an inconsequential drop that dribbles from the rim of a ten-gallon bucket (Isa. 40:15). The spillage is so trivial that it isn’t even noticed. In other words, to note the prophet’s changing metaphor, God sits enthroned above the circle of the earth while all the nations on every continent crawl about the planet like the grasshoppers they are (Isa. 40:22).
Please do not misunderstand: to say that the nations do not matter to God’s existence does not imply that they do not matter to God’s heart. God cares deeply about and yearns for the nations (see Isa. 2:2–4; 19:19–25; 49:5–7; 52:10; 60:1–3; 66:18–23). In truth, he will one day ensure that people from every nation will join him in his eternal home (Rev. 5:9–10; 7:9; 21:22–26). He so loves the world that he gave his only begotten Son for its salvation (John 3:16).
Since he is awesome in his love, the nations matter to the heart of God. But they do not matter to his existence. He is and was and always will be—whether they ever exist or not. And he will exist long after they have perished and vanished from the earth. This is a distinction that needs to be made as we face angry and arrogantly evil nations in our world today. God loves the nations, and we are to love the nations like God does. But because they are mere drops from a bucket, we need not ever fear them.
Second, the nations are less than nothing compared to God’s existence. Through the prophet, God mocks the nations, saying, that they “are as nothing before him [and] are accounted as less than nothing and emptiness” (Isa. 40:17). This is open divine scorn, for nothing means no thing—which is bad. But while being nothing is bad, being less than nothing is worse. If something is less than nothing, then it’s not really something or anything at all. It’s sub-nothing, which is as bad as it gets.