It is curious that in the incident of Jesus walking on the water, as recorded in Mark 6, that it says that “He was about to pass by them.” As the 12 are struggling on the lake, rowing against the wind, why would the Lord pass them by.
Maybe it is to show off – see how much superior divine transport is to human transportation? Maybe it was to get a closer look, because it was 3:oo am.
I think it was to reveal his identity. There are several aspects of this story that link to the feeding of the 5000 and to Moses. Verse 52 says that the disciples did not make the connection between their problem and the previous miracle. Could the Lord of creation, who multiplies bread, not also deal with the wind?
Also the Feeding has several references to Moses: Feeding a crowd in the wilderness with miraculous bread (like Mana), organizing the people in groups of 50s and 100s (see Exodus 18), and Moses request to “see” the Lord’s glory. (ex 33:19-20) The Lord replies by “passing before him” and proclaiming his name. (Ex 34:6-8). This passage in Exodus is cited in other OT passages at least half a dozen times.
Finally the Lord says to them, “It is I”. The Greek construction is “ego eimi” wich is how the Greek Old Testament (LXX) typically translated the name of God ‘”I AM”.
The Lord was passing by in the story to demonstrate his power over nature (the wind, previously the bread) and to identify himself with God, who alone has power over the Creation (see Ps 24:1).
In popular conversation a “diatribe” is when someone really goes off on another person, with ranting, raving and condemnations. It is not done in polite company. So when you hear that Isaiah 40, or any other passage, is a diatribe, take a breath. In literature “diatribe” refers to a type of discourse. It involves an intense “dialogue” between the speaker and a real or imagined opponent.
the term “diatribe” means something like “wearing away”. So with questions and argument, a series of arguments are brought to bear on the topic in rapid succession.
Isaiah 40:12-31 has by my count 15 questions (this will depend on how the translator will divide sentences). They break out into 5 main questions. Which look something like this:
1. Who made Heaven & Earth, Justice & Knowledge? v. 12-17
2. What is God like? v. 18-20
3. Haven’t you been paying attention? v. 21-24
4. Again, what is God like? v. 25-26
5. Why do you despair? v. 27-31
Alec Motyer in his commentary (The Prophecy of Isaiah, IVP) says that v. 27’s complaint is the centerpiece. In a time of national calamity the faithful are asking if they are hidden from or forgotten by God. The “diatribe” form is a sort of shock therapy – reviewing what they ought to know and applying it to their situation.
Isaiah 40, perhaps remembered best as the passage that Eric Liddel read from the pulpit in “Chariots of Fire”. It represents the turning point from judgment (the primary theme of Chapters 1-39) to hope.
In Chapter 40 the doctrine of Creation is utilized by the Prophet to show the grandeur of God over against the nations that have harrassed and oppressed the nation of Israel. In a time of national crisis – the danger of exile to a foreigh power – the prophet does not issue a call to arms, but a call to theology!
In my notes, I preached this passage on Septermber 9, 2001. Two days before “911”. Since that time we have had the crises of 911, and the two wars that followed, and for the last 18 months or so we have had a financial crisis worse than any since the Great Depression. Major banks and financial firms have fallen. General Motors is owned, for now, by we the people. Now that the flu season is here, we await 190,000,000 F1N1 flu shots to become available.
Israel’s crisis was greater than ours – we are not on the brink of being conquered, nor will any of us be hauled off across the border to another country far from home. Yet, can theology be our counselor?
Isaiah 40:12-17 ESV
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
 Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,
or what man shows him his counsel?
 Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
 All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.
Psalm 121 is remembered for its first verse. It’s overall theme is the assurance we can have in the face of adversity because the Lord is our guardian. There are a couple of interesting translation points.
Psalm 121:1-8 ESV
A Song of Ascents.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
The ESV retains the 6 fold repetition in English of the Hebrew verb shamar. The first three uses are as participles, forming a kind of title “he who keeps” and the second three uses are verbs in the imperfect, indicating actions. The ESV retains KEEP, KEEPS or KEEPER helping the English reader see the repetition. The NIV for contrast uses WATCHES for the first three, and KEEP and WATCH for the second three uses.
Some translations try to retain the verbal repetion, which is not natural in English (JB,NEB). Others vary the repetition, which makes it harder to notice the central theme of the psalm (NIV, TEV).
We prefer the continuity of the ESV, but this illustrates the value of having more than one translation.
We are hoping to explore a few passages that show the implication of the idea of Creation. This week it will be
A Psalm of David.
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
 for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
We have two verses exhibiting synonymous parallelism. 1a and 1b asserts the Lord’s ownership of all things and all that lives based on Creation. These statements are parallel but they do not merely repeat. The verses progress from the idea of things to living things. Isn’t it a different thing to say that mountains, rain, clouds, rivers and so forth belong to God, than to say you and I and everyone else belong to God? The implication to ownership of the earth is profound, as is the implications to nations and races, individuals and groups.
Why does God have all this ownership? Becasue he is the founder. He has established its very structures.
What would be different if the world created and established itself? What if people were truly, in the biological sense, self-made?
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