By Benjamin Winslett
“And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.” – Isaiah 40:16
In my personal studies this week, I came across the above verse, Isaiah 40:16. The verse contains some very peculiar language and could perhaps be overlooked, but as with much of the Old Testament it foreshadows the coming of Christ into the world for the purpose of saving His chosen people. How so? Well, once we understand the context of this paragraph in Isaiah as well as the theme of this verse, the Messianic overtones will become apparent.
First, we should consider the context. This paragraph begins in verse 12 and continues throughout verse 18, and speaks to the greatness and power of our God, the True and Living God. For example, it describes God as being great enough to measure the waters in His hand, mete out Heaven with the span, measure the dust of the earth, weigh the mountains, etc. Based upon this fact, how great and powerful God really is, Isaiah then focuses on God’s Sovereignty. This is the meaning behind his question: “who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being His counsellor hath taught Him?” God is not only great, He is also Sovereign.
God’s Sovereignty means He can do as He pleases any time, all the time. This led king Nebuchadnezzar to exclaim, in Daniel Chapter 4, that “none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, what doest Thou?” While men have violated God’s Holy Will through sin, God personally always does as He pleases. He will do all His pleasure and none can thwart Him.
In verse 18, after expressing the truth concerning God’s greatness and sovereignty, Isaiah says “to whom then will ye liken God?” Notice the word “then” in this verse. Though this is a new paragraph, it follows with a conclusion from the previous. That conclusion is that God is so great, to whom throughout all creation could we compare Him? The answer is simple, no one.
So that defines the context being the unique greatness and sovereignty of God. What does this have to do with our verse concerning Lebanon and burnt offerings? Perhaps an understanding of Lebanon would be of an assistance before continuing.
Lebanon was famous for her cedar trees. In fact, these cedars were so renowned that Solomon used them in the production of the Temple of God during his reign as king of Israel (1 Kings 5:6). The cedars of Lebanon were also known as a place of strength and safety from enemies (Jeremiah 22:23). They were so beautiful that they were used to describe “my beloved” in the book of Song of Solomon. Psalm 92:12 even compares the strength of the righteous by comparing them to the cedars of Lebanon. I hope you see the historical significance of the cedars of Lebanon.
So, what does this have to do with Christ? Keep studying with me. Isaiah is telling us in verse 16, that God is not only Great and Sovereign, but also Holy! This verse simply means that a person could cut down EVERY single tree in the very nation most famous FOR her trees, slaughter EVERY animal in the land, offer them upon the fire, and God’s wrath for sin would not be appeased. Wow! What Holiness! What Wrath! How sinful we must be! An entire nation of mighty cedars and animals could not provide a burnt offering sufficient to satisfy God’s wrath!
No my friends, all the cedars in Lebanon could not appease God’s wrath due to us. There was only one thing, or perhaps I should say one person, able to satisfy God’s Righteous Indignation against us, Jesus Christ. Hebrews says “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin.” As it written in Isaiah 53, “it pleased the Father to bruise HIM,” Jesus. God was pleased (His wrath was satisfied) through the sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross. That was the only sacrifice God would receive, and that was the exact sacrifice He offered.