Thus says the Lord:Isaiah 66.1-2
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.”
This morning in worship, our pastor, Michael Thomas, was walking through some points on the “Sermon on the Mount” by Jesus found in Matthew chapters 5-7. One of the first things he briefly mentioned was a link between this famous sermon and a passage found in Isaiah 66, quoted above. I had never heard this connection before so, naturally, I fixated on this and probably missed most of the first half of his message. Sorry Michael. As I dug into it I found the connection an interesting one, but the Isaiah passage itself even more so.
Even if you’re not familiar with the Sermon on the Mount, you’ll probably recognize the introductory verses, also know as “The Beatitudes”, such as, “Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are those who mourn… Blessed are the meek…”, and so on. When compared with Isaiah’s passage, you can probably see the similarities with the second verse: “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” There are also other similarities between Isaiah 66 and Matthew 5-7 that I would encourage you to look at, and I may explore that here later. However, it was the first section, and how it related to the second, that kept my attention:
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord.'”
God is declaring not only his omnipotence and omnipresence, but also his self-sufficiency. He needs nothing. And even if he did, all he would have to do is speak it into existence. What he wants, however, is a different matter: “But this is the one to whom I will look.” What grabs God’s attention? Not someone who thinks they can give something to God (which he doesn’t need), but someone who gives themselves, all of themselves, to God: “He who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
It’s that last phrase that held my attention even longer. Living out the Beatitudes is one thing, but can I really say that I “tremble” at God’s word? I’ve recently encountered a couple of difficult issues involving two different churches, each on separate ends of the theological spectrum, yet both stemming from the same root problem: People rarely tremble at God’s word anymore. How the church operates, what they will and will not believe, is based more on culture and feelings than on the foundation of scripture. And where the two conflict, it’s usually scripture that gives way. The interpretation of God’s word must now await a personal or corporate experience in order to give it authority.
That’s not what God is looking for. To honor God we must honor his word. We must submit to his word, and with trembling. This means our experiences, our emotions, our culture, all of it must be interpreted in light of his truth. And where they conflict, it’s we who must give way. Easier said than done of course, for our way is the only one we really know, and some of these issues are truly difficult. That’s why faith is so important. We’ll never have all the answers here, and trying to manufacture them on our own will only push us further from his heart and closer to his judgment. That’s why we need to tremble. We’ve lost the true fear and awe of who it is we claim to worship. But “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9.10; Psalm 111.10), and wisdom comes from submitting to his word.
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