God dwells with the humble
How we approach the Bible makes a profound difference in life. There is an acronym people use to speak about the Bible. B-I-B-L-E, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Instructions about what?
Which of these descriptions fit best with how you approach the Bible? What is your goal?
Some see the Bible as instructions on doing good. The Bible contains a list of do’s and don’ts. For them, the Bible is a book of formulas. They will study the Law to avoid doing what is wrong, and so they can go about doing what is right. They try hard to put off sin and put on righteousness. When the Bible is instructions on doing good, the goal for reading the Bible is to be good.
Others approach the Bible as information to know. The Bible is the best source in the quest for information. It reveals why there is evil in the world. It tells what happens at the end of the age. The Bible is a great source of historical information. The Bible says that the truth will set us free, and they long to know the truth. We gain knowledge and understanding. The goal is wisdom.
Most people see the Bible as an explanation of how to be saved. People are sinners, and sin leads to condemnation. The Bible provides information on how Jesus dies for our sins and takes the punishment we deserve. From the beginning to the end of the book, we learn God’s plan of salvation and the story of God’s amazing grace. The goal is to be saved.
- The Bible tells us how to be good.
- The Bible makes us wise.
- The Bible tells us how we may be saved.
All three of these views of the Bible are true. But, there one more way to look at the Bible. We may look at the Bible as God revealing Himself to us. God desires for us to know Him, so we may enjoy Him. When we see the Bible as a relational book, the goal of reading the Bible is to get to know God on a personal level. When we view the Bible from this perspective, then:
- The Bible tells us how to be good so that we may live in a way that is pleasing to God.
- The Bible makes us wise so we may know God’s character, purpose, and plan.
- The Bible tells us how we may be saved so we may be in a right relationship with God.
The Bible is a love letter from God.
When we understand how much God loves us, we will read Isaiah with the right frame of mind. The passage in Isaiah 57 showcases God’s incredible love for His people. And, as God speaks about His love for us, He tells us how we may best relate to Him.
Our passage this morning reveals how God works to bring us into a mature, healthy relationship with Him.
Prepare the way (Isaiah 57:14)
The first step in our relationship with God is for Him to remove obstacles that get in the way of our being with Him.
Isaiah picks up an illustration from the beginning of Chapter 40 and repeats it here in chapter 57.
Listen to the words from chapter 40, “A voice is calling, clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Once again, a voice tells us that a way is being made for God’s people to be with Him. What is the most important thing we need to learn from this verse (57:14)? It is that God desires the way be prepared, and every obstacle standing between Him and His people to be removed. God decrees for nothing to stand in the way of bringing His people to Himself.
It sounds like a major construction project. We can picture a cadre of angels, wearing hard hats. We can hear the heavens shake as the angels make their way around the earth with heavy equipment, and all sorts of tools to make a smooth highway. The angels remove boulders and trees, lay down asphalt, and then we see people walking onto the newly paved, highway walkway. The way to walk is as smooth as glass; so smooth, that even crawling babies find the way easy. People are excited and walk with a bounce in their step. God’s heavenly city sparkles like a jewel on the horizon.
But, the construction project is not one needing bulldozers to move dirt stones and dynamite to blast hills and mountains on the earth. The world that God created does not stand in between us and God’s kingdom. The construction job is the work God is doing in the heart. In our heart is a deep chasm of rebellion. Our heart is a tangled jungle of iniquity and sin. Our mind is littered with boulders of deceit and impediments of greed and selfishness. The obstacle that stands between God and us is our mountain of pride.
The sin and rebellion of our heart are what separates us from God. We may not blame anything else. People try to blame other people, religion, government, education, or anything else that they may place the blame. When people stand before the judgment seat of God, they will learn that the only obstacle which stands between them and God is their heart.
God desires the way be prepared, and every obstacle of the heart standing between Him and His people is removed. Once they are removed, we may relate to God.
The Dwelling Place of God (Isaiah 57:15)
Verse 15 is one of those verses which leaves us speechless when we ponder its glories.
The Hebrew phrase for high and exalted occurs four times in the Old Testament, each time in Isaiah (6:1; 33:10; 52:13; and 57:15). We are most familiar with the passage in Isaiah 6, when upon entering the throne room of God, Isaiah declares that he sees the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted (Isaiah 6:1).
God is the great, “I AM.” He exists above all things. He is high and exalted. There is nothing and no one higher or more exalted.
He lives forever. He lives before the beginning and after the end. His name is Holy, which means His name is Set Apart. His very essence is that He is unequaled. Ask Him who He is, and God says, “I am incomparable. I am supreme. I am matchless. I am unrivaled. My name is Holy.”
Not only is God’s name Holy, but He also lives in a high and holy place. He is comfortable in that place. It is His home. His living room and backyard are not part of this world. He is in a completely different, unique existence in His Trinitarian place of residence. He exists outside of our space and outside of our time. When God creates this world, He makes it other than Himself. He stands over Creation.
The first half of the verse sets the stage for the second. God dwells on a high and holy place, AND God dwells with the contrite and lowly of spirit. Imagine. The eternal, holy, all-powerful, all-knowing, most-high God of the universe abides with humble creatures.
God makes His abode in a high and exalted, holy place. And God makes His abode with the humble. Let that sink in. Ask, why is God letting me know this truth?
God’s reason to abide with the humble is one of revival. He wants to give life. God does not make His abode with the humble because it will improve His life. He doesn’t abide with the humble because they are such wonderful people.
God is love. He is moved with compassion. He looks upon the humble and chooses them to be recipients of His goodness. God is oozing with grace, love, and compassion. His eyes look to and fro upon the earth to find vessels for His glory. The vessels which catch God’s eyes are those who are humble.
He abides with the contrite and lowly because it is His nature to revive spirits and give new life to those who are dead in their heart.
God looks at people, not for what He may gain, but for how He may give. He desires to dispense love and goodness. God never says, “What’s in it for me?” God’s nature is generous. He never has an extended palm looking for a handout.
God’s love Overcomes (Isaiah 57:16-17)
God has more reason to destroy us than to save and revive us. Those who are now humble were once full of sin. God summarizes the sin with the words, unjust gain. Unjust gain is greed. It represents the opposite of God’s generous nature.
Unjust gain is covetousness, which is idolatry. Unjust gain is the love of self more than others. Scripture tells us that the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
Sin, without Christ’s atoning work, brings about God’s just anger. Even though God strikes people because of their sin, they continue in the way of their evil heart and do not repent. People lie, get caught, and they suffer the consequences. But, they lie again. People cheat, get caught, suffer the consequences, and they cheat again. Everywhere we look, we see how God allows the suffering and devastation of sin to exist. All people live under the curse and consequences of sin nature. The brokenness of human existence is due to God sovereignly allowing sin to yield the fruit of justice. The brokenness of the world is not a result of God’s pleasure, but God’s anger.
The only way we may escape the fruit of sin is if God intervenes, and he does. He demonstrates His glorious love by sending His Son to be a guilt offering for sin. God places His Son on a cross and lifts Him up so all may see God’s justice and love. All who put their faith in God’s Son receive mercy and receive forgiveness.
God’s love and compassion overcome His anger. God’s anger is spent upon His Son. God is pleased to crush His Son so that He may save people. The obstacles between God and His people are removed.
It takes humility to say; I am a sinner. It takes humility to say; I need a Savior. It takes humility to cry out for mercy. Those who see Jesus, humble themselves, ask for God’s forgiveness, and God turns His anger away. God abides with those who demonstrate humility before the cross.
God Heals the Heart (Isaiah 57:18-19)
God sees our ways, but God chooses to heal us. God’s decision to show mercy speaks to His character. The fact that God is merciful and seeks to restore rebellious sinners is a truth that ought to have every forgiven sinner stand, applaud, and cheer. The alternative is unthinkable.
God leads and restores those who are willing to humble themselves and cry out for mercy. God heals the heart, so it is no longer rebellious and evil. God restores the heat. Instead of cursing, words of praise come from their lips.
God is calling out to the world that is filled with evil and turmoil, and He says, “Peace, peace.” God exalts the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, and makes His name known. Those who look to Jesus for salvation are no longer mourning, but they have the lips of praise. They speak forth the proclamation of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. They glorify God because of His wonderful grace and mercy.
God is no longer someone to rebel against, but He is a God worthy of our humble submission. God is no longer seen as the cause of evil, but He is seen as the only source of what is good and right.
No Peace for the Wicked (Isaiah 57:20-21)
For those who are wicked, God promises they will have no peace. Their life will forever be in constant turmoil. The word picture God paints of their life is that of the wildly tossing sea, with waves stirring up trash and mud. It is not a peaceful picture, but a picture of continual movement and dread. There is no rest.
Who are the wicked? They are proud. The wicked, in their pride, do not seek God. They believe in their heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 10:4). They scoff at the cross of Jesus.
In their eyes, there is no God to obey; they are their god. They see no need to be saved. They believe they may stand in the face of God and shake their fist in His face. There is no repentance on their lips.
Some people think that people are not evil and wicked. The world teaches that people are good deep inside. But, anyone who refuses to obey God is indeed evil. Pride is evil. Anyone who looks at their Creator and walks away from His goodness is the epitome of wickedness.
God freely offers salvation, forgiveness, and mercy. Yet, if we walk down the street and try to share this news with people, they answer with the words, “I’m okay.” People will say they do not need salvation. They do not know God. They do not fear His wrath. They do not honor His Son, who gives His blood so they may have forgiveness.
What shall we do after reading these words of Scripture spoken by God’s prophet? In other words, why does God tells us He dwells with the humble?
We are to humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord. Humility is a repeated topic in the book of Isaiah. We may say humility is one of the most important topics in the Bible. Pride is the downfall of angels and men.
God came to earth in the form of a man to demonstrate humility. God leaves His high and lifted up position in heaven. He humbles Himself as a man. He further humbles Himself as a Servant. He further humbles Himself as a servant who is completely obedient, obedient to the point of death.
The biggest obstacle which God removes as He builds the highway for His people to come to Himself is the obstacle of human pride. God is calling upon us to destroy our pride and follow the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Mature Christians are humble Christians. Christians with pride are immature. Christian maturity is not measured by knowledge, it is measured by character. Humility is the primary measurement.
Jesus’s death on the cross makes it, so we can have a revived heart. His death on the cross enables us to repent of our pride and turn to humility. In other words, part of His saving work is to release us from being captive to our pride.
Find Relational Rest in Humility
God dwells with the humble. It is the place He enjoys. Therefore, let us take these steps to kill pride in our life. Seek to have a relationship with God that is peaceful, and at rest.
Receive. Receive the salvation that only Jesus provides. Acknowledge that you need mercy. Confess to God that you can do nothing to save yourself. Go to God with hands open to receive, not with hands trying to give God good works. It’s like David, who says, “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116:12-13). Here is my empty cup, fill it please Lord. I want to receive Your mercy and grace. I have nothing to offer but an empty cup. Let me receive from You.
Empty. Jesus left His throne. He emptied Himself of His glory. We need to empty ourselves of importance. Let nothing be done to get the glory for yourself. Don’t push yourself on social media. Don’t brag about your accomplishments. Don’t try to save your reputation. Look at others as being far more important. Think of yourself as deserving to be last in line. Think of yourself as deserving to get the smallest portion of food. In lowliness of mind, esteem others better than yourself.
Serve. Serve. Jesus takes the form of a servant. We need to take the form of a servant. Serve in the church. Don’t come to church expecting to receive. Come to church expecting to give. Serve your family. Be the example of servanthood everywhere you go. Serve your parents. Serve your neighbor. Stop expecting others to serve you, be known as a person with a servant’s heart.
Turn. Turn from your ways, and purposefully choose to follow God’s ways. Turn from destructive ways that are self-centered and egotistical. Admit to God that your ways are not working. Turning is repenting. Ask yourself, do I know God’s way of how I need to relate to others? Do I seek God’s ways with how I post on Facebook? Do I follow God’s ways with my driving? We need to turn from our ways and seek to follow God’s ways. Ask God for help.
God’s word speaks very, very strongly against pride. It tells us the God hates pride and arrogance (Proverbs 8:13). God detests the proud (Proverbs 16:5). A haughty spirit is a spirit that is a sin factory (Proverbs 21:4). If there is strife in our life, it exists because there is pride (Proverbs 13:10). There is more hope for a fool than for a proud person (Proverbs 26:12).
God warns us against pride for our good. Pride destroys relationships. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Pride is an obstacle to Christian maturity. God wants us to get the most out of a relationship with Him while we exist in this body. He wants us to glorify Himself in our lives. Make your life quest a quest for humility and enjoy the fullness of God’s presence.