Thoughts on Isaiah 66:2
From the Pastor’s Desk
May 12, 2020
It is impossible for us to understand God’s highness, his majesty and all-sufficiency, his independence. We are earthbound and startled by a snapping twig. What is happening in our little sphere is all-important to us. If heaven is God’s throne and earth his footstool, could he possibly be concerned about man? “What is man, that you are mindful of him” (Ps. 8:4)? If all the inhabitants of the earth taken together are but dust in the scale of his majesty, altogether vanity, less than nothing, then what are you and I? A sub-particle of a very insignificant mass of humanity, in a galaxy that the Creator keeps in his pocket, in a universe that is a speck in comparison to his infinitude.
The highness and bigness of God are clarifying. Who God is places things in a very different perspective from the ravings of mass media, fearmongering of health officials, and the manipulations of government officials. Most of these men believe that man is the measure of all things, that there is no soul, and that the most important thing in the world is retaining your government grant and power. Do not be afraid of these men; they are unfit, sadly, to stand over us, for they are unjust and certainly do not rule in the fear of God (2 Sam. 23:3). The problem is not that such men and governments exist but that our society’s unbelief gives them credence and respect. We become like what we worship. If we had the big view of God that Solomon and Isaiah teach, we would resist them courageously, never have given them any authority, and fear them not at all. Like God, we would chuckle to ourselves (Ps. 2:4; 59:8). We would fear the Lord and realize that he is not looking at them except with utter disdain. He has no regard for them. His face is “against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth” (Ps. 34:16).
For God’s face to be against you, for him to have no regard for you is your utter doom. Yes, you can try to control or crush as many other grasshoppers as you are able with your few hours of stolen breath and bread, but if God looks at you only with disdain, you live a blighted existence. Hell gapes before you, and none will pity. You are as Herod with Jesus standing before you, thinking that you have your enemy in your clutches, but, alarmingly, he does not speak. He answers none of your questions. You want to see a miracle; he gives you silence. He does not recognize your existence. To his enemies God rarely speaks, and they conclude he does not exist. They are in hell’s waiting room. No wonder they profess to be atheists. For them, God does not exist except as a terrifying uncertainty. This is what happens when God does not look at you, except with disdain. You may be rich and powerful, with your foundations smugly remaking the world to justify your autobiography of rebellion, but the true God, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, will not even look at you. You are pathetic. You will not be remembered.
But there is another group of men in this earth from whom God never removes his eye. He has utmost regard for them. They are the pupil of his eye (Ps. 17:8). He does not open his eyes without seeing them. Their identity will surprise you. Rarely are they in the earthly spotlight, for they are “poor.” This refers not primarily to material poverty, for many poor men and women are bitter and complaining, the most determined thieves and socialists you will ever meet. Poverty is no virtue, but the poverty of which Jesus speaks is one the leading virtues of his kingdom, the way he saved the world: poor in spirit (Phil. 2:5-7). These are the humble ones, who bow lowly and sincerely before God’s majesty and his mercy. They are broken by him and before him. They hate their sins and mourn over them. They stand in awe of the cross, hold fast to it, and boast in it alone. Jesus describes their blessedness in his most famous sermon. Their destiny is never to be forgotten but to possess God’s kingdom, to be comforted by his hand, and to see him.
In this life, they live penitently. To have a contrite spirit is to be lame and smitten down before God. It was David’s heart after the horror of his sins was brought to his conscience by the words of Nathan. This is the only sacrifice God really wants from us – feeling something of our evil, that we smite down our pride before him, repudiate and judge our sins before his throne (1 Cor. 11:31-32), and remain, like Jacob after his wrestling, permanent limpers. The contrite are those whom he raises up by his mercy so that they ever after trust only in his forgiving grace through Jesus Christ. God never looks with favor upon a proud and smug man. He hates pride. Pride is deadly, and pride is the religion of this nation, which is the reason he is crushing us. We do not limp or blush over our sins, but hold up our heads highly in rebellion, with the cameras rolling, each one viler than the last. There is no sin. There is cheap grace abounding even in the churches, but few limpers, few contrite hearts. But our Father is well-pleased with this sacrifice of being broken and lamed before him (Ps. 51:17).
There is one related way to know if God’s eye is upon you. Are you trembling at his word? Poor, contrite, and trembling are bound together. How can we hear and believe who God is unless we have his word? But preachers in this land have largely abandoned preaching what men do not want to hear, which means that they preach a small God who does what we want him to do. But a majestic and holy God, before whom we must be broken, like the waves against the rock, drawing near only with the blood of Jesus Christ marking our heart lintels and his righteousness drawn around us as our only cloak? Such a God will not please jaundiced consumers who want a feeling high and not a solid faith. God does not look at us, however, because we feel good about him. His religion is not “feel good about your feelings about me.” His religion is: do you tremble before my majesty? Do you fear me? Do you love and trust my promises and covenant? If you have this religion, God regards you. He is looking at you and smiling. The world hates these poor ones, and the proud are plotting, but God is laughing at them and looking at you with favor.
He is thinking of you with him forever when all this morass of evil is folded up and put away like a worn out shirt. He sees you rejoicing as you look at him in heaven. He is looking at you with pleasure and anticipating how peaceful you will be when sin and Satan and wicked men are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8). Think often, child of God, what it means for God to look upon you with favor. Think with trembling, for this is nothing about which to be smug but to be brought even lower with wonder. Whatever else you are presently thinking about, be certain that the high and holy God takes notice of you and recognizes you at his own. How can you know this? Do you see your sinful poverty and look to his Son alone as your riches? Are you broken and lame before his holiness, looking to Jesus alone as your desire and healer? Do you tremble at his word – with joy, anticipation, repentance, hope, and joy? Do you love the Bible, desire to live by every word of God, mourn when you bring the least of his commandments, and want to love and obey your Redeemer? God’s warmest smile and most tender look comes with a gift – the love of his truth, that you may be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10).
Does God never look at his enemies? Yes, his glance will flash upon them at the last day when he looks upon them with wrath and sends them into hell’s abyss. They will tremble and writhe forever, with none to pity. The righteous will still be trembling then, but differently. Why did you look upon me with favor? I was no better. Why did you smile upon me, include me in the blessed number for whom your Son laid down his life, give me faith to repent and believe? Why did you give me the love of the truth? Why did you bring me to tears over my sins so that I would be rejoicing this morning and about to enter your everlasting kingdom? Why were you so good to me? I am nothing; heaven is your throne. And heaven will tremble with the songs and joys of the Redeemed forever, loving the Lamb, loving one another, under our Father’s smiling eye.