Isa 66.1-2 - The only place or people God looks to
The Only Place or People God Looks To – Isa. 66:1-2
Text: Isaiah 66:1-2
Speaker: Pastor Phil Layton
Date: November 19, 2006
Occasion: Installation Service as new Pastor at Gold Country Baptist Church
I went back and forth on a number of passages as to what I might preach my first Sunday as pastor of Gold Country Baptist Church. It’s difficult to know where the best place to start is, what the most foundational passage would be to build a ministry on. The more and more I meditated on this passage, the more and more the Lord really impressed upon my heart the urgency of this text for this church on this day at this time in our lives.
A few weeks ago, at Grace Community Church, I was asked to do the scripture reading and opening prayer for our Sunday School group first hour, and I chose to read this text.
That Sunday was also the 50th Anniversary of GCC where John MacArthur has so faithfully preached for decades, and formed so much of my thinking and convictions over the past 10+ years I’ve sat under his teaching. After Sunday School we attended the main service and I listened intently as Dr. MacArthur introduced his message reminiscing on when he was first called to pastor that church, at an almost identical stage of life to where I am now (about 30 years old, 3 little kids, the youngest being 5 months). His example of long-term faithfulness was really moving to me at this point in my life, as I seek to also pour myself long-term into a church that is hungry for God’s Word.
He said that earlier that week a newspaper reporter who heard about the anniversary wanted to interview him, and he had basically one question: How do you explain your church? How do you explain the impact that has been going on for decades?
Dr. MacArthur answered the question this way – there is one dominating presence: God. And he said turn in your Bibles to Isaiah 66:1-2, where he explained that God always and only is present with those who have the characteristics in verse 2. God has only blessed and will only continue to bless any size church, or any individuals, if they remain humble, contrite, and trembling at His Word. In his mind, this was really the nucleus or key to how God used and is using that great church, and this is surely a defining passage and attitude of any church and ministry God will use. In God’s providence, my dear friend and mentor Jean-Paul Chenette had also preached on this passage the prior week at his church, and Ray Mehringer also quoted this text to me when he heard of my call here. All of these things make me utterly convinced that this message demands our attention.
The great and pressing need of the hour is to have a high view of God and a high view of God’s Word. In the weeks ahead, I plan to develop that further with messages on each of those themes, but for now notice that our text has both.
- Verse 1 of Isaiah 66 gives us a high view of God (creator of all, far greater than temple, heaven, earth, etc.)
- Verse 2 gives us a high view of God’s Word, we should tremble in reverence at it.
- And the fruit of this high view of God is that you have a low view of self, which we also see in verse 2 in the phrases “humble and contrite in spirit”
READ Isa. 57:15 (NKJV “contrite and humble spirit”)
The Supreme God who is High and Exalted only dwells with those who are lowly, humble, and contrite in spirit. Put another way, the Exalted One only dwells with those who know they are not
Back to Isaiah 66:2, it says “to this one I will look” – there is only ONE type of person God looks to. Of course God sees everything, but for God to “look at” is different.
Contrast in end of Isa 66:4 "I did not delight" with the "I will look" in v. 2, i.e., "look with delight"
Remember, God cannot look on sin (Hab. 1:13)
The force of Isa. 66:2 is "this is the only type of person I will look at with favor, the only kind of person I look to give grace to"
The reason this study is vital is that this is the only type of person God dwells with and is pleased with and will bless and bring encouragement to – it’s pretty important to get right!
Another reason it is urgent for us to study this passage today is right in the context of our passage - the strongest language possible is used of those who do are not humble, repentant, tremblers.
READ flow in Isa 66:2-4
That probably doesn't surprise and shock you as much as it did the original readers. Remember that God had commanded sacrificing of oxen and lambs and grain offerings and memorial offerings. Imagine if you read a passage that said:
He who does spiritual things without the attitude of Isaiah 66:2 is in God's eyes like a cold-blooded murderer
He who gives sacrificially to the church or the poor while delighting in his sin doesn’t necessarily please God any more than those who give money to terrorist organizations
He who takes the communion cup without a repentant reverent heart might as well be drinking pig's blood
He who prays to me before eating a meal with a heart that is not humble and broken before my Word is like the Catholic who mindlessly prays the Rosary
This is key: Doing the right religious things without a humble, repentant, trembling heart doesn’t please God anymore than the most pagan acts of unbelief or idolatry
Expositor’s Bible Commentary says it this way: “The most sacred exercises of true God-given religion are like the worst of sins when they are divorced from humility of spirit.” (p. 352)
To go through the motions, even saying and doing things obedient to scripture, while cherishing and delighting in wickedness in your heart is as offensive in God's eyes as Sodom and Gomorrah was
** This is how the book of Isaiah begins and ends, notice the strong tone in the first chapter (READ Isa. 1:1, 1:10-15)
Observe the severe rebukes for doing things the OT commanded (prayers, going to temple, sacrifices, feasts, Sabbath, assemblies), not because there was anything wrong with those things themselves, but because v. 13 says they were "vain offerings" - their heart was not right and was wickedly sinful as verses 4-5 say
As the prophet would say later in 29:13, they honor with their lips, but their hearts were far from God.
The pressing question for Isaiah's readers and for us: HOW CAN WE AVOID BEING A GREAT OFFENSE TO GOD? How can we be people He looks on with favor, and blesses, and comforts? If God will continue to work here at Gold Country Baptist, so that many years from now we can look back at God’s work in and through us, what will be the key? What is the essential foundation upon which all else rises or falls?
The answer to all of these questions will be our outline:
1. Be humble
2. Be repentant (or contrite)
3. Be trembling
The characteristics God is looking for are humility, repentance, and trembling
These are the core values of ministry for those with a high view of God and His Word.
Psalm 138:6 says "Though the Lord is on high, Yet He regards the lowly” (NKJV)
READ ISAIAH 66:2 AGAIN. The NKJV has “poor and contrite of spirit” – most translations use the word “humble”
The original word is elsewhere translated lowly, afflicted, needy, it was a word used for “a class of people with little or no resources and of low status” – in our text it’s clearly those that recognize themselves that way spiritually – lowly, afflicted, needy, with no resources
It’s important for us to start here, because this is where our Lord Jesus started his teaching ministry at the very beginning of his first recorded sermon, Matthew 5
Blessed are the poor in spirit …
Blessed are the meek [or humble]
This is the critical attitude and starting point, which is why I’m planning to do an entire follow-up message on humility, because if we don’t have this, we will never progress or grow spiritually as a church or as individuals. James 1:21 commands us “in meekness / humility receive the Word”
- if you do not listen to the Word with this mindset
- if you listen to a sermon for something to criticize rather than something to be convicted by
- if you look down on the new pastor or the leaders or others in the church
- if your interactions with the Word and with others is not marked by lowliness of mind, esteeming others as better than yourself as Philippians 2:3 says
- if you are not killing pride in your life and constantly cultivating humility
… you’re going to be getting in the way of God’s work and hurting God’s church.
Humility is also and especially vital for me as a pastor; I cannot even begin to be used by God unless I am pursuing and cultivating humility and fighting all forms of pride in my life. If we don’t have humility, we will never be the place or people God looks to bless and use. The Word says in several places that God is opposed to the proud and only gives grace to the humble. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want God opposing me.
Just being humbled by the greatness of God isn’t enough – in order to be a person God looks at and will dwell with favor, we must also …
2. BE REPENTANT
Isa. 66:2 “the humble and contrite of spirit”
Contrite is a word that means stricken or smitten, disabled.
Only used two other times in the O.T., both times of the physical lameness of Mephibosheth (2 Sam 4:4, 9:3), crippled, unable to walk. Here it is spiritual inability, brokenness, and amazingly our majestic and infinite God chooses of all things to condescend and dwell with the lowest of hearts, and to revive them and them alone.
We already read Isaiah 57:15 where God says “"I dwell … With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones." (Isaiah 57:15, NKJV)
Another key cross-reference is Psalm 34:18: "The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit." (NKJV)
We don’t need to spend as much time on this point because it is so closely related to our first point and I will also devote a future message to repentance in more depth, but the best biblical picture of contrition / repentance is Psalm 51. READ vv. 17-19
Notice in v. 19 that God would delight in sacrifices once the heart is right, but he would not delight in any works before repentance
Notice also the word "despise" in v. 17 - the only kind of person God does not despise is a broken and contrite-hearted person. Those who are not broken ARE despised. And remember, David is a believer here, but the clear implication is that God despised and found abominable what David had done until he was broken in repentance.
The obvious application for us today is that God despises unrepentant people at church. If you have sin that you have not repented and dealt with and turned from in your life, do not let your head hit the pillow tonight before you have done what David did in Psalm 51.
The true believer desires this brokenness. He wants the Good Physician to bring the double-edged surgeon sword that cuts through everything even to the thoughts and intents of the heart, because true Christians know that the pain of the scalpel brings healing and cuts away the cancerous sin in his heart. He finds himself longing on Sundays not for a funny and casual and shallow message, but instead he longs for the convicting application and serious blood-earnest passionate pleas of the preacher who is himself broken.
The song says it right:
Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for, brokenness is what I need. Brokenness is what you want from me.
Brokenness is next to godliness.
This is the only type of person, the only place God looks to – not a big place, just a little place, a human heart that is humble and contrite in repentance.
Review: So we must be humbled by the greatness of God, we must be repentant at the conviction of God, and lastly, we must …
3. BE TREMBLING AT THE WORD OF GOD
God’s statement in Isaiah 66:1 has been summarized this way:
What are you going to do for Me? What are you going to contain Me in? What are you going to offer Me? What do I need that you can give Me? What do I want from you? "For My hand has made all these things, thus all these things came into being, declares the Lord." Then He says this, "What do I want from you? I'll tell you what I want. To this one I look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit and who trembles at My Word."
You want to know what I'm looking for? You want to know what you can give Me? You can tremble at My Word. (MacArthur, GTY message # 50-20)
What does God mean in Isaiah 66:2 when he says He “who trembles at my Word”?
You’ll have to come back next week to find out …