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Nearly fifty years ago, I was wrestling with God’s call on my life. In my heart, I knew I wanted to devote myself to preaching the Word of God in full-time ministry. However, I was unsure if God wanted me to follow that path. The gravity of this major life decision made me feel as if I was in the midst of an ominous, brewing storm. While I sought the will of the Lord for the direction of my life, I sat under a life-altering sermon that has echoed in my soul to this very day. I listened to a preacher expound Isaiah 66:2, in which God says, “But to this one I will look: To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (NASB).

This passage struck my heart like a lightning bolt from heaven. I had my answer: God looks for servants He can send out to accomplish His holy work. But they must assume a certain posture of heart. God says that He will look with favor to a particular kind of person—the one who is humble, contrite, and God-fearing. In this defining moment, I humbled myself before Him in worship and presented myself for use in His gospel ministry.

Do you long for God to use you? Do you desire that God would send you into His service? If so, what He says in Isaiah 66:2 holds extreme importance for you—as it did for me.

The Towering Immensity of God

In this passage, God is the speaker through the prophet Isaiah. To set the scene, God begins by proclaiming that heaven above is His throne. Isaiah declares, “Thus says the Lord,” announcing that these words carry the full weight of the supreme authority of God (v. 1). He says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool,” asserting that the vastness of the earth is nothing when compared to His transcendent immensity. God sits enthroned in the heights of heaven, far above this minuscule globe. The sovereign Lord reigns majestically over the affairs of human history.

Next, God asks two rhetorical questions: “What is the house you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?” Both questions lead to an emphatically negative answer. The answer is so obvious that God does not even bother to answer them. No man-made temple could ever contain the infinite, boundless presence of God. The entire universe cannot encompass Him, much less a mere structure made with human hands.

God looks for servants He can send out to accomplish His holy work. But they must assume a certain posture of heart.
To Whom Does He Look?

Regarding the expansive universe, God states, “All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be” (v. 2). As the One who made everything out of nothing, the Creator far exceeds everything He has created. God looms large over the works of His hands. As He looks down from the heights of heaven, who among His lowly creatures could capture His attention? The nations are like a speck of dust on His scales. What mere individual could possibly draw His gaze?

God answers by specifying the one to whom He will look. He gives three nonnegotiable qualifiers, each one expressing a necessary prerequisite.

First, the Lord says that He will look to “the one who is humble.” This word “humble” (Hebrew ani) means to be poor, afflicted, needy, wretched. It conveys the idea of one who is lowly. God is not speaking of a short physical stature but of the lowliness of heart that He requires of His servants. When God is recognized to be high and lifted up, man shrinks into extreme humility—an experience with which Isaiah was most familiar (Isa. 6).

This virtue of spiritual poverty is absolutely necessary to be used by God. Jesus affirms this by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). No one seeking the spotlight in God’s kingdom will be enlisted by Him into active service. Nor can we hoard any desire for self-promotion or self-glory. Like Moses, we must remove the sandals from our feet. In God’s work, wherever we go and whatever we do, we are always standing on holy ground. We entered His kingdom with a step of humble faith. Likewise, we will grow in usefulness to God only as we increasingly lower ourselves before Him and walk in humility.

Second, God looks to the one who is “contrite of spirit.” The word “contrite” (Hebrew nake) means one who is stricken or smitten. Rather than being puffed up and self-elevating, we are required to be as one who is broken and yielded to God under His mighty right hand. The word “spirit” (Hebrew ruah) indicates that this lifelong repentance must be cultivated in the depth of our being. This is not something that lies on the outward surface of our lives. Instead, it represents a lowly attitude in the innermost being of our soul. This self-realization comes through a true understanding of the gospel and its declaration of our identity as redeemed sinners.

Third, God says He will look to the one “who trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2). This means that we must take His Word very seriously. Whatever God says, we must embrace and take to heart. We must respond to what He says with reverential awe. High regard and deep respect must grip our souls. When we are rooted in “the fear of the Lord,” this fear will produce a sobering devotion to God within us. Simply put, God will honor the one who honors His Word.

Since God first spoke these words, these timeless requirements have remained the same. Over the centuries, nothing has changed. God still demands the humility, contrition, and soul-trembling of His servants. Those who take His Word lightly will be passed over in His service. Those who are self-elevating will be set aside and forgotten.

But those who submit themselves to the Lord will be used for His own purposes. Jesus succinctly stated, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). Let us lower ourselves in His holy presence, so we may be raised up and find favor in His glorious sight.

Power over Death

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From the September 2020 Issue
Sep 2020 Issue