Let the Word Speak!

Isaiah 57:11-15: Down from the High Places

Whom did you dread and fear

    so that you lied,

and did not remember me

    or give me a thought?

Have I not kept silent and closed my eyes,

    and so you do not fear me?

I will concede your righteousness and your works,

    but they will not help you.

When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you!

    The wind will carry them off,

    a breath will take them away.

But whoever takes refuge in me shall possess the land

    and inherit my holy mountain.

It shall be said,

“Build up, build up, prepare the way,

    remove every obstruction from my people’s way.”

For thus says the high and lofty one

    who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:

I dwell in the high and holy place,

    and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit,

to revive the spirit of the humble,

    and to revive the heart of the contrite.

New Revised Standard Version

 

 

Isaiah had an unpopular message to deliver at a difficult time. God had called him to declare to the Hebrew people that they had abandoned God and were relying on false worship and pride as their source of strength and the key to their success as a nation.

It is no wonder most rejected Isaiah’s message. As far as they were concerned, they were a successful people, growing richer by the day, and having lived for years in peace with their neighboring countries. To them, it was obvious they were doing things right–and wasn’t God blessing them for their deeds? How else would one explain their prosperity?

Isaiah gave them God’s answer in blunt terms: don’t confuse God’s mercy with God’s approval. Just because God had been patient and, as we might say it, held His peace, God’s holiness and righteousness still dictated that judgement would come, and that the falseness and worthlessness of the people’s beliefs would be revealed.

And then Isaiah presented a fantastic contrast.

God told the Isaiah what He wanted, what would cause Him to rush down from the “high and holy place” to wrap His arms around the people He loves–a humble heart, an open mind, a willingness to be led, and a repentant soul.

This was just the opposite of what the Hebrew people had become.  This defied the logic they had used to explain their abundance.  Isaiah’s message from God contradicted the pride they expressed in being the “chosen race” and exposed their arrogance at claiming to know the “rules to the game” of religion and how to manipulate God to keep the blessings coming.

It is hard for us to develop humility when everything seems to be going our way. It is hard to focus on repenting and setting aside our selves to be closer to God, when we seem to be doing very well by ourselves. We all want “success”, but success measured the wrong way can bring failure in exactly the same way that “pride goes before destruction”. (Proverbs 16:18).

It is no coincidence that when God came to earth, it was as an infant, the child of a common laborer and his young wife.  So there could be no mistaking this intended message, this baby was not born in a normal dwelling, but in a barn, and born not at home in Nazareth or in a major city like Capernaum or Jerusalem, but in the tiny village of Bethlehem.  Isaiah stated that God dwelt with the lowly and contrite, so God through Jesus chose to live with the poor and humble.  He called disciples from those who had no power or status in society, associated freely with those who were unfit for membership in the religious orders of the day, and died the death of a common criminal.  Any human cause for pride is at odds with the example of the birth, life, and death that God ordained for His Son.

When we think of the Christ child in the manger, we have the embodiment of this promise from Isaiah that God rushes to the side of the contrite and lowly.  This miraculous birth instructs us that we, too, must be humble and meek to remain in God’s presence.

 


New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2014 Jonathan Morris
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