Ever bump into someone really famous? How did you react? I read a short clip in Reader’s Digest years ago from a lady who had been getting some ice cream at a place in Santa Fe when Robert Redford walked in. She carefully told herself not to act stupid, to just pay for her cone and leave. But when she got outside she realized she didn’t have it with her. She went back in and said, “I’m sorry, I think I left my cone in here.” Robert Redford said, “You put it in your purse!”
Last time (“Why Them?”), we looked at what it was about the lowly and contrite that God said He would come and live with them? It was that the lowly and contrite understand they really need God, that they can’t achieve righteousness by their own efforts, no matter how hard they try. But there is more to it than that. A second quality about the lowly and contrite is that they understand God is God – not them. When they have an encounter with God, they understand how mighty and holy and amazing He is – and respond accordingly, with absolute humility. Like what happened when Isaiah caught a glimpse of God:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:1-5 (NIV)
Isaiah’s experience was unique to him. We can only imagine how frightening it was. Imagine walking into your bedroom one day and seeing someone seated in the midst of a blazing nuclear furnace. The important thing to recognize from this, however, is not so much what he saw but how he responded. Isaiah he knew he was in the presence of God. His response was a picture of what it means to be lowly and contrite. Isaiah hit the deck, cowering and peering out to glimpse the train of God’s robe. That is because, in the presence of God, he became immediately aware of how sinful he was. In contrast to God’s amazing glory his own imperfection was devastating. Isaiah realized, because God is perfect in righteousness and he was not, by rights he was a dead man. He said, “Woe to me! I am ruined!” To be lowly and contrite before God is to be completely humbled by Who He is. To know you need His Help and to glimpse His power and holiness.
You, right this minute, are also in the presence of Almighty God. You probably don’t see those strange creatures flying around, you probably don’t see smoke, but He is right there, with you. And He alone is God, perfect in righteousness. By contrast, you and I are dead men and women. We are ruined. If you can see that, if you sense the truth of that in your bones, that is a good thing. Because God says (Isaiah 57:15) He will live with those who are lowly and contrite. That is good news.
Chew on that…