Yes, God intends for us to serve Him, but that service is not to consist of merely external actions, regardless of how impressive they might appear. Through Isaiah, God explained to His people that, because He can do everything and anything, nothing we do is essential to Him in any way. Our service does not aid Him so much as provide Him with an opportunity to bless us: “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build for me? and where is the place of my rest?” (66:1). What is human endeavor by comparison with the work of God? Is He looking for a physical temple to dwell in? Not ultimately. He is looking for hearts in which to dwell. “But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isa. 66:2). In this verse, the Lord gives us a snapshot of the person who pleases Him. That person possesses three qualities.
He is poor, that is humble, in spirit. There is no room in the kingdom of God for those who are impressed with themselves and want everyone around them to be impressed with them as well. The man or woman to whom the Lord “will look” is one whose predominant characteristic is poverty of spirit. Such an idea is alien to the twenty-first-century mind. But believers are called to have the mind of God, not of their contemporaries. Poverty of soul is the description given to those who recognize that they have nothing to offer God and that all that they are and have is the product of His beneficence toward them. To be poor or humble in spirit is to depend wholly on the Lord and on His gracious supply. It is to look in faith to the Lord for the supply of all our needs, for the direction for all our activities, and for the strength for all our service. We are to be holy beggars, bringing nothing of ourselves with which to buy, barter, or bargain, but by faith resting in the gracious infinite generosity of our Lord.
He is contrite in spirit. The Hebrew word translated contrite means smitten and speaks of one who is dejected. In some sense, a contrite spirit is the opposite of a proud spirit. It is a chastened spirit, one that has recognized, as Paul was to testify many centuries later, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18). If a poor spirit is the recognition of our neediness and dependency upon God for everything, then a contrite spirit is the acknowledgement that we are in every way unworthy of the blessings that God so freely bestows on us. One of contrite spirit keeps close accounts with God. We are to be sensitive to our sin and to confess and forsake it the moment the Spirit of God brings it to our attention. A prevailing characteristic of the one to whom God “looks” is that he remains in a constant state of confession of sin. We should be continually aware of the sins that separate us from the fellowship of God’s presence and the many things that “come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Living such a life does not produce groveling misery, but joy, strength, and habitual victory in the Lord.
He trembles at God’s Word. This trembling is not an abject fear and constant misery: it is the attitude of faith. It is the measure of the reality of our love for and faithfulness to the Lord. Many would-be servants of God serve in capacities of their choosing and at times of their convenience. The one to whom God “will look” is one who is subservient to God’s Word. Service in self-will is of no service whatsoever to God. The true servant of God “trembles” at God’s Word. God’s will, as revealed in the Word, is uppermost in His mind. The Word is not an impediment to service, something to be explained away, or something to be ignored: it is at the very heart of service. We are neither faithful Christians nor faithful servants if we have little regard for the Word of God. And by regard, I do not mean merely that we read, study, and memorize it, but that we yield our wills to it—obey it. There is no substitute for a reverent obedience to the Word of God, and no amount of service or sacrifice can supplant the necessity of our bowing in faith and obedience to the holy, just, and good counsel that God has given us there. Do you want to be well regarded by the Lord? Give heed to our text.
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