Humble in Heart

“On this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word”

Isaiah 66:2b

We all desire that other people see us in a favourable light. What other people think of us has power over us; but we may discover one day that few thought much about us anyway. There is only one person’s favour that is worthwhile and that is God’s.

The world holds in high esteem the bold, the brave, the talented and the prominent; but the news in recent times is that many who were once held in high esteem have a dark past which is now coming to light. People who held sway over the opinions of many are being revealed as unworthy of that esteem.

If we want God to look favourably on us we need to know who He does so regard. In the verse above He gives two of the qualities absolutely vital to receiving God’s favour: a poor spirit and a contrite spirit. There are others not mentioned here but mentioned in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

One who is poor in spirit is one who knows they are absolutely bankrupt when it comes to God’s righteousness. The proud and arrogant person knows nothing of this and continues to show God and everyone how self-righteous he is. The measure of righteousness that qualifies for heaven is Jesus Christ Himself. Though some seem to think they do, no man measures up to God’s righteousness (Romans 3:23; Matthew 5:20).

One who is of a contrite spirit is one who has a repentant heart toward God because of his poverty of spirit in righteousness. Instead of trying in vain to measure up he accepts that he falls short of God’s righteous measure and seeks God’s mercy, forgiveness and righteousness as a gift by faith (Romans 3:19-31).

God says through Isaiah that He will not look favourably on the self-righteous but will look favourably on the person who acknowledges their sinfulness and bankruptcy in righteousness. Such a one is in a blessed place because he/she will seek God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

Only a person humble in heart will tremble at God’s word and, with a repentant heart, seek and receive His forgiveness. The proud and arrogant do not do so because they don’t believe they need it.

Awesome Majesty

“On this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” Isaiah 66:2

About twenty years ago I was in the co-pilot’s seat of a light plane flown by an MAF pilot. We were flying from Bokondini to Wamena in the central highlands of Papua, Indonesia. I knew nothing of how to fly the plane and it was my first light plane flight in the region. Fortunately there was no need of a co-pilot’s services and any uneasiness on the part of my friends on board was relieved!

For several days previously, we had been unable to fly due to smoke and fog. Now, we were soaring between huge steep mountains with cavernous gorges kilometres deep. We were awestruck at the scale. We might say that we trembled at the beauty and scale of what we were beholding.

Twice in Isaiah sixty six the Lord refers to trembling at His word (v 2 & 5). He does not mean the kind of trembling that demons experience (James 2:19). Theirs is a trembling of fear of God’s impending wrath and judgment that is hanging over their heads. The “tremble” in Isaiah is one that arises from being awestruck at the beauty, wisdom and holy magnificence of the Lord. In colloquial terms, we might say it is the “WOW factor”.

Who will stand in awe of the Lord and tremble, not from fear of wrath or judgment, but in seeing the greatness of His beauty, wisdom and majesty? The Lord tells us that it is the one who is poor in spirit and of a contrite spirit. In Isaiah 57:15 the Lord says that He dwells with the one who is of a contrite and humble spirit. The Psalmist writes, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart – These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). The “poor in spirit” in Isaiah equates with the first Beatitude in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” That is, those who know that they are spiritually bankrupt with regard to righteousness.

Sometimes when we are out walking, riding, driving or flying, we see some amazing scenery and are moved in awe of great beauty. This, however, is only a subdued emotion compared with that of the tremble we may experience as the Lord allows us glimpses of Himself through His word and the experiences of life we have as we walk with Him. The next corner in our lives that we turn or the next page of the Bible that we read, may be the means by which He reveals Himself to us with more of His beauty, wisdom and awesome majesty and holiness.

We cannot demand that the Lord reveal Himself; but we can put ourselves in the right place so that, when He chooses, we will have the right spirit of heart that causes us to tremble in delight at His presence.

Let Your Light Shine

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven”  Matthew 5:16

The above statement was made by Jesus just after teaching His disciples what we now call The Beatitudes. We have a tendency to read this and similar teachings of Jesus as if they were a standard for us to strive to attain. However I believe that is not the real purpose. Like the commandments of God they are also a description of the general attitude and attributes of one who is born of God and walking in the Spirit. They are also a partial description of our Creator.

If we struggle with attaining these it may be because we are trying to live the Christian life without Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is quite impossible and absurd in the light of Jesus’ teaching (i.e. John 15:5; Colossians 1:27).

The Beatitudes are a partial description of one who is a true disciple of Jesus Christ (Luke 14:25-33). They are divided into two main categories: four passive personal qualities and four active social qualities. These qualities will characterise the true disciple of Jesus but mimicking the qualities will not make a person a disciple of Jesus.

In brief, true disciples will know that they are bankrupt spiritually apart from Jesus Christ. They know beyond any shadow of doubt that they have nothing to commend themselves to God.

True disciples mourn over sin whether it is their own, that of family, the church, governments or sin generally. They find no pleasure in sin and are broken hearted over the destruction to lives that sin brings with it. They are especially grieved that it keeps loved ones from a personal relationship with God.

True disciples maintain a disciplined control of their lives even when provoked. Meekness is not weakness.

True disciples have a genuine love for God’s righteousness and this is expressed in their love for His words and commandments (cf. Psalm 119).

True disciples will demonstrate loving kindness toward others; they will demonstrate holiness from a clean heart; they will “do the work of an evangelist” endeavouring to reconcile lost souls to God; just as Jesus did not complain on the cross they will not complain at adversity and persecution that will accompany a godly life in a fallen world.

The Beatitudes are a means by which we can renew our minds and discern whether our thinking and attitudes are from Christ in us or from sin. When we allow the Holy Spirit to manifest the life of Christ in us, of which the Beatitudes reveal some attributes, we will be a light that shines among men that will glorify our Father in heaven. He is glorified because they are also attributes of our Father in heaven.

Blessed are the Sunday School Teachers

“Then He (Jesus) took little child. Mark 9:36

Nearly six decades ago Sunday morning meant a sleep in after a big day Saturday roaming the hills with my dog. In the winter we would dig up rabbits (and anything else that took his fancy) and in the dry weather before summer I would try to burn the hill. We achieved some success with both keeping rabbit on the menu and the volunteer fire service rehearsed for the approaching summer.

Sunday we went to church at 11:00am and Sunday School in the afternoon at 3:00. About all I remember now from the church services is that I frequently got into a giggle in the back row of seats. Mum played the organ and Dad often led the service so we were often on our own. When the circuit minister came (about four times a year) he would usually create a chalk drawing on paper while speaking. I don’t recall anything he, or any other preacher, said.

Sunday School was play time. I remember having class under the olive trees and throwing olives at children in another class. I don’t recall anything of lesson content. That I don’t remember does not mean that God’s word did not soak in through the efforts of faithful teachers. Anniversaries were great times but I don’t recall any of the special messages but I do remember the songs and hymns we sang on those occasions because we rehearsed so much.

In those years I did learn that there was a God who could be known. I learned that the Bible was His Word. I gained sensitivity to right and wrong that in my teen years I thought a curse but was in reality God’s restraining hand. The Bible stories faithfully taught, but not well remembered, had done a good work in my heart so that I could not sin without having to fight my conscience.

These are some of the reasons why I believe it is imperative that children hear who God is and what He has done through Jesus Christ as early as possible. Of course we would hope that they would be more receptive and understanding than I was. Since He was able to get hold of me we know that He can get hold of anyone.

Sunday School teachers must be among the most blessed of God when they teach His word faithfully to children. I have heard or read the testimony of many people who attribute their Sunday School teacher as having a significant influence on them coming to Jesus Christ.

One would think that the seventh Beatitude includes Sunday School teachers: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Through their faithful teaching of God’s word many children have entered Christ’s kingdom. Truly they are blessed as they make peace, and reconcile children to Jesus Christ.