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“This is what the LORD says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the LORD. ‘This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.’” (Isaiah 66:1-2)
A common approach to reading the Bible is what you might call the fortune cookie approach: search for inspirational sayings or insightful aphorisms that will help you face the challenges of your day. That isn’t always a bad thing; often we genuinely want to know what the Bible has to say to help us in our fears or anxieties, or to find hope for our future in a dark time. And the Bible has plenty to say to encourage us in those seasons. But that can’t be the only approach.
As I was meditating on Isaiah 66:2 this morning, I was reminded that God looks for people who are humble and contrite in spirit, who tremble at His word. Have you ever considered what that means, to tremble at His word? Consider two other passages before we look a little closer at that attitude:
“Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29)
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
The Word of God, according to these passages, is not just a collection of inspirational sayings to help you face the challenges of the day. It is like a fire, a hammer, and a sword. It burns up our pretenses, breaks hard hearts, and reveals the hidden motives and attitudes of the heart. It challenges, it confronts, and it lays our sinful hearts bare. It is a sword pressed against our throat, revealing us as guilty sinners without a defense before a holy God.
Recently I was listening to a teaching on the qualifications of an elder from 1 Timothy 3:1-7. I have heard these qualifications many times before, of course, but this time was different. As the preacher expounded upon the text, it was as if the sword had come out and had penetrated my heart. My sin was exposed for what it was. My desperate need for the mercy of God was made clear. And my need to submit to His sanctifying work in my life was pressed home. God’s Word was not just a collection of inspirational sayings; it was a fire, a hammer, and a sword. And I trembled before it.
Let me encourage you that the next time you come to the Word of God, remember what it is you are hearing. This is the word of the Holy and Everlasting God of the universe. Tremble before it, letting His Word lay bare the attitudes and motives of your heart. Let it once again remind you of how desperately you need His mercy every day, how dependent you are upon His life-sustaining grace. And then remember that in Jesus, this holy God offers you forgiveness of sins, and in His Holy Spirit He offers you the power to become the man or woman of God He has called you to be.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
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