Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.(Isaiah 66:1-2)
The LORD addresses his congregation,in Isaiah 66. He speaks to them as a whole people, but within his address, he speaks to them as a duality, there are actually two groups within that one congregation.
The first people the LORD addresses are the majority of the congregation. Among them are the ones who run the business of worship, they keep the Temple going, they offer sacrifices and imagine that they are doing all of those things for the LORD. I refer to the religious establishment and their constituency which consists of the bulk of the ‘people of God’.
This is religion in the sight of man. It is respectable and even impressive, it evokes ethereal feelings of piety and otherworldliness.
But this same expression of religion is rejected in the harshest terms by the Holy God, he likens legitimate sacrifices they have offered as being similar to gross paganism.
The problem was that there was an independence of spirit in the sum of their efforts. They “ran” the religion, but weren’t really seeking or responding to God on his terms. “When I called no one answered”, saith the LORD. They have “chosen their own ways”, in spite of the elaborate apparatus of worship they had built…for God.
But the LORD then addresses a congregation within the congregation. These would be the despised and rejected remnant, for the most part the ones who were actually hated and cast out by the respectable majority, in a similar manner to the way Cain slew Abel.
The characteristics which mark this ‘little flock’ but which the participants of “respectable religion know nothing of, are threefold.
*They are poor in Spirit- Jesus drew from this passage in the beatitudes of the sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit…”. Blessed are those who know how utterly bankrupt and poverty stricken they are without God.
These people do not imagine they are doing anything “for God”, they are well aware of their own spiritual impotence. God has shown them, that “without Me you can do nothing…”
They are also ever painfully aware of the fact that they are never very far from defecting from God in their heart and mind. They no longer trust themselves. Like Jacob, they walk with a limp, having first wrested with and then simply reduced to clinging to their maker.
Therefore they cling to him, their worship of God is an expression of that complete need for Him. Real Faith is based upon the sense of that need. This is the true spirituality of the Remnant, devoid of self confidence,”confidence in the flesh” as Paul would put it.
Do you remember the Proverb which is a prayer?
Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.(Proverbs 30:7-9)
What is this man really saying to the LORD? I believe he is saying “Lord, Help Me! I no longer trust myself…I am liable to do anything…ever ready to defect, if given the right circumstances…”.
The poor in Spirit have given up on themselves, they see nothing good within, nothing to boast of, nothing to be self confident or self satisfied in… these are the remnant.
*They are contrite- Contrition is a word that has come on hard times these days. But it is an essential element of true spirituality. It is a word which simply means “sorrow for sin”.
The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.(Psalm 34:18)
Blessed are those who mourn…
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.(Psalm 51:17)
Various strains of Psychology have all but wiped out any sense of contrition in our generation. It treats all guilt as a malady to be dealt with, and to be removed through therapy and self esteem.
Even in the church there is very little teaching on the horror of sin, the damage sin does to the soul and to God’s order, and almost none on the idea that all sins are a direct affront to God.
If God has mercy on a soul He will unveil to that person the enormity of sin.
How evil is sin? Look at what God has had to do as a remedy to it… it took nothing less than the crucifixion of the Son of God, at the hands of sinful men, as well as his temporary rejection and banishment from fellowship with the Father to remove it’s stain and power.
All sins are against God. Let that fact sink into your soul. David pled in Psalm 51,
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. (Psalm 51:1-4)
All sins are against God primarily, and secondarily they damage and hurt men. Murder is a sin against God, because a man bears the Image of God. Adultery is a sin against God, who is the author of marriage.
Any real conversion has this element, deep sorrow for sins committed.
To this day I cringe at times forty years later at the remembrance of the things I had done in my wayward youth, or even indwelling sins such as pride, lust, or wrath, since the commencement of my discipleship.
Had I not been forgiven for those things when I called upon Jesus? DefinitelyI have and joyfully received his forgiveness. But there is forgiveness of sins and there is the lifelong transformation wrought by the Holy Spirit which seeks to eradicate entirely any and all sympathy for sin in my life.
I Love God and hate the fact that my sins have offended him.
None of my sins have ever brought me any joy either.
A true worshipper hates and fears sin in his own life. He has an ever growing awareness of what He is being delivered from, and cannot get far enough way from it.
The lack of this attribute of contrition is a sign of false conversion.
*The true remnant trembles at His Word – The Word is a means to an end, to the main congregation. They often consult experts on the text, who explain away the uncomfortable parts of the Word of God, they are not afraid to correct the Word whenever it runs counter to current popular presuppositions. Their whole approach to scripture guarantees that they will never really be able to “get it”.
They may admire the Word, they may even make a public show of reverence and preference for it, but whenever the Word of God says one thing and the “Experts” say another, They go with the “experts”, for they have no real reverence for the Word of God, it has never made them tremble.
When Darwin recycled and gave scientific respectability to the theory of Evolution, countless pastors and teachers defected from the Biblical teaching, because they didn’t want to seem ‘primitive’ and unlearned. They denied Christ and destroyed the faith of many, because they put worldly respectability over the Word of God.
The same thing is happening now with issues like Homosexuality. So many ‘ministers’ dread being accused of being unloving and irrelevant. Oprah Winfrey asked Rob Bell, who claims to be an evangelical, “how close is the church coming to accepting Homosexual marriage?”
“I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life,” https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/20/rob-bell-oprah-gay-marriage_n_6723840.html
But the true remnant trembles at the Word of God.
The Word of God came to me as a nineteen year old student. Reading the sermon on the mount rocked my whole world. I didn’t understand most of what I read, but the Words hit me so hard, I just knew I was liable to Judgment, and came under conviction of my sins.
The same Word which convicted me so, eventually revealed to me the doctrine of substitution, that Jesus took my place on the crds and bore my sins and condemnation before God himself. I trembled with sheer joy when I learned 2 Corinthians 5:21.
For He made Him to be sin, who knew no sin, that we might be made the Righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
The remnant doesn’t bring the scripture up before their own bar of judgment, for they know it is the Word that judges and searches us. We believe the scriptures are the Word of God. We don’t “use’ the scriptures, or “work” them. We believe God will speak to us though them.
One of the things which make the remnant “tremble”, is the searching power of the Word. under the preaching of the Word, the secrets of our hearts are revealed. We love the messenger of the Word who convicts us of our sins.
We can never merely dismiss the threatenings of the Word, they make us tremble even though we know we are being saved.
We search the scriptures, seeking Jesus in them, and listening to what the LORD shall speak, we love the Bible, and the God revealed in the Bible.
Deuteronomy tells us what it means to have a God,
Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name. He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.(Deuteronomy 10:20-21)
To Him shall you cleave and swear by His name…
God is the one I primarily quote, His Word is my “expert”, I go by what he has said in other words, Scripture settles all arguments, the Word is authoritative, the final Word on anything is scripture.
To Love God is to Love His Word, to fear God is to Tremble at His Word.