Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord.
Would we build Him a house? The earth is His footstool! Even more, what material would we use in our service to Him? The oxigen we breath is His, along with every other molecule we touch! We are like the 4 year old girl who buys her parents a gift and boasts about how rich she is because she can buy such things – not recognizing that her parents gave her the money for the gift in the first place!
What I find interesting in these verses, however, is the fact that in the Old Covenant, building a house for God was not sinful thing in and of itself. The Israelites needed a place to offer sacrifices to God. So what was the problem? The second half of verse 2 mentions the need for humility, and verse 3 the fact that God hated their sacrifices because of their wicked pride in delighting in doing things their own ways. In other words, pride can taint our worship to the point that it no longer pleases God, but rather is an abomination to Him (cf. Pr. 28:9 “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination”). This is a great reminder for us that even when we desire to do something “good”, like preaching or singing or serving, if our motive for doing so flows from our pride and not to glorify God, He is not well pleased.
In light of both our complete helplessness and our constant sinfulness, one would think that nothing we do could ever catch God’s eye… but then Isaiah 66:2b states:
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.
Are you humble?
We ought always to remember God’s aseity – He does not need us! The earth is His footstool. What a humbling thought that should be. At the same time, He commands us to worship Him and communicates to us that it pleases Him when we do so. Therefore, we ought to use the gifts and talents He has given us. But we should never use them as if they had originated with us – The earth is His!
Thus, if we want to serve the Lord in a way that catches His eye, we’ll have to first remember 1 Corinthians 4:7 “For who makes anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
If the four year old girl wants to give her father a present because she desires to please him, I would venture to say the father would gladly provide the money. However, if she wants money so that she can buy something that she wants, and then give it to daddy in a vain attempt to play with it herself, I doubt many fathers would be pleased. How often do we take the resources Father has provided us with in order to bring attention to ourselves? If we sing to impress men instead of to please God, we have fallen into the very sin that Israel was guilty of.
Humility is understanding first that everything we are (except sin, that is the one thing we have exclusive rights on), anything ‘good’ we do to serve the Lord, it all comes from Him. Realizing this will break us of our pride, and that is the type of contrition that pleases God.
Do you tremble at His Word?
The language of Isaiah 66:2b is so similar to Exodus 19 that it is hard to miss. When Moses received the 10 commandments, “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended upon it in fire”; there were “thunders and lightning” and the whole mountain trembled greatly. In fact, “when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, [they] were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”
Of course, when we read a text like this, we often think: “Man, it was scary to live in the Old Testament; I’m sure glad that’s over and we are in the New Covenant!”.
However, the book of Hebrews warns:
For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. … Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to… Jesus.
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven… for our God is a consuming fire.
In other words, we ought not to think that the New Covenant is less terrifying, but more!
If we were living in the Old Testament and God spoke to us out of a thunderous cloud with smoke and fire, what would we do? I’m pretty sure we’d all be scared out of our minds just like the Israelites, faces on the ground.
The last time you read your Bible, did you tremble? Did you obey knowing that it is the living and active Word; it is God speaking from heaven to you? Or did you see it more as a dead word, devoid of much of its authority, written in the irrelevant past?
If you want to catch God’s eye, know that He looks at only one type of person: The broken one who trembles at His Word.