Approaching a Holy God – Isaiah 57

Jesus’ half-brother James, a son of both Mary and Joseph, came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.  He gives us some wisdom on how to approach a holy God.

6 “God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”  James 4:6b NKJV

The prophet Isaiah also extolled the virtues of humility whenever we come into God’s presence.  These words, delivered to the people of Judah in the time of their kings, also apply to us today.

15 For thus says the High and Lofty One
Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him who has a contrite and humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Isaiah 57:15 NKJV

We are advised to approach God with a humble spirit, and not a heart full of pride.  But what is humility, and what is pride?

Humility is not humiliation or self-hatred.  It is not placing ourselves below others in value or self-worth, or subjecting ourselves to ridicule or self-flagellation.  It is honestly recognizing who we are, both our strengths and our shortcomings, and placing ourselves before God and other people in a proper perspective.

Before God, we come as one who has fallen short of His holiness, and we admit our sins to our Creator.  We recognize the many blessings that God has given us, and that even our greatest achievements have been aided by His grace and favor.  We can be proud of others and their achievements, and even for things we have been able to do, without being “prideful”.  Humility is not taking full credit ourselves, but remembering to give God the credit for His role and the many things He has done to make these achievements possible.

Before others, humility reminds us that God loves them just as much as He loves us – He expects us to love them, too.  God does not want us to judge others, but to do a self-examination and to judge ourselves.  When we have done wrong, we approach Him for forgiveness and ask for the strength to do better the next time.  He will gladly extend to us grace and mercy on each occasion we do so.

Unlike humility, pride is believing that we are better than others, and that we, not God, are the center of our world and the sole author of our accomplishments.  Pride puts others down, if only in our mind, to secure our place on a pedestal of superiority.  Many of us have been tempted to think this way at one time or another.

Pride also says: “I will get even” or “I will get revenge for that!”  It flares up in anger when we have been disrespected or overlooked by others.  It can turn to envy when others get the recognition or awards that we want for ourselves.

God hates pride, but at the same time, we are all guilty of it at times.  How do we deal with that?  This is where a contrite spirit comes in.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “contrite” as “feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming”.

God has given each of us a conscience.  We can ignore it so long that it will no longer speak to us, but it is still there.  In Christ, the Holy Spirit will restore our conscience and use it to bring to our attention any thoughts, words, or actions which have taken us outside holy boundaries and have displeased God.  These are the things He wants us to bring before Him to acknowledge and to humbly seek His forgiveness for.  When we approach God in a contrite manner to seek forgiveness for our sins, He will not turn us away, but will completely absolve and cleanse us, and allow us to abide in His holy presence.  There is not a more peaceful or serene place in all of creation than resting in the presence of the Lord, grateful for all that He has done.

Reflection

Gratitude is a recognition of the wonderful people, experiences, and gifts that God has put into our lives.  It brings us a sense of peace as we reflect upon His goodness and care. 

What are you grateful for today?

Lord, thank You for all the wonderful things You have done for us – all the people, places, and things that You have shared with us in our lives.  Help us to be humble and grateful for all that You have done and will do for us.  Our greatest gifts and accomplishments have all come from Your hand, and we know that the very best is yet to come. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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