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. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isa. 66:1-2)
As I write this, we are celebrating Holy Week. This week of all weeks, we (myself included) try a little harder to keep the passion of Christ closer to the forefront of our minds. We place a priority on being at church on Easter Sunday and maybe even a couple other times during this week. But by the time this blog is posted, Holy Week will have come and gone and our “Easter best” will be put away.
A dear friend, and former Advent staffer, recently posted on social media a picture of her kids in their Easter finery with this caption: “Shout Hosanna to the One who sees straight through the ribbons and lace to what we really are, yet rode willingly toward his torture and death so that we may some day be clothed in glory unimaginably greater than our ‘Southern Sunday Best.’”
You see, while it is good and right to place special attention on the week of our Lord’s passion, no amount of effort or lace can cover our sinful condition and desperate need for him.
We have just read in Isaiah 64: 6, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” God goes on to make clear through Isaiah his displeasure and pending judgment on those who offer sacrifices while in their hearts go their own arrogant way.
So, what hope is there for me, when my best efforts, even during Holy Week, fall so short?
But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isa. 66:2)
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
This is simultaneously a word of comfort and admonition. Jesus comes down hard on those who are “whitewashed tombs,” who look good on the outside but do not fear God on the inside.
But what a comfort when we realize that God is not looking for our Sunday best, but for a broken spirit, a heart that realizes its need. Where will he come to abide with us? In the hearts of those who live in an attitude of repentance, in those who are humble and weak.
When we consider God almighty, our response should be to tremble at his holiness, to realize our condition and know we can offer nothing but our repentant hearts that long for communion with him.
Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of what communion with God will look like one day for his chosen people, for those who wait for him: “You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants, and he shall show his indignation against his enemies” (Isa. 66:14).
We long for the day when we shall see and know God fully and flourish through his redemptive power. These words of John Newton’s hymn “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds” ring true for me, Easter week and always:
Weak is the effort of my heart, and cold my warmest thought; but when I see thee as thou art, I’ll praise thee as I ought.
May we offer the sacrifice of a contrite heart and look forward to rejoicing fully in him when we behold him in glory!