TREMBLING AT THE WORD OF GOD

by Bob Wheeler

Thus says the Lord:

“Heaven is My throne,

And earth is My footstool.

Where is the house that you will build Me?

And where is the place of My rest?

For all those things My hand has made,

And all those things exist,”

Says the Lord,

“But on this one will I look:

On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,

And who trembles at My word.”

            Isaiah 66:1,2 (NKJV).

As evangelical Christians we profess to believe in the Bible as God’s Word. Yet even though we may hold to the inspiration of Scripture in theory, too often we take it lightly in practice. In some cases pastors and theologians will advance questionable interpretations of Scripture, but more often common, ordinary Christians will simply ignore biblical teaching when it comes to making ethical decisions. “I know that’s what the Bible says, but . . . ,” and with the word “but” the authority of Scripture come tumbling to the ground.

This is pure folly on our part. What exactly do we expect to say when we finally meet our Maker? “I know that’s what Your Word says, but . . . “? To ignore God’s Word is to invite calamity.

The issue is spelled out clearly in the passage before us. The Lord has pronounced judgment on an apostate nation of Israel. In Isaiah 63:1-6 we are presented with a vivid picture of the Messiah returning from the conquest of His enemies. The scene of vengeance and destruction prompts Isaiah to plea for mercy for the nation. The Lord’s reply is found in chapters 65 and 66. What He says in essence is that He will save a remnant while punishing the rest. But whom will He spare? The answer is given in our text:

    “But on this one will I look

     On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,

     And who trembles at My word.”

The ones on whom God will “look” are those who, having heard of the coming judgment, are humbled and sobered by what they heard. They take God’s Word seriously – and act accordingly. They realize that what had been spoken came from God Himself. It was not mere human opinion, the speculation of philosophers, economists or political scientists. This was a message form none other than Almighty God Himself.

    Part of our problem is that we have too small thoughts of God. Isaiah, however, was given a different view of things. God confronted him with this pointed question:

        “Heaven is My throne,

          And earth is My footstool.

         Where is the house that you will build Me?

         And where is the place of My rest?

         For all those things My hands have made,

         And all those things exist . . .”

God utterly transcends human experience. Nothing else can ever begin to be compared with Him, for He alone is infinite, eternal, and omnipotent. It is with God Himself we have to do, the true and living God. What He says must be taken with dead seriousness.

    But how do we know what He said? How is His Word communicated to us? Isaiah himself tells us: “‘As for Me,’ says the Lord, ‘this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,’ says the Lord, ‘from this time and forevermore'” (Isa. 59:21). Here we have a description of the process of divine inspiration. The Holy Spirit descends upon a prophet, and the prophet speaks under the influence of the Spirit. God, in effect, “put His Word in the prophet’s mouth.” “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Pet. 1:21).

    What should our attitude be, then, toward Scripture? The Bible is nothing less than the Word of God, and we should receive it with humility and meekness of spirit. This is not to say that we should be terrified at its contents. For those who are being saved it is the message of salvation to be received with joy (I Thess. 1:6). But coming, as it does, from God Himself, it should be received with a profound sense of reverence. The Bible is a book unlike any other book. It is to be read, to be meditated on, to be loved, and to be applied to life. The famous motto of J.A. Bengel, the 18th Century German biblical scholar, should be the motto of every Christian today: “Te totum applica ad Textum; Rem totam applica ad te´ — Apply yourself wholly to the text; apply the subject matter wholly to yourself.