The Messiah in Isaiah

Isaiah 57:15 – The High & Lofty One Who Inhabits Eternity

 

By I Gordon

 

Introduction

 

The verse before us today has always been a favourite with me. But, to be honest, I had never really taken any time to look at the context. It is one of those verses that when you read it you think ‘Hmmm, yep! That’s important.’ And it is a verse that starts with a ‘Thus saith the Lord...’ so it is something right from the boss’s mouth so to speak! So we should sit up, pay attention and listen because it is important. This shorter study then will look at the single verse in Isaiah 57:15 and examine the holiness of God, His habitation and what is required for God to dwell with men.

 

Where is the habitation of God?

 

Isa 57:15  For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

 

When God speaks directly to His people it is always right to the point. Sometimes we can have a conversation with someone and while you nod and say ‘yep’, ‘right’, ‘a-ha’... you are secretly thinking... ‘Please, please get to the point!’[1] People waffle. Not so God. Often when He speaks He doesn’t say a lot – but He doesn’t need to. It is always straight to the heart of the matter. Well God speaks in Isaiah 57:15 and even before He says what He needs them to know, He gives a little description about Himself. It is a key thought that His people needed to remember[2] then... and now. Why was it important you ask? Well, because they have moved away from this thought that’s why. Here is the key thought:  

 

For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy...

 

So why is God’s little intro here? What thought does He introduce before He says what He needs them to hear? Well, He introduces Himself as “The high and lofty One – the One that inhabits eternity – the one whose very name and being is Holy”. That is the one who is speaking to you. That is the One whom we worship.

 

When you read the context of Isaiah 57 you find that God’s people had lost sight of the majesty of God. They had lost their reverence for God. Many in fact were not even giving Him a thought anymore. Their once high noble thought of “God”, given to them by Moses and the prophets, had descended to that of mere household idols made of wood. They were now their saviour. So God begins by reintroducing Himself again in His right context – Thus saith the High and Lofty one. In the thoughts of God’s people, the distance between God and man had been greatly reduced. There is only two ways that this can happen:

 

  1. We can bring God down in our thoughts to somewhere around our level. As if He was someone like us!
  2. We can exalt ourselves up in our thoughts to His level. As if we were really someone great like Him!

 

God’s people had lost sight of God. His holiness, His majesty, His glory – it had all become very clouded. What about God’s people today? Have we lost sight of the majesty and holiness of God? Do we walk in a reverential fear of God or has He become more like your buddy?[3]  

 

So God had to reintroduce Himself again to His people - Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy. Let’s have a quick look at these terms.

 

High and Lofty one – speaks of God’s exalted position above all powers, rulers and authority – There are none above Him and He has complete and utter power to act as He pleases.

Inhabiteth eternity – We inhabit time. The Bible says our life here is like a mere breath, like a vapour, a passing shadow. Yet God inhabits eternity. There has never been a time when He did not exist. He is without beginning or end. Yesterday, today and tomorrow is alike to Him. He is outside of time and sees and knows all.

 
Name is Holy – His very nature is complete, perfect and without any (even the slightest) sense of imperfection. And He is the source of all holiness within His creatures whether they be angelic or human.

 

We need to ask God to give us a true vision of His character and being. Sometimes we are given such a moment, albeit briefly at times, where we see something concerning His greatness. I call them ‘Who is this God?’ moments. They are moments that literally stop us in our tracks as we glimpse the majesty of our God and leave us amazed thinking ‘who is this God?’ They are moments where the wonder and majesty of God are restored to little old you and me. You can’t manufacture or conjure them up. You can’t instil them in another. You can’t work out any formula that brings them on. But let me at least try to give you some examples of times when they have occurred.

 

‘Who is the God’ moments!

 

  1. Sometimes when you are looking at the vastness of creation and the universe.

 

Isa 40:25-26 ‘ "To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?" says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing.’

 

I have problems remembering a few names. God obviously doesn’t. He calls all of the stars by name which begs the question – so how many stars are there? Well let’s not complicate the issue by moving out of our galaxy but within the Milky Way galaxy the professional star counters amongst us tell us there are 200-400 billion. If we want to complicate issues there are estimated to be 500 billion galaxies containing similar numbers of stars. Do the math. 500 billion galaxies times, say, 300 billion stars... that’s argh, 1500... um, oodles. Ok, best not to! Ok, so we may not be able to count them all but here is what we read concerning the Lord -  

Psa 147:4  He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.

 

Yep, He has them all counted, all named. Nothing is outside of His knowledge and takes Him by surprise! The great extent of the heavens simply declare the glory of God. It doesn’t take long before our little pea-brains hit the wall when thinking about such things and you think ‘who is this God?’

  1. What about something small within His creation?


It doesn’t have to be something as vast and great as the universe. It can be something small within creation that God has made. Anything that is examined in any detail shows forth the majesty and wonder of God’s limitless knowledge. It could be the humble ant. It could be the amazing teamwork of the little honey bee. My example is with the wriggly little caterpillar. I watched a DVD called Metamorphosis recently. As the name suggests it is about caterpillars and the process they go through to turn into butterflies. Amazing really. As the caterpillar turns into a chrysalis, it is programmed in its DNA to literally dissolve its own body parts turning it all into a ‘soup’ of cells that then begin being transformed into something more wonderful. About 25% of the caterpillars ‘parts’ remain while 75% of the butterfly is all newly created. The earth bound caterpillar goes down into the place of death yet is transformed into a new creation[4] – a heavenly beautiful butterfly.[5] As I watched this DVD I had one of those moments – who is this God? How does He know all of this? How does He do all this? Who taught Him this?

 

  1. What about what He does in your life?

 

Probably the most amazing thing is when you see times when the God of the universe shows His care and love for you. This is especially true if you have seen your own failure to be the Christian you should and would like to be... yet this awesome God still loves you. Those moments, and I hope and am sure you have had them, produce the biggest ‘who is this God?’ in me[6]. When you read that God is ‘the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity and whose very being is holy’, you tend to think that He would keep His distance from people like you and me! But look what it says:
 
So who does God dwell with?


I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

 

We don’t need to bring God down in our thoughts and make Him like us. He’s not. And yet thankfully we don’t need to exalt ourselves either and try to become something mighty that we are not. The One who is higher than all has said that He dwells in a high and holy place – BUT ALSO WITH HIM who is humble and contrite. We don’t need to try to be something that we are not. We are not ‘playing’ at being religious here which helps no one. But we do need to walk humbly before God and allow Him to be in us what we are not[7].

 

This same thought of humility and contrition is presented to us later in Isaiah as well:

 

Isaiah 66:1-2  ‘Thus says the LORD, "Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? "For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being," declares the LORD. "But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.’

 

The particular Hebrew word for contrite in Isa 66:2 is only used three times and twice it is translated ‘crippled’ or ‘lame’ in connection with Methbosheth, Jonathon’s son who was lame in his feet. That gives us a picture of a contrite soul. One who realises that his walk is not what it should be and so comes humbly[8] before God. Yet still finds himself blessed with the presence of the Almighty God who dwells with such souls in order to revive their spirit and be for them what they are not. And that is a God who is worth knowing and experiencing!



[1] You are probably sitting there saying ‘yep, right, a-ha’ while all the time thinking ‘please get to the point!’ fair enough. I’ll try!

 

[2] We saw a similar ‘thus says the Lord’ in an earlier study where God, before He gives the message, introduces a key thought that the people needed to remember. This is the verse I’m thinking about.
Isa 43:16  Thus says the LORD, Who makes a way through the sea And a path through the mighty waters...

You see the little intro? The people needed to remember that their God is a God who makes a way. He makes a way through difficult things. In fact He can even make a way through the things that seem impossible – through the sea and through the mighty waters. That which was impossible with man was possible with God. Not only can He make a way through the mighty waters, He does make a way. God wanted them to remember that it was for them as well so it is spoken in the present tense. God needed the people to remember that... then and now! : )

 

[3] A.W Tozer writes: “The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men… With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence.” (The Knowledge of the Holy, viii, viii)

 

So what God’s people did in the days of Isaiah, Tozer says the Church has done in his generation (and unfortunately things have only progressed further downward since then). In many ways, the right high and lofty concept of a Holy majestic God has been substituted for one utterly beneath the true God – one that is more to our liking.  

 

[4] Of course, God gives us these little examples in His creation not only to show the wonder of who He is, but also to teach us important lessons concerning our own lives. Take the example of caterpillars for example. They are earth-bound little creatures that do little more than eat. Yet, as they go into the place of death in the chrysalis, they are literally ‘born again’ as they are raised from the place of death into a heavenly creature! God has done this to remind us of our own resurrection where our earthly body that went down into death is transformed into a heavenly body liken unto His body!

 

[5] It defies evolution because Darwinian evolution states that each gradual change must be beneficial to the creature for it to be adopted... and killing yourself on purpose and having your body broken down into a cell soup isn’t exactly beneficial! Unless of course there was a designer behind it all who coded this into your DNA knowing all too well that something far more beautiful would emerge from the ‘cell soup’ if the caterpillar would go into that place of death. 

 

[6] My uncle had one of these moments recently. He went tramping and lost his cap. He had been going off-trail so he had no idea where it was. The next time he went tramping he again went off-trail, cutting his own track and as he was walking through the bush a thought came to him that ‘a rest would be nice’. So he stopped and put down his pack. And to his amazement as he looked down in the place where he stopped, there was his cap literally between his feet! He knew it was God. And he also knew that God isn’t particularly interested in hats and caps! But what my uncle realised in one of those ‘who is this God?’ moments was that God knows everything – every detail, even the smallest of details such as the location of a lost cap, is known. And if He is interested enough in the smallest details of our life, how can we not trust Him with the larger issues?    

 

[7] A Bible teacher that I enjoy is J. Vernon McGee. When he started as a minister he tried, in his own words, to be some great intellectual – someone high and mighty. Later he wrote:

“Let us stop this so-called intellectual approach that we find in our churches today. It's no good. When I started out as a pastor, I tried to be intellectual. An elder in the church in which I served came to me and talked to me about it, and he said, "We would rather have a genuine Vernon McGee than an imitation of anybody else." You see, I was trying to imitate intellectual men whom I admired. We don't need to do that kind of thing—we need to be ourselves. We need to get down off our high horses. Remember that the Lord Jesus is feeding sheep, not giraffes.”

 

[8] Some quotes from greater men of God than I may help:

“A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility.” D. L. Moody

“Be not proud of race, face, place, or grace.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon
“I am sure that there are many Christians who will confess that their experience has been very much like my own—that we had long known the Lord without realizing that meekness and lowliness of heart should be the distinguishing feature of the disciple, as they were of the Master. Such humility is not a thing that will come on its own. It must be made the object of special desire, prayer, faith and practice.” Andrew Murray

“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. He has accepted God's estimate of his own life: In himself, nothing; In God, everything. He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring.” A.W. Tozer

“God is not proud...He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him.” CS Lewis