The Messiah in Isaiah Bible Study
The Pursuit of Spiritual Lameness

By I Gordon

Introduction

We come now to the last message in our Isaiah series. I know... ‘tis a sad day indeed. I’m sure you’re cut up. Maybe even a little choked up. Now I entitled this message ‘Man – The dwelling place of God’. Well, I was going to. Then I realised the A.W Tozer beat me to that title... by about 46 years. So I’ve gone with my second title – ‘The Pursuit of Spiritual Lameness’. Now I had a feeling that no one else has gone with that title before but I checked with Mr Google and the results returned... no hits. So in the history of all literature and written records on the entire internet I can tell you that no one has ever strung those five words in that order before...”The pursuit of spiritual lameness.” It’s mine, all mine! Now possibly, that may be because the term ‘spiritual lameness’ doesn’t always give you that feeling of ‘yeah... that’s it! That’s what I need!’ But maybe, just maybe, spiritual lameness may be something worth pursuing. We shall see.

We are going to focus on the first few verses of the last chapter of Isaiah. In this passage we find God looking for a dwelling place. Or at least asking what type of house could be made for Him to dwell in. In this passage we shall see a little clue as to what the plan of God was in dwelling not in bricks or stone but in the heart of man. It’s a plan that will ultimately ensure that mankind never falls again. We’ll also look at the type of person God is looking for.

Where has God dwelt in Bible history?

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? (2) "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.

“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?”

Let’s start with a very quick Bible history lesson. As you read through the Bible you find that the nation of Israel constructed three “houses” for God during their history. They were structures in which God could dwell. During the days of Moses, in the time of the exodus from Egypt, they built a portable tabernacle in which the presence of God dwelt. It had the Outer court, the Holy place and the Holy of holies within which the presence of God dwelt with the Ark of the Covenant. After settling in the land, this later got replaced by a permanent structure when King Solomon built the first temple. But even on the day of the temple’s dedication Solomon expressed his doubt that a temple could contain God saying:

1 Kings 8:27 "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!

Later, with the hearts of Israel so far from God, Jeremiah prophesied that this temple would be destroyed by king Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army and so it was. After the destruction of Solomon’s temple, a second temple was later constructed for God to dwell in and this was still in existence when Jesus came. Though, again, the hearts of Israel were far from God and Jesus Himself prophesied the coming destruction of that temple saying that not one stone of the temple would be left upon another. And so it was. Within 40 years of Jesus’ death, the Roman Army under the control of Titus sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the 2nd Jewish Temple. The Romans even ripped apart the stones to get to the gold between them and thus fulfilled what Jesus had foretold.

God allowed and instructed for these “houses” to be built so that man could learn about His holiness and see something of His glory... but these temples could not contain Him nor was it God’s ultimate of final plan. And nor did having a temple even with the presence of God stop the hearts of men from turning from Him.

God the creator of all...

And so we have the prophet Isaiah writing what he heard the Lord say:

Isaiah 66:1 “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.”

God is eternal, all powerful, all knowing and ever present. The Lord’s question is then ‘Where then is a house you can build for Me?’ ‘Where is the place that I can dwell?’ He made all that there is as He says in this verse. We look at what God has made and are blown away. We look at the size and scope of what this universe contains and stand back in awe. Let me give you some examples. The following pictures are but three of the estimated hundreds of billions of galaxies that exist in space. Look at some of the immense handy-work of God.


 hand of god galaxy


The hand of God
This isn’t a galaxy but the results of a pulsar, a spinning star called PSR B1509-58, which is about 12 miles across and 17,000 light years away. The spinning neutron star is spewing energy out around it, creating complex and beautiful structures such as the one that resembles a large cosmic hand. It is estimated to be spinning completely around almost 7 times every second!


 eye of god


The eye of God A galaxy - the Helix Nebula in the constellation of Aquarius lies about 700 light-years away, spanning about 0.8 parsec or 2.5 light-years (speed of light is approx 300,000 km per second!)


 crown of thorns


The crown of thorns - An unusual large galaxy with a shape bordering between spiral and elliptical has been spotted by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.- NGC 7049 sits in the southern constellation Indus, and is the brightest of a cluster of galaxies.


I love these things. I’m very much a total amateur when it comes to astronomy but I still love looking at them. They give us a sense of awe in their size and glory. But does it impress God like it does us? Does God take the same kind of pleasure in them as we do? In the creation story of Genesis the vast galaxies are described in the following words:

“He made the stars also.” Genesis 1:16

Not the exactly ‘verbose’ is it? God spoke all of these things into existence with a word. He can create whatever He likes. So I don’t think He gets the same pleasure from it that we do. So the question then is this: What brings Him pleasure? Is there something we can give to God? Is there anywhere that He can dwell? Isaiah gives us the answer.

Genesis tells us that the height of His creation is man whom God made in His image. That part of creation He said was “very good”. By the time of the flood the Bible says that God was grieved that He had made man. So it is fair to say that the greatest pleasure and the greatest grievance in the heart of God come from man himself. We see also from this a little clue about where the dwelling place of God was going to be. Not in buildings made by hand of man but in man himself [1] made by the hand of God.

So... What does God regard and take pleasure in?

Isaiah 66:2 "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.”

But to this one I will look...” The Hebrew word for ‘Look’ is ‘naw-bat'. It is ‘A primitive root; to look intently at; by implication to regard with pleasure, favour or care.’

So God is saying: “This is the one I’ll regard, this is the one I’ll take pleasure in, this is the one I’ll favour and care for...” So, who is it going to be? Will it be some spiritual giant? Someone who has it all together? A spiritual ‘green beret’? No. This is the one God favours, takes pleasure and regards: Someone “contrite of spirit...who trembles at my word.” This is the one whom God dwells with. He’s not interested in temples. He’s not interested in religion. He is not interested in rituals. He wants a contrite and broken heart that desires Him and loves His word. This is nothing new. Jesus said

"If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23)

That is the dwelling place of God. You may remember that this thought was stated earlier in the book of Isaiah as well where God said:

Isaiah 57:15 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.

Calling all spiritually lame...

Now the Hebrew word translated ‘contrite’ here in Isaiah 66:2 is very interesting. It is only used three times in the Old Testament. Here in Isaiah 66:2 and in two other spots where it is used to describe the affliction of a particular person. The Hebrew word is ‘naw-keh' – which literally means smitten, crippled, maimed, lame or (figuratively) dejected, contrite. This verse means God desires the spiritually lame. Hence my title of this study which I called ‘The pursuit of spiritual lameness.’ If someone says to you that ‘you are so lame spiritually’ say ‘Why thank you!’ The fact is that this is something affecting everyone throughout history but only a few have seen it. God is looking for those that can see it - those that are contrite and broken in spirit. [2]

Now God is giving us a clue [3] in this verse with His use of ‘naw-keh’ (contrite) in this passage. As we follow this clue to see the other two times that it is used, it opens up for us a fantastic picture for us! Our clue first takes us to 2 Samuel Ch. 4.

Do you remember the story of Mephibosheth?

2 Samuel 4:4 Now Jonathan, Saul's son, had a son crippled (or lame – ‘Naw-keh’) in his feet. He was five years old when the report of Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled. And it happened that in her hurry to flee, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.

You may remember King Saul in the Bible. He had a son called Jonathon. Jonathon too had a son called Mephibosheth. Saul and his son Jonathon died together in the same battle and when the news came back that they were dead, the nurse thought she should take young Mephibosheth, who is only five, and flee for safety. In her haste however, she dropped him and he fell and became lame. The word ‘crippled’ in this passage is the same word as ‘contrite’ that we looked at in Isaiah in discussing those that God looks for and regards. Remember the person to whom God regards: “ But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite (lame) of spirit, and who trembles at My word .”

So this verse gives us the background concerning Mephibosheth’s ‘lameness’. Let’s follow this story on in 2 Sam 9:

2 Samuel 9:1-13 Then David said, "Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" (2) Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David; and the king said to him, "Are you Ziba?" And he said, "I am your servant." (3) The king said, "Is there not yet anyone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?" And Ziba said to the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan who is crippled in both feet." (4) So the king said to him, "Where is he?" And Ziba said to the king, "Behold, he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar." (5) Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar. (6) Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, "Mephibosheth." And he said, "Here is your servant!" (7) David said to him, "Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly." (8) Again he prostrated himself and said, "What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?" (9) Then the king called Saul's servant Ziba and said to him, "All that belonged to Saul and to his house I have given to your master's grandson. (10) "You and your sons and your servants shall cultivate the land for him, and you shall bring in the produce so that your master's grandson may have food; nevertheless Mephibosheth your master's grandson shall eat at my table regularly." Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. (11) Then Ziba said to the king, "According to all that my lord the king commands his servant so your servant will do." So Mephibosheth ate at David's table as one of the king's sons. (12) Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Mica. And all who lived in the house of Ziba were servants to Mephibosheth. (13) So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate at the king's table regularly. Now he was lame in both feet.

When David became king, he wanted to bless the house of Saul for Jonathon’s sake (with whom he had had a great friendship). The only one left from the house of Saul is Mephibosheth, our lame friend. What can we learn from this story? Well, heaps actually. This is one of the best types in the Old Testament of the state of mankind and position that God is willing to lift such a lame cripple to. God’s word is fantastic and God is always trying to teach us these things through countless little stories. But this is one of the best. There are seven points from this I want to make:

  1. Mephibosheth’s story starts with the fall and through that fall, he became crippled and lame. He could no longer walk as he had been designed and created to do. That, I’ll put to you, represents the history of mankind. Our history in Adam starts with the fall and when Adam fell, we all became crippled and lame. Despite our desire we could no longer walk as we were originally created to do. God desires that we see the depth of the fall. ‘Blessed are the... what?... the poor in spirit’ Jesus said. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" The heart is not only wicked, it is deceitful. It is deceiving. It tells us that we are good people. Modern psychology backs this up telling us the same thing... That we are good. The Bible tells us we are crippled and lame spiritually speaking. Mephibosheth, the Bible says, was ‘crippled in both feet’. It wasn’t just that he walked but with a bit of a limp. No, the problem was far more serious than that. A revelation of how serious the problem is is the start of spiritual progression.
     
  2. Mephibosheth’s state before the blessing. Behold, he is in the house of Machir... in Lo-debar." Though once a grandchild of the king, in the royal line, Mephibosheth was now fatherless, living with Machir (meaning ‘sold’) in Lo-debar (meaning ‘no pasture’). Sold into a barren unfruitful existence. Not a good picture! It is a picture of the human race that though created by God Himself in His likeness – in the royal line so to speak... they now find themselves sold as slaves unto sin - separated from their true Father, and dwelling in a state of barrenness. That is that sad spiritual state of those without the Lord.
     
  3. David sought Mephibosheth out to bless him. Then David said, "Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" The thought to find and bless someone from the house of Saul originated with David. David didn’t have to but he sought Mephibosheth out. In like manner Jesus Christ came to seek and save those that were lost. He didn’t have to. But He sought us out! When David heard about Mephibosheth his first question was ‘Where is he?’ After the fall of Adam, the first thing God said was ‘where are you?’ God is always looking, always searching. [4]
     
  4. Mephibosheth found himself blessed because of another. Then David said, "Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" Mephibosheth was blessed because he was the son of Jonathon. He was ‘in Jonathon’ you could say and that was where David’s blessing was. It wasn’t that Mephibosheth was anything great in and of himself. He was physically lame and needed others to help and attend to him. But David was looking for someone to bless for Jonathon’s sake. We too, as Christians, are blessed because of another. We are ‘in Christ’ – these are the best words in the New Testament and the place of greatest blessing. We are "accepted in the beloved" Ephesians 1:6 tells us. That is why we praise Him! We have no standing before God in ourselves. Jesus is our life. We stand before God ‘in Him’. He is our standing. We are blessed because of another.
     
  5. This worked the utmost humility into Mephibosheth: What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?" Mephibosheth didn’t understand why he would be so blessed. He didn’t see anything in himself that should require the king to be so kind and gracious. And yet he found himself blessed none the less. [5]
     
  6. Mephibosheth experienced a full restoration : I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.” All that had been lost would be restored. King David would see to that. It was a full restoration. No more living down in Lo-debar, the place of barrenness and no pasture. He now had his own land and could dine with the king. In like manner Jesus is the great redeemer and all things lost shall be restored. Some in this life and some await His return. But a full restoration it shall be.
     
  7. Mephibosheth became as a son: So Mephibosheth ate at David's table as one of the king's sons.” The restoration didn’t just consist of the land and ‘things’. It was a restoration of position and sonship.

‘The pursuit of spiritual lameness’: The fact is that like Mephibosheth we are all lame spiritually speaking. And yet, we find ourselves blessed because of another. To whom does God look and have pleasure and regard? We’ve seen that it is to them that are contrite or literally ‘lame’ in spirit. Who would have thought that being called ‘lame’ was actually a compliment! It is to those people who realise their own many weaknesses and brokenness that God seeks to dwell with. Not temples, not religious rituals, not anything made with human hands. He seeks to dwell in the hearts of humble and contrite men and woman who desire Him and love His word.

Conclusion

To close though, I want to follow this thought of God dwelling within man through to the end. If you follow this right to the end of the road, and then take a short left, you find something wonderful. We are only given a glimpse of it in the Bible but we are longing for it none the less.

I said at the start of this message that God’s plan was not to dwell in buildings but in the heart of man. This will ultimately ensure that mankind never falls again! We’ve seen with Mephibosheth that he experienced a full restoration and this full restoration with man includes a great ‘revealing’.

One day we shall be revealed as we truly are!

Colossians 3:1-4 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (2) Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (3) For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (4) When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

One of the names for the second coming of Jesus is ‘the revelation’. 1 Peter 4:13 states ‘but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. Jesus will be revealed. While he came as a meek and humble servant in His first coming, He shall be revealed truly as the all-powerful, King of kings and Lord of lords at His second coming. But scripture tells us that a second revelation will take place. ‘You also will be revealed with him in glory’.

1 John 3:2, Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is .

Romans 8:18-19, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (19) For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God .

One day the plan of God will be complete and we shall be revealed as we truly are – a new Creation in the likeness of the Son – Jesus Christ. God does all things well and while we don’t see or grasp all that He has done here yet, one day it will be openly manifested. We shall be like Him. This is not a path to ‘Godhood’! He is God and we will always be His creation. But in sharing His life with us we shall be truly found in His image and we shall be free forever from sin, guilt and failure!



[1]  Concerning this passage in Isaiah 66, John MacArthur wrote “Isaiah began the final summary of his prophecy with a reminder that God is not looking for a temple of stone... On the contrary, God is looking for a heart to dwell in, a heart that is tender and broken, not one concerned with the externals of religion. God is looking to dwell in the heart of people who take His Word seriously.”

[2]  As D.L Moody says ‘ God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves.

[3]  On Friday night I went to a work-do Christmas dinner at a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery night. You had to watch for clues throughout the night and solve the mystery. God’s word is sometimes like that and when we dig a little deeper we are often rewarded! So let’s dig. Let’s look at the other two mentions of this Hebrew word ‘naw-keh’ (contrite) – because it gives us a fantastic picture of what God is after.

[4]  When I first read the Bible as an ‘unsaved but soon to be believer’ one of the top three verses that spoke to me was this:
Luke 15:4-7 Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? (5) And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulder, (6) and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' (7) I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
I knew I was one of the lost ones. But I was amazed that Jesus was out looking for me, calling my name. And I was blown away that by responding and allowing myself to be found I could bring more rejoicing in Heaven than from the ninety-nine righteous that weren’t lost.

[5]  I have quoted this before but it is worth a re-quote! In William Newell’s book Romans verse by verse, he has some ‘words concerning grace’ and one of them to do with the proper attitude of man under grace says:
“To believe, and consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret.”
“To expect to be blessed, though realising more and more lack of worth.”
This is the attitude of Mephibosheth when faced with the favour of the King.