Very wonderful is the revelation we have in Isaiah of God, the Holy One, as the Redeemer and the Saviour of His people. In the midst of the people whom He created and formed for Himself, He will as the Holy One dwell, showing forth His power and His glory, filling them with joy and gladness. All these promises have, however, reference to the people as a whole. Our text to-day reveals a new and specially beautiful feature of the Divine Holiness in its relation to the individual. The High and Lofty One, whose name is Holy, and whose only fit dwelling-place is eternity, He looks to the man who is of a humble and contrite heart; with him will He dwell. God's Holiness is His condescending Love. As it is a consuming fire against all who exalt themselves before Him, it is to the spirit of the humble like the shining of the sun, heart-reviving and life-giving.
The deep significance of this promise comes out clearly when we connect it with the other promises of New Testament times. The great feature of the New Covenant, in its superiority to the old, is this, that whereas in the law and its institution all was external, in the New the kingdom of God would be within. God's laws given and written into the heart, a new spirit put within us, God's own Spirit given to dwell within our spirit, and so the heart and the inner life fitted to be the temple and home of God; it is this constitutes the peculiar privilege of the ministration of the Spirit. Our text is perhaps the only one in the Old Testament in which this indwelling of the Holy One, not among the people only, but in the heart of the individual believer, is clearly brought out. In this the two aspects of the Divine Holiness would reach their full manifestation: I dwell in the High and Holy place, and with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit. In His heaven above, the high and lofty place, and in our heart, contrite and humble, God has His home. God's Holiness is His glory that separates Him by an infinite distance, not only from sin, but even from the creature, lifting Him high above it. God's Holiness is His Love, drawing Him down to the sinner, that He may lift him into His fellowship and likeness, and make him holy as He is holy. The Holy One seeks the humble; the humble find the Holy One: such are the two lessons we have to learn to-day.
The Holy One seeks the humble. There is nothing that has such an attraction for God, that has such affinity with holiness, as a contrite and humble spirit. The reason is evident. There is no law in the natural and the spiritual world more simple, than that two bodies cannot at the same moment occupy the same space. Only so much as the new occupant can expel of what the space was filled with can it really possess. In man, self has possession, and self-will the mastery, and there is no room for God. It is simply impossible for God to dwell or rule when self is on the throne. As long as, through the blinding influence of sin and self-love, even the believer is not truly conscious of the extent to which this self-will reigns, there can be no true contrition or humility. But as it is discovered by God's Spirit, and the soul sees how it has just been self that has been secretly keeping out God, with what shame it is broken down, and how it longs to break utterly away from self, that God may have His place! It is this brokenness, and continued breaking down, that is expressed by the word contrition. And as the soul sees what folly and guilt it has been, by its secret honouring of self, to keep the Holy One from the place which He alone has a right to, and which He would so blessedly have filled, it casts itself down in utter self-abasement, with the one desire to be nothing, and to give God the place and the praise that is His due.
Such breaking down and humiliation is painful. Its intense reality consists in this, that the soul can see nothing in itself to trust or hope in. And least of all can it imagine that it should be an object of Divine complacency, or a fit vessel for the Divine blessing. And yet just this is the message which the Word of the Lord brings to our faith. It tells us that the Holy One, who dwells in the High and Lofty place, is seeking and preparing for Himself a dwelling here on this earth. It tells us, just what the truly contrite and humble never could imagine, and even now can hardly believe, that it is even, that it is only, with such that He will dwell. These are they in whom God can be glorified, in whom there is room for Him to take the place of self and to fill the emptied place with Himself. The Holy One seeks the humble. Just when we see that there is nothing in us to admire or rest in, God sees in us everything to admire and to rest in, because there is room for Himself. The lowly one is the home of the Holy One.
The humble find the Holy One. Just when the consciousness of sin and weakness, and the discovery of how much of self there is, makes you fear that you can never be holy, the Holy One gives Himself. Not as you look at self, and seek to know whether now you are contrite and humble enough -- no, but when no longer looking at self, because you have given up all hope of seeing anything in it but sin, you look up to the Holy One, you will see how His promise is your only hope. It is in faith that the Holy One is revealed to the contrite soul. Faith is ever the opposite of what we see and feel; it looks to God alone. And it believes that in its deepest consciousness of unholiness, and its fear that it never can be holy, God, the Holy One, who makes holy, is near as Redeemer and Saviour. And it is content to be low, in the consciousness of unworthiness and emptiness, and yet to rejoice in the assurance that God Himself does take possession and revive the heart of the contrite one. Happy the soul who is willing at once to learn the lesson that, all along, it is going to be the simultaneous experience of weakness and power, of emptiness and filling, of deep, real humiliation, and the as real and most wonderful indwelling of the Holy One.
This is indeed the deep mystery of the Divine life. To human reason it is a paradox. When Paul says of himself, 'as dying, and behold we live; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as having nothing, yet possessing all things,' he only gives expression to the law of the kingdom, that as self is displaced and man becomes nothing, God will become all. Side by side with deepest sense of nothingness and weakness, the sense of infinite riches and the joy unspeakable can fill the heart. However deep and blessed the experience becomes of the nearness, the blessing, the love, the actual indwelling of the Holy One, it is never an indwelling in the old self; it is ever a Divine Presence humbling self to make place for God alone to be exalted. The power of Christ's death, the fellowship of His cross, works each moment side by side with the power and the joy of His resurrection. 'He that humbleth himself shall be exalted;' in the blessed life of faith the humiliation and the exaltation are simultaneous, each dependent on the other.
The humble find the Holy One; and when they have found, the possession only humbles all the more. Not that there is no danger or temptation of the flesh exalting itself in the possession, but, once knowing the danger, the humble soul seeks for grace to fear continually, with a fear that only clings more firmly to God alone. Never for a moment imagine that you attain a state in which self or the flesh are absolutely dead. No; by faith you enter into and abide in a fellowship with Jesus, in whom they are crucified; abiding in Him, you are free from their power, but only as you believe, and, in believing, have gone out of self and dwell in Jesus. Therefore, the more abundant God's grace becomes, and the more blessed the indwelling of the Holy One, keep so much the lower. Your danger is greater, but your Help is now nearer: be content in trembling to confess the danger, it will make you bold in faith to claim the victory.
Believers, who profess to be nothing, and to trust in grace alone, I pray you, do listen to the wondrous message. The High and Lofty One, whose name is Holy, and who dwells in the Holy Place, and who can dwell nowhere but in a Holy Place, seeks a dwelling here on earth. Will you give it Him? Will you not fall down in the dust, that He may find in you the humble heart He loves to dwell in? Will you not now believe that even in you, however low and broken you feel, He doth delight to make His dwelling? 'Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom;' with them the King dwells. Oh, this is the path to holiness! be humble, and the holy nearness and presence of God in you will be your holiness. As you hear the command, Be holy, as I am holy, let faith claim the promise, and answer, I will be holy, O Most Holy God! if Thou, the Holy One, wilt dwell with me.
BE HOLY, AS I AM HOLY.
O Lord! Thou art the High and Lofty One, whose Name is Holy. And yet Thou speakest, 'I dwell in the high and holy place, and with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit.' Yes, Lord! when the soul takes the low place, and has low thoughts of itself, that it feels it is nothing, Thou dost love to come and comfort, to dwell with it and revive it.
O my God! my creature nothingness humbles me; my many transgressions humble me; my innate sinfulness humbles me; but this humbles me most of all, Thine infinite condescension, and the ineffable indwelling Thou dost vouchsafe. It is Thy Holiness, in Christ bearing our sin, Thy Holy Love bearing with our sin, and consenting to dwell in us; O God! it is this love that passeth knowledge that humbles me. I do beseech Thee, let it do its work, until self hides its head and flees away at the presence of Thy glory, and Thou alone art all.
Holy Lord God! I pray Thee to humble me. Didst Thou not of old meet Thy servants, and show Thyself unto them until they fell upon their faces and feared? Thou knowest, my God! I have no humility which I can bring Thee. In my blessed Saviour, who humbled Himself in the form of a servant, and unto the death of the cross, I hide myself. In Him, in His spirit and likeness, I would live before Thee. Work Thou it in me, by the Holy Spirit dwelling in me, and as I am dead to self in Him, and His cross makes me nothing, let Thy holy indwelling revive and quicken me. Amen.
1. Lowliness and holiness. Keep fast hold of the intimate connection. Lowliness is taking the place that becomes me; holiness, giving God the place that becomes Him. If I be nothing before Him, and God be all to me, I am in the sure path of holiness. Lowliness is holiness, because it gives all the glory to God.
2. 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' These first words of the Master when He opened His lips to proclaim the Kingdom, are often the last in the hearts of His disciples. 'The Kingdom is in the Holy Ghost:' to the poor in spirit, those who know they have nothing that is really spiritual, the Holy Spirit comes to be their life. The poor in spirit are the Kingdom of the Saints: in them the Holy Spirit reveals the King.
3. Many strive hard to be humble with God, but with men they maintain their rights, and nourish self. Remember that the great school of humility before God, is to accept the humbling of man. Christ sanctified Himself in accepting the humiliation and injustice which evil men laid upon Him.
4. Humility never sees its own beauty, because it refuses to look to itself: It only wonders at the condescension of the Holy God, and rejoices in the humility of Jesus, God's Holy One, our Holy One.
5. The link between holiness and humility is indwelling. The Lofty One, whose name is Holy, dwells with the contrite one. And where He dwells is the Holy Place.