The Humble of Heart
May 30th, 1976 @ 8:15 AM
THE HUMBLE OF HEART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-30-76 8:15 a.m.
In our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, we have come to chapter 57. And in chapter 57, there is a passage that has in it one of the most marvelous messages that one could find in the whole Word of God. Nor have I ever been blessed more fully in preparing a sermon than I have in preparing this sermon today. I just pray, Ah, Lord, that I can bring to you in the message what the Spirit of the Lord brought to my heart in preparing it. The first verse that I read will be the text:
For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth 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.
This is a sentiment that you will find often in the Bible. For example, Isaiah repeats it again in the last chapter of his prophecy,
Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool . . .
For all those things hath Mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word.
Now the text:
For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, but 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.
It’s a conception that I can hardly put together in my mind: that the great, mighty God of infinitude, of immeasurable space and unbounded time, whose name is Holy, should be confined in the narrow precincts of the human heart. It is incomprehensible to me. I can somewhat comprehend the infinitude of God by looking at the infinite space above and beyond me. I can certainly comprehend the sinful heart of a human being. But I cannot comprehend; it is incomprehensible to me that the great and mighty God of the infinite time and of infinite space should also dwell in the strictures and confinements of a human heart. That is the idea and the revelation in the text [Isaiah 57:15].
He speaks first of the God who is the infinite in space, “the High and Lofty One” [Isaiah 57:15], who lives and who dwells above us. There is no ending to the measurement of the infinitude around us. And in it omnipresent is God. He is here. He is there. He is beyond the farthest barrier. Wherever space, wherever the universe is, there is God. How vast, how incomprehensibly vast, it staggers the imagination. It is beyond what we can describe. In looking at the infinitude above us, we first began measuring it in miles; and the miles grew to billions, and to trillions, and to quadrillions, and finally became meaningless.
Then we developed a measuring instrument. The distance that a canonball would follow if it kept its velocity for twenty-four hours, and using that as a measurement, it grew to billions, and trillions, and quadrillions, and finally the clumsy instrument was cast away. Then eventually we came to a measurement of heaven itself. Like the rod, the measuring rod held in the hand of the angel that John saw [Revelation 11:1, 21:15], we began to measure by the velocity of light that moves 186,300 miles a second.
And then once again, measuring the infinitude of the universe by the velocity of light, we came to millions and trillions and quadrillions. And beyond the farthest barrier, there is God. But as wonderful and indescribably marvelous as the God of the great infinitude of space is the marvel that He is contained in the human heart [Isaiah 57:15].
I have a poor illustration of that, a poor illustration. Look at the chalice of the sky and the vastness of God’s creative handiwork through it all, and yet, in a miracle, the entire vastness of that infinite panorama I can gather up in the small circle of my human eye. I can see it all, compressed in so small a pupil.
A shepherd boy keeping watch over his flock by night, lying on the ground, looking up, can watch the great marvel of the presence of God in the small cubicle of his brain. There marches Orion with his brilliant baldric and his sparkling, shining, jeweled sword. And there goes Arcturus. And there glows Sirius, the brightest star in the universe. And there is the steadfast Northern Star, and the Great Dipper, always pointing to that steadfast sign God placed in His universe to the north; all in the little brain of a shepherd boy, and all of it gathered together in a small circle of an eye. A poor, poor, illustration, but that is God; the infinitude, the omnipresence of the Almighty dwelling in our hearts [Isaiah 57:15].
“The High and Lofty One” who inhabits space; the greatness of God in time, “who inhabiteth eternity” [Isaiah 57:15]—and here language staggers under the burden of the thought; eternity, the forever, and the forever past, and the forever, and the forever yet to come, and God in it all, without beginning, without end, Alpha and Omega [Revelation 21:6, 22:13], the great God who inhabiteth eternity [Isaiah 57:15]. Where is speech or where is language to describe the infinitude of the living presence of the mighty Lord?
Last week I was preaching at the pastors’ conference in Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. And just outside my window where I stayed was the towering Sears Building, the tallest structure of man in the earth, a building about a quarter of a mile high. And if you took just the creation itself and let it represent the height of that Sears Building, and on top of it placed a nickel, five cents, the height, the width, of that little nickel would represent the age of man compared to the vast years, eons, of the creation of God. And that does not speak of eternity; the eons and the endless, boundless ages before, and the eons that are yet to come. And yet, marvel of marvel, in my human mind I can see God work. I can see God move. I can watch His laws. These vast universes that He made, these unending and marching starry heavens are insensitive to Him, but not I.
In my heart and in my mind I can think His thoughts. I can observe His laws. I can look at the moving of His hand. “He that inhabiteth eternity” dwells in the small confines of a human heart [Isaiah 57:15].
Not only the great God of unbounded space, and not only the great God of limitless time who inhabiteth eternity, but whose name is qadosh, the great God of holiness and purity [Isaiah 57:15]. Qadosh, qadosh literally means “separate, set apart.” And the reason the word qadosh is used, “His name is qadosh,” the reason is because our understanding of what is holy comes almost altogether to us by our understanding of what is not holy, what is unholy.
“His name is qadosh, separate, set apart” [Isaiah 57:15]; that is, we can understand what is impure, but He is separate and set apart from impurity. We can understand what is sin, or guilt, or iniquity, or pride, or deceit, or wrong. He is qadosh, separate and set apart from all that is mean, and base, and sinful, and wrong. “His name is qadosh, holy” [Isaiah 57:15].
Habakkuk speaks of the great and mighty God who is “of purer eyes than to look upon iniquity” [Habakkuk 1:13]. When Paul says, “Christ was made sin” [2 Corinthians 5:21], then we understand the cry of the cross, when the Lord cried, “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” [Matthew 27:46], and the sun refused to shine and look upon such wrong [Matthew 27:45]. Qadosh, separate, set apart, of purer eyes than to look upon iniquity [Habakkuk 1:13]. But wonder of wonder; He dwells in a sinful heart like mine [Isaiah 57:15].
O Thou High and Holy One, who doth inhabit space and eternity, how could it be that the great, mighty and infinite God, whose name is Holy, could dwell in my sinful heart? Thus He describes it. “I who dwell in the high and holy place, I will dwell also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, with him who is in heart bowed, and who trembles before My word” [Isaiah 57:15]. He describes the kind of a heart that the great, mighty God dwells in.
First, a humble heart; what is humility? And how do you define a humble man? [Isaiah 57:15]. Who is a humble man? I can define it for you easily. A humble man is one who has, who possesses a true evaluation of himself. Standing before the great and eternal God, and looking at himself, he evaluates himself fully, honestly, correctly. A vain man, a proud man, forgets that he is made of the dust of the ground, and he forgets his worm-like stature in the presence of the great and mighty God; and he is lifted up, and he is proud.
For example, world without end do you find these who are prideful in intellect. They lift themselves up above even the great mighty One who created the universe [Genesis 1:1-19]. As an astronomer, who will search the heavens, but never know the great Creator; or like an evolutionist who will forget that matter cannot create or organize or originate itself; or like a surgeon who forgets that only God can heal; or like a metaphysician who forgets that over and beyond all there is an infinite intelligence and genius that frames us; and he’s prideful in his intellectual achievements. He knows more than God.
There are also some who live in an aura of self-deception. They look upon themselves as being worthy of notice, and they are offended if their least opinion is not considered. And they are hurt if they are slighted in any way. And they constantly live in the feeling that others wrong them and neglect them. And they live in the gall of bitterness because they are not appreciated.
Ah, how blessed it is, if a man can find himself in the presence of the great Almighty God, as being just made out of the dust of the ground [Genesis 2:7]. Anywhere, somewhere, as God may choose that I be. A wonderful, wonderful thing if a man could possess that humility of heart whereby, if he remains seated while others are introduced and asked to stand, if he is passed by while others are praised and exalted, if he is forgot while others are remembered, if the praise he coveted he hears dedicated to somebody else: and he lives a life of humility in the presence of God—the Lord dwells in the heart of that man, humble of heart [Isaiah 57:15].
And God dwells in the heart of a contrite one [Isaiah 57:15]. Contrition, could I try to illustrate it? I’m on my way before the great and mighty God, with my little bundle of cares, and tears, and troubles, and heartaches to lay them before the great and mighty God. And a philosopher stops me in the way, and he says, “What have you forsooth in that little bundle?” And I unroll it before the philosopher, and there naked and bare for his eyes to see is my little bundle of tears, and sobs, and cares, and anxieties, and trials, and troubles.
And he says, “Are you on your way to present that wretchedness before the great, and mighty, and omnipresent, and omniscient, and omnipotent, and invisible, and immortal, and immutable, and unchangeable God?” And with every epithet he smites my heart. Forsooth, could it be, that I deign, or fain, or dare to come before the great and mighty God with my little bundle of cares, and tears, and trials, and troubles?
And I’m crushed by his philosophical thought, until I remember He said to me, “Come all ye that labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest” [Matthew 11:28]. The great and mighty God bids me welcome with my little bundle, my little collection of wretchednesses, and unhappinesses, and disappointments. And the great Mighty God of the universe is moved by my need and my necessity. Can you think it?
Or, once again I’m on my way to appear before the great God of the universe. I have a mighty request to lay at His feet. And a sophist stops me, and he says, “What hast thou there? Let me see.” And I open my prayerful request, and it is a staggering request, a tremendous thing to ask of God. And he looks at me, and he says, “Do you dare come before the God of the universe and ask Him for your sake to suspend His great laws and to take time out from running the vast planetary systems just to listen to your plea?”
And then I remember in answer to a prayer of Joshua, God stopped the sun and the moon [Joshua 10:12-13]. And I remember in answer to a prayer of Elijah, God sent fire down from heaven [1 Kings 18:24, 36-39]. And I remember in answer to a prayer of a humble man, God moved the shadow on the sundial of Ahaz back ten degrees [2 Kings 20:8-11]. And He says, “There is nothing impossible with God” [Mark 10:27]. Come, and welcome; the great God is complimented by asking a great favor.
Or just once again, I’m on my way before the Lord, and I have with me a little bundle, and I’m going to lay it at the feet of the altar of the great and Mighty God who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy. And that philosopher stops me and he says, “Forsooth, what have you in that bundle?” And I lay it before him. In my little bundle there are thanksgivings, and gratitudes, and remembrances, and gladnesses, and happinesses, and joys. And I say, “I’m on the way before the great and Mighty God with my little gratitudes, and thanksgivings, and joys, and gladnesses for His blessings upon me.”
And the philosopher stops me and says, “Would you bother? Would you trouble the great, mighty God of the universe with such trifles as this? As though He who has the starry heavens in His hands would be careful to note that you paused to return thanksgiving for a remembrance from His gracious hands?
And then I reply, “But He was moved when of the ten lepers one came and thanked Him for the healing of his heart and of his physical body” [Luke 17:11-15]. Oh, the wonder of the mighty God, who inhabits the heart of the humble and the contrite [Isaiah 57:15].
And a miracle, one day that philosopher who stopped me on my way before the great and High God and smiled and scoffed at the little bundle that I was to lay before the God of the universe, one day, in a great agony he cried to God, and asked God for help! And out of the blackness of the night of his despair, a light shined from above, and a voice spoke to his soul, and he cried, “I have found Him. I have found Him!” And there came into his life One like unto the Son of Man, even Jesus the Christ; and blessed him, and forgave him, and invited into his heart, dwelt in his home. Oh, wonder of wonders! [Isaiah 57:15].
Two men standing in the temple to pray, one in his pride, “I thank Thee I am not like other men, not even like that publican,” and the publican standing afar off, would not so much as lift his face up to heaven, but beat upon his breast, saying, “Lord be merciful to me a sinner” [Luke 18:10-13]. And the Lord came down and dwelt in the heart of that man [Luke 18:14].
Glory, miracle, incomprehensible, unbelievable, too good to be true, but preciously so just the same; He who dwells in the high and lofty place, He who inhabiteth eternity, He whose name is Holy will dwell in My heart [Isaiah 57:15]. O God, what a revelation. What an incomparable, indescribable marvel, and is the precious and saving truth we share with you this morning.
In a moment when we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, you, down one of these aisles; you, down one of these stairways; you, deciding for God, “My eyes see Him. My heart is sensitive to You. With my hand I reach out to touch Him. Lord God, come into my heart.” If you’ll make that decision, tell us; “Pastor, I have opened my heart heavenward and God-ward. Here I stand. Here I come.” A family you, a couple, or just one somebody you, while we sing the hymn, on the first note of the first stanza, come. Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.