“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be.” (Isaiah 66:1-2)
In the ancient world, temples were built to serve as a kind of “house” in which the deity would dwell and in which sacrifices to the deity would be offered. Indeed, even in Israel, King Solomon built a temple that would serve as the sign of God’s presence among his people and be the place where sacrifices were offered.
And yet, by the time of the prophet Isaiah in the 8th century BC, Israel had come to treat the temple as a place where God could be manipulated by means of sacrifice. They did not show contrition for their sin, and they did not heed his word, for their hearts were far from God. They had come to treat God as if he could be contained in a manmade temple, and in effect they had brought God down to their level.
For this reason, God reminded Israel in Isaiah 66 of how uncontainable he is. God has a temple with a throne room, but his temple is nothing less than the universe itself: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” There is no manmade structure that can contain God! Indeed, even the universe is subject to his control, for “all these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be.” The power of God is on display by the presence of the universe itself.
We might think that this Creator God is so vast, transcendent and far off—so beyond what our minds can conceive—that he would never choose to take notice of us or come near to us. And yet, Isaiah 66:2 concludes, “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” This is astonishing! Yes, God is uncontainable beyond compare—the universe is his temple—and yet God looks on, takes notice of, and has regard for people whom he has created. More specifically, he has regard for those who have regard for him, namely, those who humble themselves before him, repent of their sin against him, and live in submission to and reverence for his word.
Hence, Isaiah 66:1-2 reminded Israel—and us—that God is both uncontainable and near. He cannot be manipulated as if he was simply another deity that dwells in manmade “houses.” Nor is he impotent and powerless to accomplish all he desires, including the creation of “all these things.” And yet, he is also near to all who call on him in truth. May this week God graciously strengthen you to humble yourself under his mighty hand, to repent of your sin and to tremble at his word.
Blessings in Christ, Joshua Greever
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