The humble house

The humble house

Of the three churches at this intersection, this is my favorite.

It’s a very ecclesiastical block in my town.  What draws me to this particular church is the beautiful, light-colored stone, quite a contrast to the somber dark gray of the other two buildings.  This structure seems more approachable, more inviting.  And with its soaring spire, it seems like an appropriate place to worship the exalted God.

But, just to be clear, it is not his house.

I love old churches.  In my former (and hopefully soon to be renewed) travels, I often wandered into sanctuaries to observe what the space says of the Lord.  Ornate or plain, churches structures speak loudly of our theology.

But I’ve always chafed when someone calls a building “the house of the Lord.”  Isaiah records God speaking about this very thing:

This is what the Lord says:

“Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
    Where will my resting place be?
Has not my hand made all these things,
    and so they came into being?”
declares the Lord.   (Isaiah 66: 1-2a)

What a powerful picture!  God sketches out his greatness by having us imagine the entirety of heaven as his throne, with his feet propped up on the diminutive ball of earth.  How absurd to think that there could be some tiny speck of a house on the surface of that ball that could provide him shelter!

Not only is it a silly question.  It’s the wrong question.  The issue of his abode is not where but who.  He goes on:

These are the ones I look on with favor:
    those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
    and who tremble at my word.  (Isaiah 66: 2b)

My commentary points out a connection between the two questions.  In verse 1, God asks Where (e-zeh in Hebrew) as if seeking directions.  Where is my house?  In this verse, though, he can easily find his people (el-zeh, literally “to this one”).  There he is!

As I sit here with this impressive building looming over me, it’s hard to think of it as an insignificant speck.  If it’s a speck, what am I?  A micro-speck, I suppose.  Yet, somehow, I’m a micro-speck God points to and says, “There he is!”

How is that possible?

This is exactly the response he wants.  We are to be astonished at his attention to the point of discomfort – as if a major world leader would choose to sleep in our spare bedroom tonight.  God chooses to make us his abode.  He chooses to speak to us through his word.

Trembling at his word. I should open Scripture every day with anticipation mingled with a kind of apprehension, both born of a wonder at what he might say to me today.

For humility hears the hard truths along with the heartwarming ones.

Jesus, thou art all compassion, pure unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation, enter every trembling heart.  
(Charles Wesley)

Reader: When was the most humbled (or honored) you’ve been by a visitor?

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.