How great IS our God? (And how great is Man?)


transcendent immanent.jpg

“For this is what the high and exalted One says –
    he who lives for ever, whose name is holy:
‘I live in a high and holy place,
    but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

This is the amazing passage in Isaiah 57:15 that combines two central Old Testament ideas about God: his transcendence and his immanence. God is above all, and yet, somehow, integral and central to the meaning of what it is to be a human being.

But let’s start with where we are right now. We live in dangerous times. In fact, the world looks pretty bad. It did so too when Isaiah wrote these words.How can you believe in a God of love when such terrible things happen?  Why does God allow it? People often respond with suspicion about Gods character or misgivings about the conditions of life. On these terms, is Christianity worth it?

Here’s Isaiah’s answer. He vindicates God’s character by saying that He is “the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity.“He encourages those who were trodden down to perseverance, by reminding them that real dignity is something very different from present success. God dwells with him “that is of a contrite and humble spirit.”

I have two questions: what is the greatness of God?  And second, what is the greatness of man? 

Just a few simple ideas. The greatness of God is the greatness of time. Eternity humbles you, cuts you down a bit. You have come in contact with something so huge that you are lifted up just by thinking about it. Both Science  and the imagination give way, and you feel dizzy and bewildered.God’s dwelling-place is that eternity which has neither past nor future, but one vast, immeasurable present. An Eternal Now where God sees time likewe see geography.

The greatness of God is the greatness of space.  Yuri Gagarin said “I can’t see God.” Did you expect to? Our awe at incalculable space is a tribute to God’s greatness. And what is beyond? The only answer is, “The high and lofty place.”

Third, it’s the greatness of character. How do you conceive of the idea of the Holy? None but the pure can understand purity. The way we take in knowing holiness comes from our acquaintance with unholiness! We know what God is not. Holiness implies justice, truth, lovingkindness. BUT HOW DO YOU KNOW THESE? This is what  God has done in Jesus. “No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten of the Father He has made him known.”

Judgement is simply the separation between the two.

So what is the greatness of man?. Simply this: that God dwells in us: and with us …. “I dwell with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit.” A distinction between what is great in God and what is great in man. To be independent of every thing in the universe is God’s glory, and to be independent is man’s shame. All that God has, He has from Himself, all that man has, he has from God. And the moment man cuts himself off from God, that moment he cuts himself off from all true grandeur.

So “Don’t you realise that you are temples of the Holy Spirit?” “In Christ you are built as a habitation of God through the Spirit.”  “If a man love me he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him.

So who is great? Who are the true celebrities? those who are humble and those who are contrite in heart . Humbleness is the frame of mind of those who are in a state of innocence, contrition of those who live repentantly.(not just once!)

If you know God properly then you know yourself properly. It’san important journey. Pharoah said  “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.” In his pride he shut himself out from the knowledge of God.  “Have a sane estimate of yourself!” if we saw ourselves as God sees us, we should be willing to be anywhere, to be silent when others speak, to be passed by in the world’s crowd, and thrust aside to make way for others.

This was the heart of Jesus, this is the meek and the quiet spirit, and this is the heart of the humble with whom the high and lofty One dwells.

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