Isaiah 66:1-9; Philippians 3:4-12; Psalms 74:12-23; Proverbs 18:11-12
OT: “This is what the Lord says: Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool. Where could you possibly build a house for me? And where would my resting place be? My hand made all these things, and so they all came into being. This is the Lord’s declaration. I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2 CSB)
Part of Jerusalem’s pride and confidence was that their city walls held the temple of the Living God – that God had chosen the city to be a resting place for His glory. Surely, God would not allow the city that held His name to be conquered and destroyed by godless foes. Jews were prescribed by law to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem at least once a year to worship. Over the years, the Jewish leaders created a worship industry around the temple. Worship became a means of making money and maintaining influence instead of truly humbling oneself before the Lord and receiving His atonement. Through the pen of Isaiah, God rebuked the people of Jerusalem for their misplaced pride and insincere worship. God doesn’t dwell in houses of brick and stone – no matter how glorious that house may be. God desires to dwell in the hearts of people who humble themselves in true worship before Him and fear His name.
The original temple was destroyed when Babylon was allowed to conquer Jerusalem. A new temple was later constructed after the Jews were allowed to return from exile and inhabit the land once again. During Jesus’ day, the religious leaders had once again turned worship into an industry of profit and influence. Twice, Jesus drove out the money changers who were conducting business in the courts of the temple and preventing gentiles from seeking and finding the Lord. During Stephen’s defense before the Jewish leaders, Stephen quoted this passage of Isaiah as he rebuked them for always resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:47-51). What was true in Isaiah’s day was true in the first century, and is true now. God doesn’t dwell in buildings or relics. God doesn’t inhabit empty religious ritual. God dwells in the hearts of those who have humbly surrendered their life to Him in faith, and God inhabits the sincere worship and praise of those whose hearts are completely devoted to His word, will and ways.
NT: “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ — the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:7-12 CSB)
Paul, in his letter to the Philippian church, had just warned them about placing confidence in their flesh – their ability to adhere to the law and perform with perfection, all the religious rituals. Paul explained that if anyone could place confidence in ritualistic righteous behavior, he could. He had basically been the “poster boy” for self-righteousness… but all that he had accomplished through legalistic effort was worthless. The Greek word translated here as ‘loss’ means damage or detriment. All of Paul’s striving in the flesh to become righteous had not helped him one bit. If anything, it had damaged him and become a detriment to his life with God. In order to gain all that God had for him, Paul rid himself of all that he had gained in the flesh and considered it worthless rubbish and detestable dung.
Paul threw away all of his accomplishments – those things that had damaged him spiritually – so that he could gain Christ and be found in Him. By gaining Christ, no longer would Paul have to strive to become righteous – he received the righteousness of God in Christ by grace through faith. Paul was no longer attempting to climb the “corporate ladder” of organized religion. He was no longer striving to attain the pinnacle of Pharisaism. Paul’s goal… his ultimate desire… his primary pursuit was to know Christ. He desired to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection as he fellowshipped with Christ through sufferings. He was willing to die to everything the world could offer him so that one day, he could experience the resurrection from the dead to live with Christ for eternity. Paul gladly let go of the world so that he could fully take hold of Christ, for Christ had so lovingly and graciously taken hold of him.
We don’t have to “sing for our supper.” We don’t have to jump through ritualistic and legalistic hoops to try and win God’s approval. We don’t have to “try to do good and live a good life” in hopes of making it to heaven. In fact, that attitude and belief is actually destructive to our relationship with God. God doesn’t look favorably on the person who does and says all the right things outwardly. He looks favorably on the person who is humble, submissive in spirit, and honors His word. God looks favorably on those who will throw away their striving, let go of the world, and take hold of Christ by faith. Christ has taken hold of you through the cross. He now waits for you to take hold of Him.
Proverbs: “The wealth of the rich is his fortified city; in his imagination it is like a high wall. Before his downfall a person’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 18:11-12 CSB)
Just like a wealthy person puts trust in money and things to save them, we can easily fall into the trap of putting our trust and confidence in the things that we can do and accomplish. Our accomplishments become a high wall of protection that we hide behind, but that wall is imaginary. Trusting in what we can do… our understanding and cleverness… our accomplishments is (at the root) pride. In order to truly gain all that God has, you must let go of pride, choose humility, and grab hold of Christ.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You for the peace of mind that comes and the sure hope that is found by knowing that my salvation is not based on my ability to live righteously. Feeling like I have to earn my salvation is actually damaging to my relationship with You, so I dispose of my performance mentality and choose to grab hold of You by faith. I jettison my pride and self-reliance, come before you in humility and faith, and worship You sincerely. As I do that, help me to know and fully experience You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.