This is a repost. I originally posted this on Jan 27, 2009.
Last summer I decided to take God seriously for the first time in a very long time. Up to that point I just lived life like most people, filling it with normal things like working, going to church, hanging with friends, watching TV, and so on. But I began to notice that I basically had no room for God in my life. And it seemed that I was really becoming more selfish by the day and that my existence was solely for myself. This went against everything I had ever learned about my relationship with God, and I knew in my heart that I needed to seek God.
So I did. I started reading the book of Isaiah and quickly fell in love with it. And I noticed something that stuck out to me more than anything, and is the reason for this article. Let me start by quoting Isaiah 2: 11 (emphasis mine):
“The proud look of man will be abased and the loftiness of man will be humbled, And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”
I think the key word for me in this verse is alone, and what I began to see was that this verse embodies the heart of God; what He desires above all else – to be exalted alone. And then I noticed this verse repeated again (not verbatim) in verse 17 and then again in 5:15-16. And then there’s Isaiah 2:22:
“Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; For why should he be esteemed?”
God is clearly separating himself from his creation, showing us upon whom our eyes should be focused.
There are also many verses in chapters 1 – 6 where God is speaking judgment on his people for their lewdness, drunkenness, “new moon festivals,” and more. But what was really becoming clear to me was that God’s desire was to be exalted alone and these things were taking his place – his rightful place. God is a jealous God, and that’s just it. His heart for us is to exalt him, and only him. Our lives should revolve around him, and only him. He should be exalted higher than anything in our lives, including those who we love most. It’s his rightful place.
You know, God chastised his people so much because they were so sinful. They did everything under the sun, and there are many verses in Isaiah filled with them. And you read it over and over and over. But I don’t believe it was ever about what they were doing – the actual acting out of their sin. It was about their heart, that they exalted themselves above their God. This was their sin. And the reason we read it over and over is because it’s God’s heart to be exalted in our lives, and he’s serious about it. He wants to be seated in his rightful place.
Consider the imagery of Isaiah 6:1-3 (emphasis mine):
“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said,
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.””
God has revealed himself exalted to Isaiah in great Holiness. After seeing this common thread over and over just in the first few chapters of Isaiah, I have come to believe that this is the single most important thing that God demands of us – that we should seek to exalt God above all else.
But there is one other thing that must accompany this, and it will separate a life of legalism from a life of absolute heartfelt dedication, and it’s loving God. See, you can’t exalt God without falling in love with him. Our lives should literally be a living response of our love for him. There just isn’t any way around it. Without this deep love for God we can’t please him, and as a result we end up doing things for the sake of doing things, because maybe we believe it pleases God, but there is nothing really alive inside of us causing us to want to please God.
I like to think of it this way. What marriage will last without love? If two people get married but they really don’t love each other, then they are just “playing house” and the charade will eventually fall apart. And it’s that way with God. We will grow weary of trying to please God if we don’t love him, and it too will fall apart. But when we really love God, we find our hearts wanting, almost yearning, to please him, and in that we find great joy.
You know, this is really serious business here, and I believe this is something that we as a christian culture have largely ignored. To many of us, God is just a distant God, way up above the clouds, and we really never get to know him, much less fall in love with him. But when we begin to know his heart, as revealed in Isaiah, it begins to change us, and we find something very alive becoming prevalent in our lives. And exalting God is the only thing that we can place the weight of our souls upon. And if we really do it, we will find our lives becoming amazingly different and we will wonder why it took us this long to get here.
I will leave you with this passage from Isaiah 12. This is, what I believe, is a perfect picture of what our hearts will be like when we fully give ourselves to God and exalt him in his rightful place.
Then you will say on that day,
“I will give thanks to You, O LORD;
For although You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away,
And You comfort me.
“Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the LORD GOD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.”
Therefore you will joyously draw water
From the springs of salvation.
And in that day you will say,
“Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name
Make known His deeds among the peoples;
Make them remember that His name is exalted.”
Praise the LORD in song, for He has done excellent things;
Let this be known throughout the earth.
Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.