Every Christian leader experiences moments where God seems distant.
In Isaiah, chapter 57 we find God‘s people in the midst of discipline. And as they endure the consequences of sin they wonder where God is. Has God forgotten us? Has he abandoned us? Will we ever enjoy his presence and favor again? Where is God?
Isaiah’s message is a message of hope. He reminds a nation in destress that God is right where he’s always been, and that humility will bring them to him again:
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).
1. God is in a high and exalted place, far too high for mankind to reach on their own. He sits above kings and kingdoms. He sits above principalities and powers and rulers of darkness. He sits above the world, the flesh, and the devil. He sits in eternity. That’s where God is, and through faith in the gospel sinners like you and me are forgiven, washed, and lifted to sit with Jesus in this exalted, victorious, heavenly place!
2. God is in a holy place, and his holy presence far too distinct and spiritually removed from sinners for us to ever be worthy of him. There is an incomprehensible distance between me and God that only his grace can close. So, it is useless for me to try to make myself right with God, to measure up, to merit his favor. Even after I have done my best, I am still unprofitable, and all my righteousness is as filthy rags to God.
3. But God is also in a humble place. Wherever is found is a truly humble soul—one not trusting in their own righteousness, but his—God is present there too! He is never far from a humble heart. James 4:6 reminds me, “God resist the proud but gives grace to the humble.” And Proverbs 28:13 promises, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” To the proud, stubborn, unrepentant, and self-righteous God seems removed and distant. But to the broken and contrite he is as near as the whisper of his name. Hallelujah!
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).
Are you broken? Are you depending on God right now for mercy, for pardon, for purity? Are you resting in the gospel alone for assurance of salvation? Are you seeking to live in obedience to his word? Are you looking to God’s provision for every spiritual, physical, and material need? Then God is there with you! Jesus is close to the lowly. He has not left you. He has not abandoned you. He promised to never do that (Matthew 28:20)!
Father of Jesus, I would be where you are, and you dwell in a very high and holy place, “with he who humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at [your] word” (Isaiah 66:1-2). Help me to live as a spiritual beggar today; as one completely dependent on your presence and generous mercies, and as one careful to obey your word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
To learn more about the qualities of a godly leader see SGC’s course, “Ministry Leadership.”