P. W. Stonestreet
Thus saith Jehovah, Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: what manner of house will ye build unto me? and what place shall be my rest? For all these things hath my hand made, and so all these things came to be, saith Jehovah: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word (Isaiah 66:1-2).
Scholars tell us in substance that the original word translated “look,” in the above text, means to have regard for; to esteem worthy of consideration; and that the word translated “trembleth” means to stand in awe of; to have fear concerning. What a gracious and precious promise! Jehovah, whose throne is heaven and whose footstool is the earth, esteems worthy of consideration those who have fear concerning his word. Think of it! What more could be desired?
Since God’s “look” means innumerable blessings, including salvation, but is conditional upon “trembleth at his word,” it behooves us, then, to carefully observe the principle of trembling at God’s word that we may share in its benefits. What is it? It is inseparable from a “poor” and “contrite spirit.” It is not a mere sentiment to be imagined and expressed only in words ; but it is an active principle course of reasoning and action respectful to God’s word.
This principle did not change with dispensations, but is binding as long as man is responsible to, and sustains an attitude toward, God’s word. Commands changed with dispensations, according to God’s will, but the principle of trembling at his word remains the same from the beginning. We are given many Old Testament instances of the principle, which it is not necessary to mention particularly, but every case of obedience is one, and every case of disobedience is a warning. They “were written for our learning, that through patience and comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).
Under God’s providence, we are thus given an opportunity to profit by the experience of others. A timely statement accredited to Senator Gore, of Oklahoma, is in point here: “Wise men profit by the experience of others; ordinary men profit by their own experience; and fools profit by neither.” That statement is not Scripture but it is scriptural. Both human experience and divine revelation testify to its truth. The Bible anticipates all three of the characters thus mentioned and every responsible person is identified with one or another of the three classes. Under the principle we should have no difficulty in placing ourselves.
Every case of conversion and obedience in the New Testament is an example of trembling at God’s word. The following is selected because of its commendation of an important distinction between man’s word and God’s word in harmony with trembling at God’s word: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thes. 2:13). Note the word “received” occurs twice in the above text, on which we observe the following scholarly comment: “The Greek for the first ‘received,’ implies simply the hearing of it; the Greek of the second is ‘accepted,’ or ‘welcomed’ it. The proper object of faith, it hence appears, is the word of God, at first oral, then for security against error, written” (John 20:30, 31; Rom. 15:4; Gal. 4:20) (Commentary on the Bible, Jamieson, Faussett and Brown).
To receive God’s word with no more reverence and confidence than the word of men, is to fall short of trembling at God’s word, and consequently, to fall short of God’s esteem (Isaiah 66:2) and the inspired commendation (1 Thess. 2:13). Of course, to accept the word of men, their doctrines and commandments, in religion, in preference to God’s word, is even more lamentable. Yet, Christ anticipates religious people doing this very thing.