Does God Work For You?
Dr. Jim Denison
Henry Blackaby, the author of Experiencing God, tells of the time his church in Canada started their first mission. They had no money to move the mission pastor or pay him the $850 per month he would need, and no idea where to get such funds. So they asked God to provide, and the mission pastor agreed to come on faith.
As he was on his way, Pastor Blackaby received a letter from an Arkansas church he did not know, giving him $1,100 for their ministries. A few days later he received a phone call from a person whose pledge was just enough to complete the money they needed for the pastor’s salary.
As he got off the phone, the mission pastor drove up. Henry asked him, “What did it cost to move you?” He said, “Well, Henry, as best I can tell it cost me $1,100.”
God is so good, so powerful, so able to meet our needs. And so we are continually tempted to come to him for what he does more than for who he is.
The ancient Canaanites worshipped Baal and Ashtoreth, believing these gods would make their lands fertile and their crops abundant. The Egyptians worshipped the sun and other heavenly bodies for the same reason. The Greeks worshipped or at least placated Zeus so that their lives would be blessed and prospered.
Muslims seek heavenly reward from Allah, and Jews from Yahweh; Buddhists seek Nirvana through their meditations and asceticism; Hindus seek moksha, which is union with ultimate reality through manifold reincarnations.
And Christians seek God’s help through church attendance and worship. We want our children to prosper, our finances to grow, our bodies to be healthy, our families to be happy, and we come to church in the hope that God will bless us in return. Not all of us do this consciously, but most of us have this understandable and all too human motive in our hearts.
Today I want to convince you that there’s more to God than what he does. I want to show you who God is. I think you’ll know what to do in response.
Who is God? (vs. 1-4)
Three stands for perfection in Scripture. In the Hebrew language, anything repeated three times is raised to the highest level. We say “good, better, best.” They would say “good, good, good.” And the third time means the very best.
Only once in all the Bible is an attribute of God raised to the third power. This attribute must therefore be the highest and best single description of God, and the foundation for all the others. This characteristic will define, better than any other description, who God is. And we have that characteristic, that word, before us today.
First let’s enter the scene, standing alongside Isaiah the prophet. If Isaiah could see God in the midst of his circumstances, we can in the midst of ours.
It is the year 736 B.C. Uzziah had ruled Judah for 52 years; he modernized the army, conquered the Philistines, extended commerce, and brought peace and prosperity such as the nation had not known since Solomon. But now King Uzziah is dead.
So Isaiah comes into God’s presence with grief and fear in his heart. Grief, because the king was his cousin. Fear, because hard times are ahead. Uzziah’s young and untested son Jotham has ascended the throne, war-clouds are gathering to the North, and economic storms are beginning to brew.
The great king is gone from his throne, so Isaiah goes to a higher throne and a higher King. And in his grief, pain, perplexity and fear, he sees him. If you would come to God today in the midst of your pain, anger, hurt, or fear, you will see him as well.
Here’s what we see.
“I saw the Lord,” Isaiah says (v. 1). Not his face, for no one can see God and live (Exodus 33:20). But we are in his presence.
We see his throne “high and exalted.” In the ancient world, the higher his throne, the greater his power and authority. And “the train of his robe filled the temple.” The longer his robe, the greater his power.
This scene is occurring in the Most Holy Place, a room in the Temple thirty feet by thirty feet in length and width, by forty-five feet in height; God’s robe filled 40,500 square feet of space.
“Seraphs” fly around him. They are mentioned only here in Scripture; their name means “to burn.” And they burn with the presence and awesomeness of the God who is “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 13:8). The closer we get to fire, the hotter we become. So with them.
They cover their faces, an Oriental expression of humility in the presence of a greater person. They cover their feet in expression of his holiness as well. Moses took off his shoes when he was standing on holy ground; the seraphim have no shoes, so they cover their feet.
And they shout to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.”
In the Hebrew, we actually hear them as one says, “Holy”; a second replies, “Holy”; and a third cries, “Holy.” They repeat this again and again and again.
Nowhere does Scripture say that God is “love, love, love,” or “light, light, light,” or “fire, fire, fire.” But it says that he is “holy, holy, holy.”
And not just here. In Revelation 4:8 we read of heavenly worshippers, “Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.'” All of heaven is shouting his holiness, even right now.
This word “holy” translates the Hebrew “qadosh,” which means to be clean, hallowed, pure, sacred, different from all else.
No genie in a bottle, here. No mere problem-solver, or dispenser of blessings, or tool for our use, or means to our ends. The only One in all the universe who is holiness to the highest degree, sacred, hallowed, pure.