Sunday, December 30, 2007

Learning to Tremble: Something for the New Year from Isaiah 66

I was supposed to read Isaiah 66 this morning, or at some point during the day. The Bible reading plan I use stopped assigning readings on December 28th. But the last OT reading of the month was Isaiah 66, so that’s what I started to do – until I was needed elsewhere in the house. Hiding out in the study when the kids are out of school will only work for so long.

However, I did make it to verse 2: “But this is the one to whom I will look; he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” The NIV renders the first part of the verse as “this is the one I esteem.” What is it that God regards or values? Humility of spirit and trembling at God’s word.

I wonder about that word “tremble.” It’s late right now, late for me at least, and I haven’t bothered to do a word study. But the sense of “tremble” seems fairly obvious. It suggests being overcome with awe or fear; deeply moved, disturbed, shaken. It says that God has spoken and the message we hear from God has somehow gotten beyond the brain and into our gut. Tremble doesn’t necessarily sound like a negative word. In fact, it may be delightful – the delight itself may be experienced as trembling.

The word gets my attention because I’m not sure it’s something I do. I can study what it means and offer a fairly cogent explanation of the meaning without in-depth study. But I don’t know if I actually tremble at God’s word. Maybe this is why James warned that not many should be teachers. After a few hundred lessons and sermons, the trembling stops. We may become more effective communicators, but we speak with steady hands and firm knees. Not much trembling.

I can’t resolve this tonight – but maybe this is something for the New Year, something to be intentional about. I want to learn to tremble at God’s word. I want to hear it in such a way that the power of the word penetrates my life, cuts like the sword God intended it to be. And then I want to handle it in such a way that the same power is somehow evident in the teaching moment.

Can this kind of thing be learned or learned again?

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