Isaiah 66:2 “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my Word.”
According to commentaries, the word tremble as it is used here, means to be affected with a great reverential awe for, and response to, God’s Word. It’s an awe which grows as we study, understand and apply Scripture to our lives. The more we experience its amazing power and wisdom, the more we will tremble at it. And the more we tremble, the more humble and contrite we’ll become because it’s hard to witness His Word in action and remain prideful or sinful. I am awed every time God gives me a new insight into Scripture, the wisdom to apply it to my life or His inspiration of words to give to another. It is through experiencing the Bible that we tremble at it, and I want to share a recent time when that happened for me.
Two years ago, my older brother was killed in a road rage incident. I asked God at that time to let me know if there was anything He wanted me to do with regard to the man who killed him. I didn’t get any sense that I should do anything, and forgot about it. No one in my family even attended any of the court hearings as we thought it would be too painful. This past winter, almost two years after my brother’s death (April 17, 2009), we were told that the perpetrator would receive 13 years in prison, but they didn’t expect him to live that long as he now had cancer. We assumed at that time that everything was finished. I still didn’t feel God nudging me to do anything.
Then last April, there was a question in my Bible Study Fellowship lesson: “With what unlikely person does God want you to share the gospel?” I didn’t have an answer right away, but the next day the thought popped into my head that the answer to the question was my brother’s killer. When I shared this in the Bible study group discussion, one of the ladies said she pictured me doing this in person, but I decided I would write him a letter. That Sunday morning when I awakened before going to church, I told my husband that I thought God wanted me to write to this man, and I would offer to send him a Bible. My husband suggested that I didn’t need to offer, just go ahead and send a Bible. As it turned out, my church was switching to a different Bible version and happened to be selling Bibles on the patio that morning. Coincidence? On Monday, I tried to get an address for this man, but wasn’t able to find his location as I did not have the correct spelling of his name. When I called the District Attorney’s office to see if I could get an address, I found out that his sentencing hearing would be the following Tuesday morning. I could go in person like the lady in my Bible Study had said. Coincidence?
On the following Monday night before the hearing, I wrote a letter to the man. I knew very little about him, and had no idea if he had any religious beliefs or had gained any in the past two years in prison. I wrote in the letter that God loved him and included John 3:16-17. I quoted 1 John 1:9 about confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness. I went on to say that I could imagine that it would be hard to believe one could receive forgiveness after what had happened, but assured him that he could be forgiven. I said that God does not promise physical healing, though He can, but that He does promise spiritual healing to those who ask. I finished the letter with Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.” I don’t really know why I wrote what I wrote. It was as though I was on autopilot with my words and my emotions. I can’t even claim that I felt God’s love for this person as I couldn’t sign the letter “In Christ’s love” but signed it “In obedience to Christ.”
I arrived at the court house in Los Angeles on the morning of Tuesday, April 19th (Passover) about an hour early. So I decided to spend the time until the hearing reading my Bible. I had recently started reading through the Psalms and decided to pick up where I left off. I opened my Bible to Psalm 32 and read, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” My letter had focused on forgiveness of sins, and now I was reading this psalm of forgiveness today. Coincidence? This was a psalm written by King David who had killed a man, and the commentaries believe he wrote this psalm after he had been forgiven by God for that sin. Coincidence? Psalm 32 goes on to talk about how David was wasting away and his strength was sapped until God forgave him and removed his guilt. Some commentaries suggest that this was not just an emotional state for David, but that he may have been physically ill. The man who killed my brother had developed cancer during the two years he was in prison. He had received all of the chemotherapy he could have and was in a wheelchair due to weakness. Coincidence?
Then as I read Psalm 32:6, I truly trembled. “Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found…” OK. No more coincidences. That’s exactly what Isaiah 55:6 said which I had included in my letter to this man. I cannot claim that I wrote that letter without the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. I could have been in any Psalm that day, but I was in Psalm 32, and God knew that’s where I would be. That’s how I believe He spoke to me to confirm that I was doing His will. I don’t know whether this man needed to know he could be forgiven or needed confirmation that he had been forgiven, but I believe that God wanted me to give him that message from His Word. And I know that God’s Word will not return empty but achieve the purpose for which it was sent (Isaiah 55:11).
I was the only one that showed up related to this case. Apparently none of his family members have ever attended his hearings. As it turned out, court regulations forbid my giving him the letter or the Bible at the hearing, but he knew why I was there because the attorney announced to the judge my intentions. I mailed the letter to him later and included a printout of Psalm 32. I may never know in this life what effect God’s Word had on that man, but I do know that it increased my faith and increased the magnitude of my trembling at His Word. But I cannot stop there because I know the more I tremble at God’s Word, the less I will tremble at my circumstances. I also know that I need fresh reminders of how awesome and powerful God is through experiences like this with His Word, because like the Israelites, I am prone to forget. For me, Psalm 32 will always be a strong reminder of God’s presence and power, and I want my Bible to be full of memories like that.
Which Scriptures have increased your trembling at God’s Word?
How have they humbled you?