Ever since college, I’ve enjoyed mountain climbing. While I’ve never gotten into technical climbs, when I lived in Colorado, every summer I’d climb a few 14,000-foot peaks. One of the things that I noticed is that as you stand on the top of a 14er, you have a natural tendency to start to get lower to the ground. The closer one gets to the edge of the peak, the closer to the ground we want to be. There’s a level of security we find in hugging the earth while we journey closer to the cliff’s edge.

The same dynamic is true of relationship with God. The closer we get to God, the lower we get. Nobody beats their chest in the presence of God. Nobody thinks they’re awesome in the company of the creator and sustainer of all things. Isaiah’s experience of being called up into the throne room of God illustrates this beautifully. Listen to his words: 3 “And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 ‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’” (Isaiah 6:3-5) When Isaiah saw God’s holiness, he immediately took a posture of humility.

Humility requires two things: it demands that we attempt to see God as he really is, and it requires that we see ourselves as we really are. Isaiah’s response of humility was a result of seeing his sin in light of God’s purity. We often feel better about ourselves by comparing ourselves to others. You’ll hear people say things like, “well, I’m not nearly as bad as that person.” But that misses the point. We aren’t designed to compare ourselves to others, rather, we’re designed to carry the image of God. But the truth is, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Isaiah illustrated the natural response to that realization when he exclaimed, “Woe is me!” Woe is one of the things that brings us low. However, it’s in that posture of humility that we find a grace that never fails us. It’s what Isaiah found when he hit the ground. Listen to the way the passage continues, “6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’” (Isaiah 6:6-7) After admitting his woe and getting low, Isaiah experienced atonement. Forgiveness. His guilt was taken away. It’s in and through a posture of humility that we truly experience God’s presence and power. When we are humble, we are strong, because it’s only in our weakness that we experience God’s strength.

Take some time today and allow your heart to gaze on the holiness of God. Imagine yourself walking the same path Isaiah walked. Imagine the angels and saints bowing before him. And then, bow in reverence and awe along with them.

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