John Piper: This was very surprising.

Isaiah 57:15 
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.

John Piper, in a sermon “The Lofty One Whose Name is Holy”

So from verse 15 the truth I want us to focus on is this: The lofty One whose name is Holy dwells with crushed and humble saints.

There are three things I want to observe about this truth, and there is a story I want to tell to illustrate these three things.

  1. It is surprising that the lofty One whose name is Holy dwells with crushed and humble saints.
  2. It is not compromising when the lofty One whose name is Holy dwells with crushed and humble saints.
  3. It is healing when the lofty One whose name is Holy dwells with crushed and humble saints.

And now the story!

The Good King and a Crushed and Humbled Woman

Once there was a land where the people were ruled by a king who was so wise and so powerful and so uncompromising that none of his subjects could come near to him—at least not the way they felt now.

His palace was high in the White Mountain and his throne in the palace was very lofty. Huge winged creatures surrounded the mountain. And the palace seemed to float on a cloud of fire.

The people of the land were very resentful of the king’s authority, and had no respect for his power or wisdom. It hadn’t always been this way. The first people in the land had stood in awe of the king and marveled that all his power and wisdom and riches were spent doing good for his subjects. It was as though he exalted himself in order to show kindness.

But somewhere along the way, for some strange and dark reason, his subjects began to resent the fact that he exalted himself. Suddenly it didn’t matter that his laws were good; what mattered was that they were laws. And the people rebelled, because they started to hate being told what to do. They wanted to make their own laws and appoint their own kings. And so things went very bad.

Then something unexpected happened. A rumor was heard in the most rebellious town that the king had left his lofty throne, had passed through the cloud of fire, and was coming down the Valley of Shades. That evening in fact, he appeared on his horse at the edge of town with his royal blue cape and blazing eyes and a host of White Mountain warriors that stretched out of sight up the valley.

The town’s people knew that one word of command and they would all lose their heads. They cringed and sneered and trembled. But the king gave no command. He got off his horse and walked down a side street as though he knew the town well. He stopped at the house of an old widow and knocked. When she opened the door, her mouth fell open and she began to cry. The king went in and shut the door. They spoke until it was late. She fed him supper. She gave him a straw mattress. And in the morning he was gone, but on the table was a velvet box.

After the king had gone, the people of the village were amazed. Why had the king come? And to dwell with that woman! Her husband had been killed erecting a tower of rebellion against the king. She herself had once been part of the prostitution religion which the king loathed. And after her husband died, she served the local resistance as a volunteer. Only recently had she stopped coming to the protest assemblies.

But the king had come and dwelt in this old woman’s house. This was very surprising. It is surprising that the lofty One whose name is Holy dwells with any of his subjects, not to mention an old conspirator.

widowSurprising, yes, but not compromising. Not long ago this old woman, who had so long resisted the king’s authority and had done all she could to flaunt her rebellion, had found in the archives of the town library an ancient copy of the king’s edicts. She had taken it home and began to read. As she read she began to weep. For days and days she read and wept and wept. She began reading them comfortably in her chair, but she finished reading them on the floor, bent over, trembling and crying.

The edicts of the king were good. His plans and purposes for the land were glorious and sure. She saw and felt for the first time that real freedom and fulfillment didn’t come by setting up her little rebellious plan against the king’s, but by accepting the wonderful place he would give her in his plan.

She was crushed and humbled. From that day on she would be the king’s if he would have her. So when the king entered her house, he didn’t enter the house of a rebel. He entered the house of one who in all brokenness and contrition revered his throne. So his visit was not a compromise, because the pride of his hostess had been crushed. It is not a compromise for the lofty One whose name is Holy to dwell with crushed and humble saints.

And now the woman sat staring at the little velvet box. To her it was not little. She was tempted to bow before it. Her hand trembled. Even a visit from the king had not made her presumptuous. Slowly she opened the box, and saw a delicate golden ring and a hand-written note from the king. She took up the note and read to herself,

With this I cancel every sin
And heal now every hurt within.
The one who wears the royal ring
Will be the daughter of the king.