What sort of thing makes God pay attention to a human being? Is it loud shouting from morning to evening, as the prophets of Baal did in 1 Kings 18? or putting yourself in danger so He’ll save you, as Satan counseled Christ to do in Matthew 4? Or wearing Bible quotes on your clothes and making sure people know how much money you give to the church, much like the Pharisees did in Matthew 23?
Clearly, those are all horrible examples. The first comes from people who turned their backs on the one true God, the second from the adversary himself, and the third from religious leaders Christ condemned for their legalism. But do we ever try anything similar, thinking that we need to sing longer, preach louder, or do more in order to make God notice us?
It’s easy to fall into this trap, especially in a culture where we’re constantly told we need to stand out to get ahead. However, the things that make us stand out to the world aren’t necessarily the same things that catch God’s eye. There are several places in the Bible where God describes what type of person He will pay attention to, and it’s not always what we might think.
Sigh and Cry
I’ve talked about the practice of lament quite a bit in the past few weeks, so it makes sense to start there (see “Learning How To Lament” and “Trusting God When You’re Confused By Him: A Study of Lamentations 3“). Lament is a prayer of painful complaint, where you bring complicated emotions to God and re-affirm that you trust Him even when you’re hurt and confused. It’s most likely what these people Ezekiel writes of were doing:
and he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn by his side. Yahweh said to him, “Go through the middle of the city, through the middle of Jerusalem, and set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry over all the abominations that are done within it.”
To the others he said in my hearing, “Go through the city after him, and strike. Don’t let your eye spare, neither have pity. Kill utterly the old man, the young man, the virgin, little children and women; but don’t come near any man on whom is the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.” (Ezk. 9:3-6, all quotes from WEB translation)
You can read the context for this in Ezekiel 8 through 11. Ancient Israel had once again departed from God and He intended to punish them, but a certain group of people caught his eye. He marked the people who recognized and lamented the abominations done within their nation and even within the Lord’s sanctuary.
God tells us that He is unchanging, the same yesterday today and forever. If in the past He was looking for people who cared deeply about His ways and were heartbroken when others do evil, then we can assume He is still looking for the same today. One way to get God’s attention is to join Him in grieving over the abominable things done in the world around us.
Poor, Contrite, Trembling
Yahweh says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build to me? Where will I rest? For my hand has made all these things, and so all these things came to be,” says Yahweh: “but I will look to this man, even to he who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2)
God is not impressed with wealth, pride, and power. He doesn’t need us to build more impressive temples and churches, or give more impressive offerings. He just wants us to be the kind of people He can work with; the sort who will listen to Him and recognize how much we need Him.
Humans tend to think that we need to do something impressive to be noticed, but that’s not how God operates. Instead, He chooses people wise enough to know that they are foolish, weak, lowly, and nothing without Him (see “Growing In The Wisdom From God” and 1 Corinthians 1:25-29). He gives the kingdom of heaven to those who are “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3). Those who fear the Lord and honor His name are treated as His own special possession (Mal. 3:16-17). If you want to get His attention, then you have to get out of your own way and be vulnerable with Him.
A Perfect Heart
There’s a verse in Proverbs that says, “Yahweh’s eyes are everywhere, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). There’s nothing hidden to Him, even what’s inside us (Jer. 16:17; 17:10). He is able to see everything, and He’s looking for something specific.
For Yahweh’s eyes run back and forth throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. (2 Chr. 16:9)
The Hebrew word for heart can refer to our whole inner man, and “perfect” means complete, whole, safe, and at peace (lebab, H3824, and shalem, H8003). God is far more concerned with our inner man than the outer appearance (1 Sam. 16:7), and it catches His eye when we’re whole-heartedly seeking Him.
He doesn’t just take notice for no reason, either. He looks for these sorts of people so that He can act powerfully on their behalf. It would be more than enough just to have the Creator of the universe notice us but He goes several steps further. He enters into our lives and shows Himself strong for us when we’re seeking a relationship with Him.
Sins separate us from God. Removal of sins is needed for us to have a close relationship with God, which is one reason Christ died to take away sin. When we “miss the mark” of righteousness, we can repent and ask for forgiveness, and Christ will keep cleansing us of sin so we can be in God’s presence. That does not, however, mean we shouldn’t try to do what God says is right. Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15, 21; 15:10). And as we keep growing toward perfection and remain faithful to Him, He considers us righteous.
Yahweh’s eyes are toward the righteous. His ears listen to their cry. Yahweh’s face is against those who do evil, to cut off their memory from the earth. (Psalm 34:15-16)
Peter quotes this in his first epistle, leaving no doubt that these words are relevant for New Covenant Christians as well as the psalmist of old (1 Peter 3:8-12). Being righteous involves loving God and doing what He says. And that simple act of obedience and faith is enough to catch God’s seeing eye and listening ear.
If we want to draw closer to God, we can’t rely on our own way of doing things or on conventional human wisdom. We must do things God’s way. The things that catch His attention are the things that make us more like Him. He will respond when we humbly seek Him, when we’re heartbroken over what breaks His heart, when we’re whole-hearted before Him, and when we pursue righteousness so that we can fellowship with Him.
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