Where does God live? I would hardly dare ask that question, much less try to answer it — except that in Isaiah 57:15 God himself talks about where he dwells.
Where does God live? The high and lofty one is speaking. This is the language that God uses to identify himself as he speaks. There is one other place in the Old Testament where the words translated high and lofty are used together — in the vision of Isaiah’s call, Isaiah 6:1. Notice how the Lord’s train fills the temple. Listen to the cry of the seraphs. Isaiah responds with profound fear. He is aware of his sin and of the sin of his people. Here in Isaiah 57, the first part of the chapter focus on God’s judgment of the ungodly — with a brief note of hope in verse 13. In the last part of the chapter, the focus is on God’s deliverance of his people, concluding with a brief word of warning.
The holy one lives forever. God identifies himself as eternal. He never had a beginning. He will never have an end. Our puny minds struggle with that concept, because we are creatures of time. We all had a beginning. We do talk (because the Bible does) about our having eternal life. But we have eternal life in a different sense than God is eternal. God’s people have fellowship with him in this life and even death doesn’t end that. When believers die, we are with the Lord, and we look forward to the day of resurrection and beyond that, to life in the new heavens and earth, where there is no curse, no death, and where we live in fellowship with God without end. Similarly, those who reject God don’t make him disappear by their rejection. They too face death, and after it, the resurrection of the just and the unjust. The face an ongoing, unending eternity experiencing God’s wrath. Note the words of warning with which Isaiah 57 ends: “’There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’” There are permanent consequences to how you respond to God in this life, and you do well to pay attention. Yet, in contrast to us, who have a beginning, followed by unending life, God is above time. He has no beginning and no end. He is incomprehsibly above us. Another way in which he makes that point in describing himself is to call himself holy. That’s why angels, carrying something of the glory of God when they are sent to appear to people, typically begin by saying, “Don’t be afraid!” “The heavens are the highest and most intimate shrine, where Jehovah dwells alone; hence the striking contrast, when over against this is set His condescension to the humble. The same association exists with Jehovah’s eternity. This likewise is something so specifically divine that it sets Him apart from all that is created and exists in time. In the passage just quoted God’s being enthroned forever and His holiness stand side by side.” (Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, pages 266–267)
He lives in a high and holy place. Notice the repetition in our text. God emphasizes who he is by repeating himself, by communicating the same idea in a similar, but slightly different way. He has identified himself as the high and lofty One. Then he tells you that he lives in a high and lofty place. (That’s part of the answer to the question in the title!) His dwelling is not like the idols of Isaiah’s day, when people worshiped the god of a certain mountain or the god of the storm. Nor is he like the gods of the idols of 21st century North Americans, who may focus on wealth, power, or pleasure. Ask yourself, what did God show Isaiah in the vision of Isaiah 6? Don’t think of God apart from or before, if you can use the term, he created anything, as sitting on a heavenly throne surrounded by angelic beings. Before God created there was nothing but God. All things were made by him. Angelic beings, cherubim and the seraphs of Isaiah 6 are part of his creation. What Isaiah sees is, like what John sees in Revelation 4 and 5, a glimpse into the heavenly temple, apparently before creating the universe that we live in and are exploring. Yes, the earthly tabernacle and temple after it are copies of that heavenly temple. Moses on Mount Sinai was shown that as a pattern for the tabernacle which he had the people build, Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 8:5. In our text God is describing the majesty of his heavenly dwelling to help us understand something of how great and glorious he is. Yet this glorious, utterly transcendent God, further reveals his glory by coming to dwell with his people.
Where do you live? The high and holy one lives with the lowly. If all that God is is described in the first part of Isaiah 57:15 (he is high and lofty, eternal and holy), if there were a period halfway through the verse and the rest were not there, you could have no relationship with God, much less fellowship with him. To draw an imperfect parallel: you don’t have a relationship with an ant. You probably don’t even notice him, unless he invades your kitchen with 3,000 of his fellow workers. If he does, he’s not aware of you. The difference between you and the ant is minor compared to the distance between you and God. You and the ant are both creatures. God is the infinite Creator. Thank God, there is a second half to our text. This glorious God also dwells with the lowly and contrite. In fact, he created Adam and Eve, not to live in permanent testing in the Garden of Eden, but with the offer of life, fellowship with him, if they obeyed, which of course they did not. The God who is high and lifted up, lives with his people! “The same God who in his revelation limits himself, as it were, to certain specific places, times, and persons is at the same time infinitely exalted above the whole realm of nature and every creature. Even in the parts of Scripture that stress this temporal and local manifestation, the sense of his sublimity and omnipotence is not lacking. The Lord who walks in his garden is the Creator of heaven and earth. The God who appears to Jacob is in control of the future. Although the God of Israel dwells in the midst of his people in the house that Solomon built for him, he cannot even be contained by the heavens (1 Kings 8:27)…. In a word, throughout the Old Testament these two elements occur hand in hand: God is with those who are of a contrite and humble spirit, and nevertheless is the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity (Isa. 57:15).” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, pages 33–34)
He revives you. Why does he live with you? In order to revive you, in order to give you life. Having contradicted God by sin, Adam’s sin with which we are involved, and the many sins of our own we add to that, the only way that we, who by nature are dead in sin, can have fellowship with God is if he revives us. He needs to give us life. (Notice that God repeats himself again for emphasis.) The only way that the infinitely holy God can have fellowship with sinful creatures is by sending his Son to live, suffer, die, and be raised in their place. All of Christ’s redemptive work, all the glory of the incarnation, is implied in that simple word, revive. “When God dwells with them the heart of the crushed is renewed as though to come to life again. No greater blessing can come to the heart oppressed by sin than the presence of the living God.” (E. J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3, p. 411)
Be at peace with your covenant God. Where do you live in 2022? I’m not asking for a geographic location. I’m asking whether you are humble and lowly enough to realize that in order to have real life, in order to have fellowship with God, you cannot do it yourself. You need your God to come down to you and seek you out. “If God remains elevated above humanity in his sovereign exaltedness and majesty, then no religion is possible, at least no religion in the sense of fellowship…. Accordingly, if there is truly to be religion, if there is to be fellowship between God and man… then God has to come down from his lofty position, condescend to his creatures, impart, reveal, and give himself away to human beings; the he who inhabits eternity and dwells in a high and holy place must also dwell with those who are of a humble spirit (Isa. 57:15). But this set of conditions is noting other than the description of a covenant.” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, p. 569) God condescended as he spoke with Adam and Eve before they sinned. He condescended as he made the covenant with Noah. He focused that covenantal relationship slightly differently, more clearly, as he made his covenant with Abraham, with Israel at Mt. Sinai, with David. That covenant relationship blossoms into fulfillment with the coming of Immanuel, God with us. In him it expands, with God extending his covenant to those who are far as well as those who are near, Isaiah 57:19. And he give peace, not just a feeling of peace, but objective peace between the high and lofty One and you, his people who are lowly and contrite.
In this new year, where does God dwell? In the highest heaven of heavens, but also with you, if you are lowly, repentant, and trusting in him!