Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap.
Did you know that God condescends to you?
I realize that, at first, this doesn’t sound so good. If I were to say to you, “That person was condescending to me,” this would not be a compliment, but a complaint. Those who act in a condescending way look down their long, important noses at others. They think that they are “big people” and treat others as “little people.” Condescension is prideful and patronizing.
Unless you are God, in which case, it is gracious and kind. According to the language of Christian theology, God condescends to us, not by reminding us of our smallness and neediness, but rather by stooping to help us. The God who exceeds all human understanding nevertheless makes himself known to us in the Word written and the Word made flesh. The God in whom there is no sin takes our sin upon himself so that we might be saved. The God who was strong enough to create the universe helps us when we are weak. In these ways and countless others, God condescends for our sake.
God’s gracious condescension is celebrated in Psalm 113. The Lord who is enthroned on high nevertheless stoops to look down upon us. Yet he is not, as the pop song proclaims, just “watching us from a distance.” Rather God “stoops down” to be near us (113:6). He “raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap” (113:7). What an amazing picture of God’s condescension!
You may not be in a literal ash heap today, but you may feel as if you are. Perhaps you are overwhelmed with an impossible assignment at work and fear that you will fail. Perhaps you have recently lost your job and aren’t sure where you’ll find the next one. Perhaps your boss has just criticized you unjustly. If you’re not in an ash heap today, you’ve probably been in one before. And, I hate to tell you, but you’ll surely be in one again.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that God not only looks down upon you in your suffering but also reaches down to help you. God will be with you in your pain and, in his time, lift you up from the ash heap.
One final thought. Even as God stoops down to raise up the poor and needy, and even as we are beneficiaries of God’s graciousness, so we should offer the same to others. God may very well raise the poor from the dust through you and your efforts as his representative.
Something to Think About:
Have you ever experienced God lifting you from the ash heap? When?
How has God reached down to help you in your daily life or work?
Do you need this sort of help today? In what way?
How might you reach down to lift others from poverty or suffering?
Something to Do:
Today, be open to how God might use you to reach down and lift up another human being who is hurting.
Gracious God, you are, indeed, enthroned above the highest heaven. You are great beyond greatness, glorious beyond glory. All praise be to you for your majesty and power and sovereignty!
Yet, in love and mercy, you look down upon us. And not only look, but reach down to help us. And not only reach, but come down to be with us in Jesus. And not only share life with us, but take our sin and bear it. How wonderful you are!
Thank you, dear Lord, for all the times you have reached down to help me. How good you are, how gracious and kind! May I live in the confidence of your grace today, giving it away to others. Amen.