There is an interesting verse in Isaiah chapter two which says, “Their land has also been filled with idols; They worship the work of their hands, That which their fingers have made.”(vs.8) It is in the context of God’s people taking up the practices of the foreign nations around them, abandoning humility and trust in their one true God. There are so many verses like this one that can be applied more or less directly to our own times. Our setting of course is different, but our sins are the same. We make Idols of many things. We worship the works of our own hands. The Lord has always sought humility and trust from His people. Yet He is too often met with arrogance and self will. God has given mankind many talents and abilities. He has given us creative minds. He looks for us to use all He has given to the fullest. But He look for us to acknowledge Him as the Giver and to seek His wisdom in the use of all that He gives. When we fail to do this, we find ourselves in the same troubles as the people to whom Isaiah had to speak. Look again into God’s Word. It has many lessons for life.
We live near Washington D.C. the center of government and power. Also all the industries that key into power and technology. Being humble and lowly is not thought to be characteristics that cause one to get ahead in this world. Yet Scripture upholds these characteristics as paramount. In one form or another it is listed over 60 time in the Bible. Jesus said of Himself, “I am gentle and humble in heart …”(Matthew 11:29) Humility does not mean weakness. One would never say that Jesus was weak. To be humble is to be teachable, to be open to instruction, to be willing to listen to other, and put their well being ahead of one’s self. Humility is God’s standard, and a central value of His kingdom. Speaking to the Pharisees, the religious power brokers of His day, He said, “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”(Matthew 23:12) I wonder what Washington would be like if humility became more of a dominant characteristic.
Scripture continually exalts humility above pride. The Apostle James wrote, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (4:6) Even Jesus said of himself, “I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) It is always a question of whether we are turned inward toward ourselves, or outward toward God and others. One who is humble is teachable, ready to gain wisdom, and seek understanding. The proud block themselves from these things. The humble are not weak. Jesus would never be called weak, even though He described Himself as humble. True strength is to understand that one does not have all the answers, and is willing to seek out the One who does. “This is the one I esteem:(says the Lord) he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word. “(Isaiah 66:2)
I read a novel set at the turn of the 19th century in slave holding Virginia. I am amazed, again, of the arrogant superiority that one people holds over another. I say ‘again’ because it has been so ingrained throughout history, whether in European colonization of Africa, America’s treatment of the Indians, and even some Christian missionary work where we feel we must change a people to make them look like us. Jesus’ message was one of humility, of being willing to be the servant of all, of washing another feet without asking whether that person was worthy of it or not. If we want to prove the natural sinfulness of man, we need look no further than the “me first, I’m better than you” attitude that can rise to the surface in all of us, and has led to the destruction of many people. It is only the Gospel of God’s free gift of grace in Jesus Christ that can begin to change hearts and move a person to look beyond self to others.
I don’t generally wear my clerical collar, except for church on Sundays, and when I’m doing some ministerial function. I’ve said that the collar carries no weight with the Lord, but it works well on hospital visits. In everyday life we tend to make all kinds of distinctions. We elevate a person with more education, wealth, or influence above the poor and so called common people. But Scripture teaches us in a number of ways that “God is no respecter of persons.” (Acts:10:34) God looks far deeper into each person. “For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7) Wealth, education, and influence are nice if they are used for good and for the glory of God, “but, the Lord declares, to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”(Isaiah 66:2)
A person really wants to know that they are important, and their life is valuable. The disciples were arguing among themselves which one of them was the greatest. Was it Peter, often the chief spokesman, or John, later called the beloved, or was it Judas, the treasurer with a good sense for business? We all need the realization that we matter to another person, that we are needed for who we are. Some try to achieve this by excelling in a certain field, or just by puffing themselves up, inflating their own ego. Jesus took a little child, setting him in the midst of the disciples, and saying that here was their model for greatness. The humility and simple faith of a child is of true value. We may have many talents, or just a few. We may have a long resume of accomplishments, or none that the world would recognize. But we are first, and above all, a child of God because of Jesus Christ. We are loved and valued by God above all worldly accomplishments. That is the only status that really matters, and we are on top.
Have you ever heard of Nahum? Probably not. But actually one of the books of the Bible is named after him. Having three short chapters toward the end of the Old Testament, he is one of the so called minor prophets. We know nothing about his life except that he was called by God to speak a message of repentance some 600 years before Christ. Like other of the prophets he may have been an ordinary working man that God called out for a particular mission. Also, like other prophets, it was probably not something he wanted to do, but he was willing to be obedient to His Lord. Nahum shows us that one doesn’t have to have a great position in the world, great wealth, great learning, or great influence. God simply looks for people who are willing to say “yes” when called. That call may not even be to bring a prophecy to a great nation. It may be to just speak to a neighbor, or serve in a community task. God simply looks for those who are willing to be faithful in the love of Christ. In that we are all like Nahum.
While waiting in the eye doctors office not long ago I looked at the magazines in the rack. There was a men’s magazine on top. It was one that was supposed to portray the look and interests of modern men. Everything there seem to portray power, success, and the macho man who had everything under control. I thought, how much our society has lost what it means to be a man as God created him to be. Terms like humility, meekness, and love are completely misunderstood. A man is to be ready for great challenges, but the greatest is to lead his family by sacrificial love. A man of God has his eyes set on the goal of God’s Kingdom for all those God has put in his care. He is faithful and self giving to his wife and children. He is the provider and protector. He is the spiritual leader. He is also a fun guy to be with because he knows the joy of the Lord. He is strong in character, but doesn’t have to prove anything with worldly success. He is humble because he know he doesn’t have all the answers and is dependent upon the Lord and Godly friends. This is a man of God, and far stronger than any macho image the world portrays. It is the image into which we seek to grow as men of God.
Along with all of his past media exposure and now in the Presidential campaign Donald Trump is being promoted everywhere. Everything he does has his name on it. Obviously he is very successful in several fields. Maybe that is what one needs to do to make a hundred million a year. The world esteems one who is highly successful, powerful, or famous, but that is not what impresses the Lord. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word,” the Lord said in Isaiah 66:2. “Humble and contrite” do not mean being a weak door mat for people to walk over. It means being solid in one’s God honoring values, being willing to stand by them regardless of persecution. It is having the assurance of our salvation in Jesus Christ which no one can take away. It is being content with the only praise that really matters, that of Almighty God. Money is nice, and we all need some of it, but what is truly lasting are those qualities that we will take into eternity.
What the Lord seeks of us is a humble trust in His word. Everything about the birth of our Saviour – Almighty God, Himself, coming among us – speaks of humility. The King of kings came as a baby, not a mighty warrior. The parents chosen to raise this baby were simple town folk from a small northern village. The baby was born in a stable with a feed trough for a bed, not in the palace of a King. Those who first acknowledged Him were shepherds, the lowest on the scale of trades. All of our beautiful nativity scenes do not portray the crowded clutter and smell of manure into which our Saviour came. But this is our world into which our God has come, and the world He has chosen to share with us. He took up our real poverty and brokenness, so that we could share His glory. Jesus would later say to those around Him, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”(Matthew 11:28-29) That is the continuing invitation we have from our God who has done everything that we might have life and godliness.