Humility

God is gentle towards the humble

We are currently going through a series on humility, a virtue and character trait that is so essential but so rare nowadays, even in the church. We are examining three reasons why Christians need to pursue humility. We learned in our last post that God hates pride. Today we will explore the second reason: God delights in humility.

While God hates the proud, God is gentle and tender towards the humble.

A surprising statement

In Isaiah 66:1-2, God delivers a jarring declaration of His transcendence. The Israelites had too small a view of God. They thought that He was confined to His temple just like any pagan idol, that His power and presence was limited by this building.

Thus responded the LORD:

“’Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest?  For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,’declares the Lord.”

Those are mind-blowing words. Even the universe cannot contain God, much less an infrastructure made of wood and stone. Contrary to the Israelites’ understanding, God is infinite and untamable, towering over all gods. As they stood speechless, in awe of Majesty, what God said next would catch them off guard.

“But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”

Immediately after this glorious self-revelation, God pronounced a blessing. Though He is magnificent, He looks upon the lowly with favor. God is pleased to grace those who bow before His transcendence. God’s message to the Israelites was crystal clear: humility is the only properly response to the revelation of majesty.

Tender dealings with the humble

The Bible is full of examples of God dealing tenderly with the humble, those who tremble at His word.

  • God vindicated Moses before Aaron and Miriam (Numbers 12:1-9). Moses, who was said to be the most humble person on earth (v. 3) did not even need to defend himself – God fought for him.
  • God remembered Hannah’s lowly state and granted her a child after years of barrenness. Her sincere petition at the Temple was heard. (1 Samuel 1:19).
  • When the kings of Judah and Israel humbled themselves, yea, even the vilest ones, they escaped judgment. Consider the examples of Josiah, Ahab, Rehoboam, Hezekiah, and Manasseh.
  • The tax collector who confessed his own spiritual bankruptcy before God went home justified (Luke 18:9-14).
  • The daughter of the Syrophoenician woman was healed because of her mother’s humble faith (Mark 7:24-30).

Many more such stories can be found in Scripture and in church history. God’s track record of exalting the humble should encourage us to be humble even though in the short run there seems to be no advantage in doing so.

Promises of humility

The Bible is also full of God’s promises of blessing on the humble. These are just a few.

  • After the dedication of the Temple, God appeared to Solomon in a dream and promised him that “if…My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face…then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
  • The aged apostle writes to young men “therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6).
  • Proverbs makes the observation that in God’s design of the world, “the reward of humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, honor and life” (22:4).
  • The half-brother of Jesus exhorts the church to unity by reminding them that God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
  • David sings confidently that “He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way.” (Psalm 25:9)
  • Jesus Himself says that “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

All these promises are given to strengthen our resolve to be humble. It is worth it in the long run.

Humility is the path to blessing. It is a sweet aroma pleasing to God.

Next week we will see that humility is an intrinsic quality of God Himself.