If my people will humble themselves… 2 Chronicles 7:14
Humility is one of the most peculiarly misunderstood topics. To be clear, some assume it to be one of the gifts of the Spirit, but this is simply not the case. Gentleness, goodness, and meekness are very closely associated with it, however these are fruits – not gifts. Sadly, our culture often associates these with weakness, but humility is certainly not weakness, nor is it merely thinking less of yourself than you ought. Humility is an accurate appraisal of self. When self takes its proper place then love, joy, and peace will soon be evident. God’s Word teaches true humility. Haughtiness, arrogance, and pride stand in opposition to it. Pride is at the heart of our sinful nature. Proverbs 13:10 says, “Only by pride cometh contention…” Because of pride we are inclined to promote and protect self. Humility requires that we deal with this self factor.
Self wants to sit on the throne of our lives. Self wants to always be right. Self wants to establish its own set of rules. In short, self seeks its own will. This self factor is a pride factor. The self factor must be conquered, and the only way it can be done is by full surrender of the will to the Holy Spirit. The truly humble person recognizes that we’ve all fallen short, and yet God loves us. Salvation comes only by unmerited favor from God. After salvation, the life we live is not in our own strength but by the faith of Jesus, Who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20). While humility ought to be evident in the life of every believer, it can only be verified in a surrendered life emptied of self… and revival comes to a life that is surrendered!
Before we were saved we were dead in trespasses and sins. Sinfulness was part of our fallen nature. To be blunt – We were of our father the devil. The nature of the devil in regard to humankind has been clearly marked by pride. Jesus knew him from the time he was created. The inhabitants of heaven knew him long before he exalted himself. But all you and I know of him is an evil arrogance. From the moment sin entered the world through the willful disobedience of our first parents, man inherited a propensity to be like him. We want to be first in our minds. We seek to justify ourselves. When there are problems, we are good at pointing fingers at others. Think about it. Whenever there are problems in a marriage, our natural inclination is to think it is our spouse’s fault. Whenever we have problems with our finances, we want to believe it is the bank’s error. When trouble shows up on the job, we blame a difficult boss or faulty equipment. And what about the inevitable problems that are found in our churches? Almost certainly we assume that we are never to blame! It has to be the Sunday School teacher or the pastor or the deacons. We try to convince ourselves that we are the perfect ones, and if everyone else were just like us then the entire church would be… well, perfect! And we fool ourselves.
Jesus told those accusing the woman taken in the act of adultery that whoever was without sin should be the first to cast a stone at her. Of course, no one was qualified but Jesus! Ephesians 2:3 says, “Among whom also we all had our conversation…” ALL are included here! We have all sinned. This was the course of our life. Adam Clarke said, “We lived in sin, walked in sin, it was woven through our whole constitution, it tinged every temper, polluted every faculty, and perverted every transaction of life.”
Before we could ever be free from that old life we had to recognize our spiritual poverty! Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3). In other words, we had to humble ourselves and admit we needed help. Thank the Lord He loved us and died for us while we were yet sinners.
Notice the first item of importance in that great “Revival” text: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves…” (2 Chronicles 7:14). This well-known message is not addressed to sinners. The Lord says, “If my people…” It is His people, and He is calling them to a life of HUMILITY.
Humility is never desirable to the carnal man, but it is commanded of all of us. God pays special attention to those who humble themselves. See Micah 6:8; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6; 2 Kings 22:19; Leviticus 26:41-42. Humility empties the heart of self. It is what God expects of those who approach Him. It is the low road. It is a lesser worn path because it is not as popular and attractive as the high road. While the high road has more travelers and by demand requires a broader path, the low road is narrow and traveled by only a few. But it is a proven path. It leads to genuine confession of sin and opens up to the joys of sins forgiven. Many who walk this path once walked the other road. They discovered that the high road led to the heaviness of guilt and the pain of regret, but the road less traveled leads to inner peace and freedom of mind.
Such was the case of the prodigal in Luke 15. We first find this foolish young man with careless and selfish intentions demanding his part of the inheritance. There is not the slightest hint of humility from such a thoughtless boy; no indication of a humble request; no evidence of manners which would have included the word “please” although we can safely assume he was raised better. We can see it coming. While the text does not say it, we can almost imagine him just a few days before, wandering idly near the extreme boundaries of his father’s land gazing dreamily across the distant field and pondering a life of pleasure in the far country. His proud and carnal heart was greedily calling for fleshly gratification, and it seems he cannot move fast enough to meet its self-seeking demands. As we would expect, the very next verse tells it all. His loving father probably saw it coming as well. It only takes a single sentence to say it:
“And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.” Luke 15:13
It was the high road, a proud path, one that leads downward to destruction. In his wildest dreams he never thought that he would be left in such a shameful state of dining with swine! Surely, pride goeth before destruction. His selfish course was never an upward path but a downward one, and it led to the pain of regret. His vain hopes brought him low, and before he could be reconciled he had to humble himself.
The parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18) is excellent for further study on pride versus humility. There are two men in the same place praying to the same God, but it doesn’t take long to determine there is a major difference between them. Jesus pulled back the false cloak of humility the Pharisee had so smugly adorned himself with and exposed the deep seated pride crouched within. He also described the brokenness and humility of the publican, and taught plainly that the publican, not the self-righteous Pharisee, would be heard (Luke 18:14). This publican was no hypocrite! It would be in our favor to carefully search our own hearts to be sure that pride hasn’t found a home there.
Jesus is our greatest example. He said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart…” (Matthew 11:29). Clearly the life of our Lord was in sharp contrast to those considered great by the world. Oh to willingly humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may lift us in His own time and according to His own good pleasure. John the Baptist said it best: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
There is great potential in humility! Even wicked King Manasseh was intreated of the Lord when he humbled himself! (2 Chronicles 33:12-13 with verses 18-19).
There is great promise in humility! God knew in advance that the children of Israel would forsake Him. He gave them opportunity to return to Him, although humility was required on their part. Read the wonderful passage in Deuteronomy 30:3-4 and rejoice in God’s goodness.
Further, true humility puts us in a great position, because what follows is great promotion! He that exalts himself gets put down – “shall be abased.” (Luke 18:14). However, humility puts us in the position of being exalted! Look what the Lord promises the one who humbles himself: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:10). This may be one of the most often overlooked benefits of true humility. The Bible says, He shall “lift you up!” If that be the case, then true humility also results in a better posture. May the Lord help us to learn the virtues of humility and apply them in our lives as we seek revival for our homes, our church, and our nation.