The prideful rejected God’s word, and laughed and mocked the king’s messengers to scorn. But others welcomed the divine word and humbled themselves. The same is true today: the proud resist what God has commanded, while the humble gladly submit to whatever he says.
Humility doesn’t come from self-help. Any do-it-yourself “humility,” rooted in your own initiative, is but pride masquerading as its enemy. Genuine humility is the work and initiative of God.
And yet we human creatures have a part to play. Our humbling, at God’s lead, manifestly involves our minds and hearts and wills and behaviors. And while there is no simple program for making ourselves truly humble, God has given us examples to follow, and he has given us some practices and patterns to cultivate and sustain.
When God humbles us — through whatever trying circumstances he chooses to employ — the question for us is, Will we bow up in pride, or bow down in fresh humility? As much as our humility is fundamentally his work, not our own, he hasn’t left us to sit and wait around. God has given us habits of life to shape and ready our souls for humbling days to come.
And perhaps the single most important habit we can develop, or at least the first and primary means God uses, is the daily and weekly welcoming of his word in the Scriptures.
Glad Reverence and Submission
Every new morning presents a fresh opportunity to bend our hearts toward humility — or to re-calcify them in our native pride.
Each rising sun brings with it the question, Will you try to handle this day on your own, or re-consecrate yourself with a renewed declaration of dependence? And in particular, Will you begin this day with the sound of his voice, or the words of someone else? Some voice will be the first you hear — and the first you heed for the day’s direction. Will it be your own? Will it be the opinions and demands of fellow humans? Will it be the world’s voice through various media? Or will it be the only words that truly give life?
Welcoming God’s word, or rejecting it, not only happens at the top of every day, but also the top of every week. Each Lord’s Day offers a new opportunity to bow gladly beneath the hearing and proclamation of his word, or bow up with the pride of our own ideas. How we hear each sermon conditions our souls, for better or worse, toward humility or self-confidence.
Whether a morning reading, or Sunday sermon, or a verse applied by a friend, how will we respond to God’s word? What will be our reflex to divine initiative? What instinct will we have to words from God that confront our sin and land on us initially as unpleasant? Will we respond with reverence and glad-hearted submission? Will we make a habit of welcoming God’s word, or subtly resisting it?