In my recent time reading the history of Israel (Genesis-II Chronicles), one thing that has stood out is the human bent toward pride and stiff-neckedness (if that’s a word). Pride led to the Fall. Arrogance led many of the kings to turn away from God. The Israelites again and again turned away from the Lord because, as the Lord described them, they were a stiff-necked people. Even King David, a man after God’s own heart, had his moments of pride. At the core of our failings is our bent to think we know best and can ignore the Lord.
Most people with some familiarity with the Bible, but with little understanding, conclude that there are two different Gods in the Bible—the God of the Old Testament who is angry and judgmental, and the God of the New Testament, Jesus, who is loving and kind. Yet, if we look closely at the Old Testament, we will see a God who is extraordinarily kind and merciful.
The life of Ahab is a perfect example of this. He was a terrible, evil king whose wife was responsible for the deaths of many prophets. Yet, when God revealed his judgment on Ahab, the king repented and the Lord was merciful to him.
Another notorious king was Manasseh, who led Judah astray after his father, Hezekiah, had brought them back to the Lord. So the Lord brought great discipline upon him and he was carried away by the Assyrians and imprisoned. As a result, Manasseh humbled himself and God was impressed with his repentance, and he restored him to his throne.
What we see throughout the Bible is God’s desire for humility on our part, for us to come to the end of ourselves in order to be willing to rely on him. When the Israelites asked for a king, their sin was not wanting to continue relying on the Lord, and they paid a heavy price for that. I refer to this as an “arduous path” because it seems that is the only path that leads us to giving up our pride, our self-reliance, and cry out to the Lord for help. God allows us to take that path, but make no mistake it is a self-inflicted choice. We are just bent toward relying on ourselves.
I preached at a church recently that is seeing its share of hardships. People dying and people suffering from numerous afflictions. One person said he had given up trying to find the solution because he knew it was beyond him. He said that had given him peace. That, my friends, is humility.
Recently, I had a student ask me to get together to learn how to read and apply the Bible to his life. He had been raised in a Christian family and grown up participating in all the programs of his church. He had also submitted his life to Jesus and been baptized when he was ten years old. To admit in light of his upbringing that he knows little about the Bible is a demonstration of humility, because he knows in order to follow Jesus, he needs an understanding of the Scriptures and how to apply them to his life. I know this was not an easy admission, but I know the Lord is pleased with him.
In the past year, I was humbled by a situation that I repeatedly tried to fix on my own, with my own wisdom and approach. It failed miserably, painfully, and had a multitude of negative consequences. In the midst of it, I reached the end of myself and began to cry out desperately to the Lord to help resolve it. And he did! There still were painful consequences, but, a year later, I am in such a different and better place. I am certain I could have reached that place much sooner and without the pain if I had chosen to trust the Lord rather than myself, but he has shown me his rich mercy and blessed me much more than I deserve.
This is the God we serve, a God rich in mercy and love. All he wants from us is to trust and rely on him. If we don’t, however, he is not quick to give up on us, but he will discipline us in an attempt to restore us to a right relationship with him. That’s not him being mean, but rather him demonstrating his unfailing love for us. As the Hebrew writer proclaims,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5b-11 NIV)
So if you are experiencing a difficult time, or when you do, remember the Lord is seeking to humble you so you might return to where he has always wanted you to remain: trusting him and relying upon him. For that is always the best place to be in our lives.
© Jim Musser 2019