Humility: A Clear View of God
Nothing draws the heart of God to His people more than humility.
Thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and the lowly of spirit.” Isaiah 57:15
“My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” Isaiah 66:2
You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17
For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar. Psalm 138:6
What more convincing do we need? We must deal with this truth: God loves humble people.
What does it mean to be humble? It is defined as a modest or low view of one’s own importance. Consider the synonyms of humility in the above verses: lowly, contrite (or crushed), broken.
A Clear View of God
I LOVE the dichotomy in those verses. They begin with a high and exalted God. A holy God. And of all places, where does this God long to be? With the lowly! The broken! The crushed! The contrite! Why is this? I believe there is a simple and clear explanation. Brokenness and humility is the defining characteristic of those who see God clearly.
Consider the famous passage in Isaiah 6. The prophet sees a clearer view of God than maybe any other human ever has. He sees God in all His glory and majesty. What is his response to such a crisp view of God? “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips!” Always, the response of seeing the holiness of God is a sharp awareness of sin which leads to humility.
When Peter first encounters Jesus and recognizes He is God, He falls down (lowliness) saying “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:1-8)
John the Baptist, who was filled with the Spirit and had a clear view of God, described Himself in relation to Jesus saying “I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals.” A strikingly low view of himself, especially since Jesus called Him the greatest man who ever lived. (Luke 7:28)
A clear view of God leads to a clear view of ourselves, namely humility.
In contrast, the proud have a clouded view of God. They are so consumed with their own importance that there is no room for the admiration of God. The religious leaders of Jesus day (the Pharisees) are the prime example of this. So consumed with the places of honor, titles and ranking for themselves, that Jesus repulsed them. They did not worship the One True God, they made a god in their own image. They were idolaters.
A God in our own image
We must love God for who He is, not who we want Him to be. If you knew that I hated chinese food, yet regularly invited me to join you at PF Chang’s, you are refusing to accept me for who I am. And I likely won’t respond to you for very long. Our God loves humility and hates pride. To persist in pride as a worshiper of God is to refuse to accept God for who He is. Like the Pharisees, we are creating a god in our own image—a god who doesn’t mind our entitled, self-righteous, demanding attitude—a god who is only about our needs, desires, and wants. This is idolatry and for this we should repent.
Humility in action
In my last post, I discussed how entitlement is a surefire sign of pride. In contrast, humility is a lack of entitlement. Let’s look at a couple examples of zero entitlement and how God responds.
In Matthew 15:21-28, a Canaanite woman approaches Jesus asking for healing for her daughter. Jesus not only ignores her at first, but after she persists, He refers to her as a dog: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Ouch.
How would you respond? Maybe "Jesus! How could you say that? Or who do you think you are? I may not be Jewish but I’m not that bad!"
But how does she respond: “Yes, Lord.” Whoa, whoa, whoa! Before we read any further, consider that unbelievable response! Yes, Lord. She totally owns it! It’s as if she said, "You’re right Jesus. I’m a dog. Nothing good is in me. I deserve nothing."
Then she continues, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Again, would that be your response? I mean, if there are people eating a good meal, would you settle for just the crumbs? Talk about a lack of entitlement: "Even if I only get some crumbs, I don’t care. I’m still asking you believing you are good."
And the response of Jesus affirms this lowly state as good: “O woman, your faith is great.”
In Luke 15:11-32 Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son. Here we see a broken young man returning to his father with zero entitlement. As he plans his trip home, he prepares his speech: “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” But as he approaches, his father runs to him and embraces him and kisses him before he can say his speech.
Now consider this: clearly, his father is glad he is home and will likely accept him as a son. Many at that point might think: “Well, I was going to simply ask to be a hired servant. Now I’ll ask to be his son again and regain my place in this house.”
Yet, even after being embraced, he continues on with his speech: “Father I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” No longer worthy. Zero entitlement. And Jesus, through this parable, exalts this lowly response as the father throws a party for this son who was lost.
We could go on and on.
The tax collector: (Luke 18:9-14) “God be merciful to me, the sinner!” This man went home justified.
The thief on the cross: (Luke 23:39-43) “I am suffering justly, I am receiving what I deserve, but Jesus has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when You come in Your Kingdom.” No demands to be saved, only asking to be remembered. And Jesus says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Bartimaeus, the blind beggar: (Mark 10:46-52) “Jesus, have mercy on me!” Not, Jesus give me everything I want. But have mercy. Jesus responds by pursuing him and asking: “What do you want Me to do for you?”
All these share a similar attitude: “I deserve nothing. Nothing but judgment and condemnation. If only you might be merciful to me.” This is what zero entitlement looks like. This is the attitude of a lowly, humble person. And this is the attitude that draws the attention of our God. There is one more element all these examples share: a belief in the goodness and graciousness heart of God. We'll look at how faith is a crucial part of humility in the next post.
Do these examples describe your heart toward God? Does your prayer life look like this? Or do you have entitlement and pride? If the Spirit has used any of these passages to expose pride in you, take some time to read through Psalm 51, a beautiful prayer of repentance written by David.