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“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The blessed humbling

We are happiest when we are humblest. Self is no longer exalted before our eyes. No more self-oriented concerns get the highest billing. We happily go to the back of the bus. When we gladly abdicate the pilot’s seat and assume the role as co-pilot, then we excitedly proclaim, “God is my pilot because I cannot do the job!” This is other-worldly language, but we cannot prevent our lips from forming the glad tidings.

As undesirable as this condition may seem to the unconverted mind, and even horrific and foolishness, only God can get us to the humbling. We can never remove our pride and humble ourselves without the omnipotent power of God exercised against the coalition of us and Satan. Only God can humble us, and humbling the proud sinner has been His work since Adam fell and received pride as a reward for serving the serpent.

God wants to make us happy and He knows that to do this is to convince us to relinquish our hold on our self-importance. He sees hope in the whole human race, rich and poor, free and bond, male and female, Christian or not. And it’s His determined purpose to act in our behalf to get us happiness. Its messy work and we suffer in the process, but God suffers more than we do.

Because it brings us to true happiness and rest, it is God’s glory to humble His people. Humility is the narrow path to life and joy. “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no. Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that He might humble thee, and that He might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end.” (Deut. 8:2,16). Beautiful, just beautiful!

It is the motive of love that leads God to humble His people. “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” (1Tim. 1:5). His one desire is not to destroy our lives but to save them. He sees that purity, a healthy conscience, and honesty bring us the perfect joy we desire.

So He smites the impudent, hard heart. “Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, because thou wast unsatiable; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied.
Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith.
How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord God, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman.” (Ez. 16:28-30). “For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them.” (Ez. 2:4). “But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto Me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.” (Ez. 3:7). And He wipes the imperious look off of our face. Then when we have accepted that arrangement He restores His comfort to our soul.

“He regarded their affliction, when He heard their cry:
And He remembered for them His covenant, and repented according to the multitude of His mercies.
He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives.
Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto Thy holy name, and to triumph in Thy praise.” (Ps. 106:44-47).

“When I said, My foot slippeth; Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.
In the multitude of my thoughts within me Thy comforts delight my soul.” (Ps. 94:18,19). His end is not to leave us reeling in abandonment and hopelessness. But in His wisdom He must wait until His consequences have fully done their perfect work in us.

“Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of My land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for My name, will I cast out of My sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations.” “If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against Me, and that also they have walked contrary unto Me;
And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity…” (2Chron. 7:20;Lev. 26:40,41). The humbling brings with it conversion, and we stop fighting.

The Lord looks highly on the lowly—even to His most disobedient if they humble themselves and repent. “The word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,
Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before Me? Because he humbleth himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house.” (1Ki 21:28,29).

See how quickly the Lord relents—as soon as He heard Ahab’s cry. It happens as soon as the stubborn heart repents in humility. Ahab was spared because his heart was humbled. Only the Holy Spirit, with the combined effort of the Father’s providences, can accomplish humility in those who look to Him for the help of His countenance.

“Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before Me; I also have heard thee, saith the Lord.” (2Ki. 22:19). One element of a humbled heart is tenderness toward God. When the soul knows God has won the battle, the heart is made tender. The meek heart never blames God for the trouble it suffered in the process of being humbled.

The Lord raised up Egypt against Rehoboam’s and Israel’s pride, and no sooner did they concede to the Lord’s sovereignty over them, than the Lord protected them and greatly limited Shishak’s damages on them. But note: the Lord did permit some damage. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.
If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?” (Heb. 12:6-7).

But at least lives were spared. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.… If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1Cor. 3:11-13,15). Rehoboam was doubly humbled after looking at the inferior shields of brass instead of Solomon’s gold shields, and his hard heart became more tender and the Lord prospered his reign. The whole time, that’s all the Lord wants in His humbling! Submission to His righteousness and prosperity. That’s what He desires for us! “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” (Jas. 5:11).

“Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem.” (2Chron. 30:11). At this time, those of the northern kingdom who humbled themselves received new hearts of faith and great joy at knowing God still loved them. They returned to be the same blessing Christ was in that very same Galilee 750 years later. In all of His humiliating, He just wants us to be blessed by being able to be a blessing. “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before Thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” (Is. 9:3). When Hezekiah became sick to death, because he humbled his proud heard God, without hesitating, healed him. Immediately, He ordered Isaiah to do a U-turn and go straight back to give the divine pronouncement of the king’s healing. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Rev. 3:19).

When his son Manasseh grew destructively proud and the Lord brought calamity upon him, he relented his pride. “And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,
And prayed unto Him: and He was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord He was God.” (2Chron. 33:12,13). “Despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4).

Nothing could make the new Manasseh happier, and nothing could make the Son of God happier. He uses justice for His merciful purposes; He wounds to heal. Manasseh’s epithet read, “His prayer also, and how God was intreated of him, and all his sin, and his trespass, and the places wherein he built high places, and set up groves and graven images, before he was humbled: behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers.” (2Chron. 33:19). Wouldn’t you like that on your tombstone for all your succeeding generations to read? But his son would not read of his father’s conversion. Amon “humbled not himself before the Lord, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more. And his servants conspired against him, and slew him in his own house.” (2Chron. 33:23,24). You just don’t disregard the honest souls in whom God has worked to accomplish humility and repentance. You honor Him and His works with praises.

Josiah, Manasseh’ grandson, did heed his grandfather’s experience. His humility teaches us that to fear God and to give Him glory is to be humbled before Him and to obey Him. “Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest His words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before Me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before Me; I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord.” (2Chron. 34:27). But then through the malfeasance of Josiah’s son Zedekiah, we learn that being humble means to not only believe the Lord, but also to believe His designated representatives, His prophets. “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord.” (2Chron. 36:12).

Our conversion is concomitant to our humbling. “When He maketh inquisition for blood, He remembereth them: He forgetteth not the cry of the humble.” (Ps. 9:12). “Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause Thine ear to hear.” (Ps. 10:17). And once the heart is right, the life is right. “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.” (Prov. 15:33). “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.” (Prov. 18:12). “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life.” (Prov. 22:4). “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.” (Prov. 29:23).

But let’s us not think the Judge of the whole earth can’t discern a fake contrition. He calls sin by its right name no matter how it is dressed up.

“The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.
For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.…
He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones.
He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: He hideth His face; He will never see it.” (Ps. 10:2-4,10,11).

“It came to pass … that the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah … to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the Lord of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?
Then came the word of the Lord of hosts unto me, saying,
Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto Me, even to Me?
And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?” (Zech. 7:1,3-6).

“And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that He regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.” (Mal. 2:13).

“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” (Heb. 12:15-17).

But let us come to Jesus every morning, just as we are and let Him convict us of our ride as we read His words and look upon His life and death, and let Him influence us and get under our proud barriers and mold us in His image. “Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee … in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
And He humbled thee.” (Deut. 8:2,3).

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