…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chr. 7:14
The Lord God Himself spoke these words to King Solomon after the dedication of the first temple in Jerusalem. The promise was given to the people of Israel, but it applies equally to us as believers because it is an expression of the very nature of God, who
…is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 1 Pet. 5:5, James 4:6
Why then do we so rarely see God moving in our communities? Why do we see so little of the healing balm of God’s grace in the broken and hurting lives of the people around us, or even in our own lives, our families, or our churches?
Have you ever prayed for God’s forgiveness and healing in your life and been disappointed because it seemed like nothing really changed? Have you wondered why? Consider this: Have you truly humbled yourself before Him to pray and seek His face? Have you dealt with the sin and disobedience in your life? I think our problems often begin here.
The Word says that the Lord listens and responds to the desires of the humble (Ps. 10:17) and that He leads the humble in justice and teaches them His way (Ps. 25:9). In the world, we often equate being humble with weakness, with timidity, with low self-esteem, with letting others “walk all over us,” or with “not standing up for ourselves.” But how does God define a humble heart?
The Bible presents two very prominent people whom God considered humble. The first is Moses, of whom we read, “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3). The second person is Jesus Christ, who said, “…I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29). Do either Moses or Jesus fit the world’s picture of weakness, timidity, or poor self-esteem? I don’t think so! Did they allow others to “walk all over them” or did they “not stand up for themselves?” Well, one might argue that was the case when Jesus was on trial. But was it because he was weak or timid? No! It was because He had surrendered Himself to God’s will and was determined to submit peacefully to whatever obedience to His Father’s will would require.
What, then, can we learn about how God defines a humble heart?
- A humble heart understands “that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” (Deut. 8:2-3) Therefore, the humble heart refuses to satisfy itself with material, worldly things, but instead looks to God to provide all that satisfies, both materially and spiritually.
- A humble heart responds when God speaks. When Shaphan the scribe read the book of the law in King Josiah’s presence, the king responded with a tender heart and humbled himself. He tore his clothes and wept when he realized how his people had sinned and he sent priests to inquire of the Lord regarding what to do next (2 Kings 22). On the contrary, King Zedekiah “did evil in the sight of the Lord” by refusing to humble his heart to respond when Jeremiah the prophet spoke God’s word to him (2 Chr. 36:12).
- A humble heart sincerely seeks God’s priorities above its own. Through the prophet Isaiah, God reprimands his people for humbling themselves outwardly while leading a self-seeking lifestyle. The people prayed and fasted, complaining that God was not responding to their prayers, but at the same time they were mistreating other people in order to gain what they desired (Isaiah 58:1-6). The apostle Paul says it this way, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:2-3)
- A humble heart is obedient to God. The apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8) and he commands us to have the same attitude (Phil. 2:5). But on the opposite side, we read in Exodus that Pharaoh refused to humble himself in order to obey what God had commanded (Ex. 10:3), resulting in the hardening of his heart and in great loss for his people.
- A humble heart submits to the yoke of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…” (Matt. 11:29) When two animals are yoked together, they work together, sharing the load. They move together in the same direction. They work to accomplish the same goals. But the proud heart seeks to accomplish its own goals in its own power. It fights against the yoke and tries to move in any direction but the one where Christ is leading.
So how do you rate in regards to the humility of your heart? Is it possible you are not seeing God’s grace at work in your life in the way you desire because you are not submitting to His yoke? Perhaps you are distracted by following your own agenda, or maybe you are flat out being stubbornly disobedient, refusing to surrender to God’s will?
It is not too late. You can choose at this moment to humble yourself, to seek His face through His word and in prayer, to repent of your sin or to surrender that one thing that God has been speaking to you about. And when you do, you will experience His grace anew in your life.
To humble yourself in His presence is not a one-time act. It is an ongoing recognition and affirmation of your right relationship to Him. He is your Sovereign King, your Creator, your Heavenly Father. You are His bondservant, the work of His Hands, His beloved child. Place your trust in Him. Humble your heart before Him. Submit yourself to His yoke and work alongside Him. Listen for His voice and respond in obedience to Him. Make time to seek His face in prayer and in His word. Put away the pride of your heart, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)