“…God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” (1 Pet. 5:5b-6)
Reading through the books of Kings and Chronicles recently in my devotions, I have been struck by repeated reminders that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. There is example after example throughout the history of the kings of Israel, and into the captivity and return of the exiles to rebuild Jerusalem, of those who found favor with God because they humbled themselves and sought Him. On the other hand, examples abound of those who grew confident in themselves or put their trust elsewhere and did not prosper.
The truth that God gives grace to the humble may perhaps be seen nowhere more clearly than in the life of Manasseh. He started off very wickedly and did much evil in the sight of the Lord, yet when he humbled himself and repented, God showed him mercy and delayed the destruction of Jerusalem so that it would not happen in Manasseh’s lifetime (2 Kings 21; 2 Chron. 33).
Jehoshaphat demonstrated dependence upon the Lord when the Moabites and Ammonites came against him to attack him. He sought the Lord and even proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah (2 Chron. 20:1-4). Unfortunately, he seemed to be prone to make unwise alliances, however, and to depend more on these alliances than on the Lord, and in these cases he did not experience God’s blessing. In fact, he almost got himself killed when he agreed to go to war as Ahab’s ally, in spite of God’s clear warning against it!
Uzziah was another who sought the Lord in early years, and God caused him to prosper. But when he grew strong, we are told that he became proud and self-sufficient, and it led to his destruction when he attempted to do that which was reserved for the priests (2 Chron. 26). How sad that he allowed his God-given successes to make him confident in himself, yet how prone I am to do the very same thing when I am experiencing God’s blessing in my life!
Similarly, Hezekiah started off demonstrating great dependence and humility before the Lord, and he was greatly helped. In his later life, when he became ill and humbled himself to ask the Lord for more time, God blessed him and gave him 15 more years. Yet, Hezekiah struggled at different times in his life with pride and self-sufficiency when things were going well for him (2 Chron. 32:25; 2 Kings 20:12-19).
In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, I was struck again by how often I saw emphasized that these men depended upon the Lord entirely for success in their journey to Jerusalem and for the rebuilding of the walls and the temple, despite opposition from their enemies. Ezra refused to seek protection from the king, because he wanted it to be clear to everyone that he was depending on the Lord to protect him. God blessed him for this and granted him complete success on the journey. Before Nehemiah ventured to make his request to the king of Persia to be allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls, we are told that in that moment he prayed to his God before speaking to the king (Neh. 2:4). What a good reminder of the importance of that moment-by-moment dependence, living in a constant attitude of prayer and deliberately bringing to God each and every need and desire, even before we voice it to anyone else. I can’t help but think that this is the kind of attitude of dependence that Micah has in mind when he writes, “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
Of course, this theme of dependence that God promises to bless continues throughout the Bible, illustrated in the lives of Daniel, Mary and Joseph, the disciples of Jesus, Paul, and many others – people who were small in their own eyes, but had a big view of God! Oh that this kind of attitude would characterize my life every day, no matter how big or small the stuff I am facing may seem!
“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5)
“indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9)