“Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:3).
Seeking humility is one of the most powerful ways that we find God and remain close to God. But one of the most overlooked virtues of Christianity today is the quality of being humble. The Leadership of Central Church greatly desires that we are all men and women of humility. But what does that look like? There are many different words in the Bible that are translated “humble.” Here are four of them:
The first word is the Hebrew word “nawah” (Proverbs 18:12; 22:4). It is often translated “humility,” but is more literally taken to mean “stoop down.” This word means that you physically stoop down. You assume a lower position than anyone else. In ancient times when a King came into a room you made sure that you stooped down before him so that you showed him the proper respect. You’re not the king. He is the king. In many cultures, to keep your head higher than his head would be an outrageous act and you would be executed if seen in this position. The application here is that you realize that you are not God and you never will be. When pride creeps into our life, we start to view things as if we are God. We become the standard for what is right and what is wrong. Pride does that to everyone. But when you humble yourself, you set God up as the standard.
The second word is the Hebrew word “anaw”(Psalm 25:9). The Hebrew word “anaw” is translated several different ways in the Bible: Humble (7x); Afflicted (4x); Poor (4x); Oppressed (2x); Helpless (1x); Meek (1x); Needy (1x). This word describes our dependence upon God. We need God. When things are going great, we often grow in our pride and self-sufficiency. But when a tragedy strikes, we become humble because we have to rely on God to guide our steps out of the trial. When we feel helpless, that is when we turn to God. God melts our hearts by allowing certain things to happen to us. That is why we must be reminded every day, especially on the good days, that we are dependent upon God.
We must all get to the point where we acknowledge that we need God to guide us throughout every situation. Back in 2008, I ruptured my Achilles tendon. It required surgery and I had to use crutches for 8 weeks. During those 8 weeks, I felt so helpless. I needed someone to take care of me with the smallest things. My wife was great during this time. I realized during the first day that I couldn’t really hold a bowl of cereal as I was using my crutches. It just wouldn’t work. The milk would just splash all over the place. So my wife had to bring it to me. I had a really hard time with this because I am often too independent. Just as I learned to rely on my wife during a time like this, this is how we are to view our relationship with God. We need God to guide us. Don’t wait for a tragedy to come into your life before you listen to God. Do it now. Let Him guide your life in this moment, right now. Humility starts to take root in your life when you show God that you are totally dependent upon Him.
The third word is the Hebrew word “rapas” (Proverbs 6:3). This word is sometimes translated muddied. You lower yourself to such an extent that you get mud all over yourself. You have probably heard the phrase in the famous song “you got mud on your face, a big disgrace…” Well, this might not be too far off. In the context of Proverbs 6:3, we see that this person who needs to humble themselves has been trapped by what he or she said. Have you ever done that? Wish that you could take back a word spoken to someone when you were angry or when you lost your temper? Maybe it was a written word and you wished you would have never written it and then passed it on? At some point in our life, we all second guess what we say to people at different times, only a prideful person never considers what he or she says to others and how that can affect others.
How can we fight this tendency to hurt others with our words? We should do what the person did in Proverbs 6:3. He wouldn’t let his neighbor rest until he brought peace back into the situation. You must be determined to be at peace with others. Is there someone in your life that you are not on good terms with because of pride? What marriages could have been saved if the husband and the wife would have gotten a little muddy and determined to make it work. What wars could have been avoided if the leaders would have muddied themselves and tried to work out something to avoid the horrific deaths. I wonder how many friendships would last much longer if people would allow a little mud on their face when they are wrong. Be quick to admit when you’re wrong and be quick to forgive someone when they apologize.
The fourth word is the Greek word “tapeinoo” (Philippians 2:3-4). This word means to make lower. It is very similar to the Hebrew words, “to stoop down” or “to get muddied.” It is the same type of picture. But it specifically has with it the idea of raising up other people above where you are. It reminds me of the simple phrase: YOU BEFORE ME. The ultimate step in humility is when you consciously live to place other people in front of yourself. Others are more important than you. You live to serve others. You don’t care about serving yourself anymore. You are beyond yourself.
In Philippians 2, we see that this act of humility was the example of Jesus. Jesus did all of this. He placed others in front of Himself. Andrew Murray once said, “The humble person is not one who thinks poorly of himself, he simply does not think of himself at all.”
These four words teach us true humility. Are you humble? Remember, it doesn’t mean that you think poorly of yourself. It means that you think highly of God and therefore you want to meet the needs of other people around you. Humility is not about hating yourself at all. It is about forgetting yourself so that you can impact others around you for the glory of God.
This content is taken from a recent sermon given by Pastor Jeremy. If you would like to listen to the sermon in it’s entirety, press here.