Although God loves every Christian, he does have his favorites. Isaiah 66:2 describes the qualities inherent in one for which God has special regard. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” God esteems the humble!
Why humility? Humility always metamorphoses into something more beautiful. It is the root of all the other virtues. In this verse it leads to real contrition, which then deepens into trembling at God’s word. It ends by sensitizing us to God’s word, equipping us to hear. Paul’s humility led him to work out his salvation “with fear and trembling” [Ph 2:12]. David’s humility led him to “rejoice with trembling” [Ps 2:11]. Because humility expands our felt need for God it enhances our esteem for His word. The Bible comes alive. We read it trembling with holy joy and fear.
Pride, on the other hand, metamorphoses into something more dreadful. It is the foundation of all vice. Instead of contrition, pride leads to self-righteousness, and instead of trembling at God’s word, self-righteousness deadens us to God’s word. This was Ahab. Rejecting God’s warning through the prophet Micah, he rode out in battle to his death [1Kgs 22]. Deafened by self-righteous pride, Jehoiakim read Jeremiah’s words then arrogantly tossed the prophetic scroll into the fire [Jer 36]. He had no capacity to fear God. In fact, arrogance doesn’t end in ambivalence, it ends in actually despising God’s word. When Nathan confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah it was for the sin of “despising the word of the LORD” [2Sa 12:9]. If David, the man after God’s own heart, could despise God’s word so can you and I
Why is humility the key to intimacy with God? Since humility makes us tremble at God’s word, it brings us into real communion with God. It sensitizes us to God. It opens our ears to His voice. It deepens our gratitude, and it unlocks our dependence upon God. It is the chief thing. “This (humility)is a great and most essential thing in true religion,” wrote Jonathan Edwards. “The whole frame of the gospel, every thing appertaining to the new covenant, and all God’s dispensations towards fallen man, are calculated to bring to pass this effect.”
The edifice upon which God builds humility is the revelation of Himself. In His Light we see ourselves. We become humble by looking at God, not ourselves. John Calvin opened his Institutes with this sentence. “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves… Man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty.”
This “majesty” teaches us several things. First, God is indescribably holy. He hates sin and evil. Second, He acts righteously when he rejects every person blemished with imperfection. Third, we are sinners. We are by nature His enemies and under His wrath. Fourth, God only owes us justice. He does not owe us mercy or grace. But fifth, God so loved the world that He died for His enemies, that we might be made perfect in His sight and eternally reconciled to Him.
Our need is incalculable. To the degree that we see God, and ourselves, in this light we will be humble, increasingly contrite, and will tremble with joy, delight, and sobriety at His word.
How should you resond? Humble yourself under God’s mighty hand and he will exalt you. The best way to humble yourself is to obey God’s commands.