In Genesis and Ecclesiastes God speaks to me about humility. In the first section, Abraham had been promised many offspring, but he had yet to have a son and he was concerned. However, God brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and number the stars, if you are able to number them . . . . So shall your offspring be.”
It takes humility to believe a promise like that one. A proud person thinks that they know better. It isn’t that God cannot keep such a promise, but that He just has not fully considered the situation. But Abraham didn’t think that way. Instead, “he believed the Lord, and God counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5–6)
I’m not always sure how faith and humility connect, but it seems obvious here. So do the opposites of pride and lack of faith. Many times I’ve not believed God because in my pride I thought that God could not or would not do the things that are needful. I was not trusting Him, but my own judgment.
Sometimes those conclusions leap forward because results have been slow to appear. I get impatient, and actually, Abraham did too. He came up with an alternate scheme to have a child, not by his wife Sarah, but by sleeping with her servant, Hagar. That child was Ishmael and he became the father of all Arab nations. Need I say more about the value of humility and patience and the folly of taking things into my own hands?
The next reading is a bit like icing on the cake regarding what God did for Abraham. It says of the Lord, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
God did make His promise beautiful in its time – at the right moment, along came Isaac, whose birth was utterly amazing given the ages of mom and dad. Isaac also trusted God as his father had, was not a perfect man like his father also, but was the son promised and from there the family tree became the enormous unnumbered family of God, the children called Israel, the people of faith.
They started well, for the most part. But for the most part they did not stay on track with believing God and being counted righteous. By the time Jesus came, many of them were in such a spiritual state that they were never satisfied with anything or anyone. Jesus said of them . . .
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:16–19)
I used to say of someone, “When they stay home, she complains that they never go out. When they go out, she complains that they never stay home.” But I cannot talk. How often does dissatisfaction fill my heart? Too often. In my pride, I think I should have this, or be doing that. Contentment is a huge marker of those who believe God. Being content means thinking that what I have is exactly what God wants me to have – and being satisfied with that.
God is poking me again about my pride . . . but He is also calling me to Himself. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30)
These are familiar words so when I read them today, I asked myself why I would choose the heavy burden? Is it because I think I can? Is it because I refuse to let myself be yoked with Jesus? Am I too proud to accept that which is easy because it will not look good, or at least not as good as, “Oh my, you are so brave (or whatever) to take on that load.” And if I complain that my burdens are too great, far too often the reason behind that complaint is mere attention-seeking. This is pride and a lack of humility also.
Suddenly I have a feeling that a year using this devotional book and focusing on humility and pride will be a very long year.