How Can We Be Great and Exalted? #339
Hello friends and a happy and blessed Monday to you. We have some pretty fascinating Bible passages today – all of them quite significant. In 1 Chronicles 29, David charges his son Solomon to build the temple of the Lord, giving him some powerful counsel:
9 “As for you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father, and serve him wholeheartedly and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands the intention of every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you abandon him, he will reject you forever. 10 Realize now that the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary. Be strong, and do it.”
1 Chronicles 29:9-10
Serve God wholeheartedly and willingly. Seek Him and you will find Him, but if you abandon God, He will abandon you. Sobering words considering that Solomon very nearly, or actually did, abandon God. I like the ending too – Be strong, and do it. Some of you know that God has called you to something, and you are dragging your feet. Let these words echo in your heart and mind: “Be strong and DO IT!”
In Micah 5 we find the prophecy that indicates Bethlehem will be the birthplace of the messiah:
Now, daughter who is under attack,
you slash yourself in grief;
a siege is set against us!
They are striking the judge of Israel
on the cheek with a rod.
2 Bethlehem Ephrathah,
you are small among the clans of Judah;
one will come from you
to be ruler over Israel for me.
His origin is from antiquity,
from ancient times.
We also see that people have been ‘cutting,’ or wounding themselves in grief, for thousands of years. Every generation looks at the younger generations and sees them as inferior and more egregiously sinful than their own generation, and yet humanity has been fallen for thousands of years and languishes greatly apart from Christ…in every generation!
2nd Peter 2 is one of the most…unique chapters in the Bible. If you’ve ever thought about becoming a false teacher of the Word of God so that you can seduce women, get rich and live life easy, I would encourage you to listen closely to this chapter, because you will immediately be terrified. I know that likely none of you have thought of that, I’m being a bit tongue in cheek, but I am pointing out that the judgment for false teachers is terrible and terrifying. It also contains this fascinating little nugget of truth:
4 For if God didn’t spare the angels who sinned but cast them into hell and delivered them in chains of utter darkness to be kept for judgment;
2nd Peter 2:4
Not sure exactly what to make of that passage, but it is interesting and unsettling. We will focus on a parable of Jesus in Luke 14 about humility. Before we do, I’d like to point out a less well-known teaching of Jesus that is a command that many Christians either ignore, or more likely, they just don’t know about. And yet, I believe it is very important and obeying this command comes with a built in and eternal reward!
12 He also said to the one who had invited him, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. 13 On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
I love this parable mainly because it teaches an important spiritual truth, but also because it is remarkably practical, and almost shrewd. Indeed, I guess it really is shrewd, and Jesus doesn’t really make any bones about it. If you assume you are awesome and put yourself in the #1 ultimate place of awesomeness, then prepare to be humbled by finding out that you might not be all that, Jack. However, says Jesus, if you intentionally put yourself in the lowest position, you will find yourself honored when you are placed in a higher position. Let’s read Luke and talk a bit about this parable.
Here is the key thought:
11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
This is one of the more oft repeated sentiments in the Bible, first showing up in the Old Testament:
Remove the turban, and take off the crown.
Things will not remain as they are;
exalt the lowly and bring down the exalted. Ezekiel 21:26
he has toppled the mighty from their thrones
and exalted the lowly Luke 1:52
12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:12
14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:10
4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:4
5 In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time. 1 Peter 5:5-6
And other places too. God is opposed to pride and raises up the lowly. Most people don’t live in light of this reality, but I guarantee that if you do, that you will be eternally grateful that you did! John Newton, author of Amazing Grace and the former slave trader who was gloriously saved by Jesus, but never forgot that we was once lost and a wretch…walked in great humility. He closed one of his letters to a friend with this great exhortation:
From hence we may observe, that believers who have most knowledge, are not therefore necessarily the most spiritual. Some may and do walk more honourably and more comfortably with two talents, than others with five. He who experimentally knows his own weakness, and depends simply upon the Lord, will surely thrive, though his acquired attainments and abilities may be but small; and he who has the greatest gifts, the clearest judgment, and the most extensive knowledge, if he indulges high thoughts of his advantages, is in imminent danger of mistaking, and falling at every step; for the Lord will suffer none whom he loves to boast in themselves. He will guide the meek with his eye, and fill the hungry with good things; but the rich he sendeth empty away. It is an invariable maxim in his kingdom, That whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
John Newton, Richard Cecil, The Works of the John Newton, vol. 1 (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 252–253.
And another letter with a similar exhortation:
[Let us]… heartily wish and pray, that all who preach Jesus, may do it with more power and success than we can ourselves. We shall not be the poorer for their riches; but our Lord and theirs will take it well of us; and if he sees us simply content to take the lowest place, he will raise us up higher; for it is a standing law in his kingdom, that he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
John Newton and Richard Cecil, The Works of John Newton, vol. 6 (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 175.
Let us remember and live in light of that standing law of God’s Kingdom – they who humble themselves will be exalted, and those of pride will be brought low. May it be so.