Examples and Benefits of Self-Humiliation
“And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? Because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days.” (1 Kings 21:27-29)
“Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the Lord.” (2 Kings 22:19)
“If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles. 7:13-14)
“And when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying, They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance; and my wrath shall not be poured out upon Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. And when he humbled himself, the wrath of the Lord turned from him, that he would not destroy him altogether: and also in Judah things went well.” (2 Chronicles. 12:7,12)
“And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.” (2 Chronicles. 20:3)
“And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplication, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.” (Daniel 9:3,21-22)
“And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end.” (Deuteronomy 8:3,16)
Ahab was one of the most wicked kings of Israel. His proud heart had almost entirely forgotten that the people over which he ruled had ever been true worshipers of the God of heaven. He persisted in the most extreme idolatry, despite all the warnings and judgments of God upon him and the kingdom. He considered Elijah, the prophet of God, as his enemy and a troubler of Israel. In the language of the prophet concerning him, we have his condition in a few words: “thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD” (1 Kings 21:20); and the sentence of Jehovah against him was, that he and all his posterity should be “cut off forever” for his provocation of God and causing Israel to sin. But what wonderful mercy we see in God toward erring man! When Ahab heard the sentence of death pronounced upon himself, he humbled himself in the deepest repentance. The wrath of God was turned from him in a measure, and the sentence revoked. Even in the rigid dispensation of Sinai there was mercy for those who sought God in the valley of humiliation.
Josiah, king of Judah, had a tender heart toward God. He did all he could to repair the house of God that had been made desolate by the sins of his fathers, but the book of the law had been lost. When this was found and read to the king, he humbled himself before the Lord, and obtained mercy and favor, and his eyes did not see the judgments God had pronounced upon that place. He not only humbled himself, but gathered all the prophets, priests, men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem together, and read the book of the law in their ears. He made a solemn covenant with God to keep all His commandments with all his heart and soul. All the people stood to the covenant. This is where God’s approval was found, and it teaches us the lesson with emphasis, that “God giveth grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
At the dedication of Solomon’s temple, God marvelously witnessed His acceptance of the sacrifices and the building of the house for the earthly dwelling place of His name among men in that dispensation. He appeared to Solomon and made a covenant with him to always keep His eyes and ears open toward that place, to see and hear all who humbled themselves before Him.
King Rehoboam also found mercy in humiliation, when otherwise he would have been destroyed by the heathen king. God’s compassion was extended toward him and all Israel when they humbled themselves.
King Asa found great grace when he was very humble. A very short prayer, though full of faith and confidence, caused the Lord to turn the battle against the Ethiopians, and gave victory to His people, verifying His promise to the king and all who live before Him in deep humility. “The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.” (2 Chronicles 15:2) What wonderful depths of meaning in these words, teaching us the importance of clinging unto the Lord through perfect obedience!
The gracious deliverance wrought in Jerusalem under King Jehoshaphat, was granted because of the humble attitude of the king and the people. Daniel received answer to his prayer through his humiliation before God. God gave Nebuchadnezzar great honor and a mighty kingdom, but when his heart was lifted up and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his throne and compelled to go through the most severe humiliation. His son Belshazzar came to his sad end because he did not humble his heart before God.
King Saul was exalted to be head of the tribes of Israel when he was little in his own sight, but his deplorable experience of being dethroned, and at last his disgraceful death, stands out in history like a danger signal to us all, warning us to keep far off from the rock of self-exaltation, upon which thousands have been wrecked in the past.
To secure the safety of vessels along the Pacific coast and near the entrance of harbors, where there are hidden rocks lying near the surface, there is placed near each of these dangerous spots a buoy. Some of these are so constructed that the motion of the waves rings a large bell. Others blow a loud whistle, keeping up their doleful sound day and night constantly. In passing one of these, away out in the ocean, a thought of sadness comes to the heart, that perhaps there has some time been a wreck and some poor sailor has gone to the bottom. Then a thought of gratitude takes its place; for were it not for this danger signal, our ship might strike this same rock and we might also sink into a watery grave.
Oh, my dear brethren, we need not look around us very far to see some of these sad wrecks! A poor perplexed soul who once enjoyed the experience of sanctification and was called to the ministry, but who lost his experience, then tried to follow the ministry by joining one of the popular sects, fell into utter darkness. He came to ask advice, and then told his sad experience. In the conversation he said, “I see holiness wrecks all over this country.” After he left I was solemnly impressed with his case, but the term “holiness wrecks” conveyed a more solemn thought to me than anything else. As I meditated in silent reflection upon the subject, I could see all around, some sad living wrecks—living, yet dead; for all they have in resemblance of life is a profession. Zealous in work, but, like the church at Sardis, possessing a name to live, but dead.
From my early Christian life I have noticed cases of hopeful, bright, thoroughly saved, useful, men and women, who were indeed greatly used of God and whose lights shone with heavenly brilliance all about them; but suddenly a perceptible dimness began to grow over them like when a fog arises from the sea and obscures the bright rays from the sun, and gradually in some instances and suddenly in others, the light has gone out. Many a young convert of superior natural ability and a great measure of grace, who in his early period of divine experience had unusual power of the Holy Spirit, has suddenly dropped out of usefulness and simply remained a nominal professor. In some sad instances they came to a disgraceful end, leaving a stigma upon his own character, and a reproach upon the precious cause of Christ.
Many of the most prominent men in the ministry in the last quarter-century, and some who have in this very evening light reformation caused many to turn to righteousness, are today among the fallen, and may appropriately be called “holiness wrecks.” The fact is indeed a most alarming one, and every saint of the most high God should be awakened to prayerful diligence in self-examination of his own heart; then with open heart and upturned face to God cry out in the language of the Psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
What is the cause of these failures? Ah! the answer has already been given in the experiences of men in Bible times. The taproot of all the trouble is self-exaltation. It is the hidden rock that has broken in pieces many a beautiful bark on life’s ocean, and caused its precious cargo to sink and be lost; where, if true humility had been maintained and practiced, there would have been a successful voyage over the waters and a triumphant entrance into the glorious haven of rest, where a crown of life awaits the faithful.
The apostle Paul to Timothy speaks of some who made shipwreck, and in the same epistle tells how men became drowned in destruction and perdition. The only place of absolute safety is in deep humility— “under the mighty hand of God.” (1 Peter 5:6) He knows just how to guide us past the dangerous places where others have made shipwreck. One of the most astounding facts is that the greatest danger of self-exaltation lies nearest the most glorious victories. The enemy knows this, and it is necessary that we know it, too.
The more there is to be done for God the more need there is of true Bible humility. We are all seeking to be more useful in the hands of God, and ofttimes we fail to find this place, because it is down so low in the path of humility that to take such a path seems to lead us into complete uselessness, and the qualifications we have sought seem to prove to us to be disqualifications. Now we must learn to become disqualified. This is what God wants to teach us. He only can work perfectly in us when we are wholly abandoned to Him.
We have never been over this way before, and know not the dangers in the way. Our wily enemy knows our ignorance and utter helplessness when left to our own judgment and wisdom; therefore, it is no wonder that man totally fails when taking counsel with his own soul, and it is no wonder that our loving Father demands of us such perfect obedience and humility to Him. He wants to do for us. He wants to protect us from these dangers and glorify His name in us, and will most certainly do so when we have properly humbled ourselves under His hand. The potter cannot shape the clay until all the hardness has been taken out; then he can accomplish his design. So it is with us in the hand of God. Let us seek the very best qualification, and upon which every other one depends—Bible humility. Then our loving Father can have perfect right of way in us, and by sinking us out of sight to all human usefulness, can exalt us under His own mighty hand.