The Hebrew word ‘anah (aw-naw’) conveys the idea of looking down, to depress literally or figuratively.
The humbling of oneself before God is expected of men, and so is presented in Scripture as a large theme.
“And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me.” (Ex. 10:3)
“Say unto the king and to the queen, humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory.” (Jer. 13:18)
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:10)
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” (1 Peter 5:6)
The Exodus Generation was led by God through the desert to humble the people, and to test them for the purpose of approval. Subsequent generations were to remember that ordeal as part of the national consciousness. “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.” (Deut. 8:2)
Five Reasons for Divine Humiliation
- To humble His people Deuteronomy 8:2
- To test people for the purpose of approval Deuteronomy 8:2
- To know the heart Deuteronomy 8:2
- To discern gospel obedience, or not Deuteronomy 8:2
- In order to do good to a people in due time Deuteronomy 8:16
The Lord led Israel through the wilderness, and sustained the people with manna that He might
do good to the nation in due time. “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.” (Deut. 8:16)
The concept of the virtue of humility can become an instrument of vice when practiced by the
ungodly. The Sons of Belial want to humble others for sinful purposes. “Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing.” (Judges 19:24)
God has promised to bless a nation which will humble itself before Him, provided they pray, and
seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways. “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 Chron. 7:14)
A tender heart that is not hardened to spiritual truth, will produce a humble attitude toward God,
resulting in gospel repentance and prayer. “Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord.” (2 Chron. 34:27)
The Lord will have mercy upon, and shall save, the humble person. “When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person.” (Job 22:29)
Andrew Murray said, “The humble man feels no jealousy or envy. He can praise God when others are preferred and blessed before him. He can bear to hear others praised while he is forgotten because … he has received the spirit of Jesus, who pleased not Himself, and who sought not His own honor. Therefore, in putting on the Lord Jesus Christ he has put on the heart of compassion, kindness, meekness, longsuffering, and humility.”
M.R. DeHaan used to say, “Humility is something we should constantly pray for, yet never thank God that we have.”
God will not forget the prayerful plea of the humble.
“Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.” (Psalm 10:12)
“When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.” (Psalm 9:12)
“Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear:” (Psalm 10:17)
The humble rejoice in the greatness of the Lord. “My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.” (Psalm 34:2)
The story is told of the famous inventor, Samuel Morse, who was once asked if he ever encountered situations where he did not know what to do. Morse responded, “More than once, and whenever I could not see my way clearly, I knelt down and prayed to God for light and understanding.” Morse received many honors from his invention of the telegraph but felt undeserving: “I have made a valuable application of electricity not because I was superior to other men but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone and He was pleased to reveal it to me.”
The man who is humble will seek God and live, not just for time, but for eternity. “The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God.” (Psalm 69:32)
Gospel humility is not only Godward, but is also manward.
“Do this now, my son, deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend.” (Prov. 6:3)
A truly humble man is hard to find, yet God delights to honor such selfless people. Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of this truth. Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her.
Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady.
The next morning the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. “It’s perfectly all right, Madam,” he replied. “Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend.” She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute (Our Daily Bread).
Humility must precede honor. “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility” (Prov. 15:33).
The proud man looks with contempt on others. He is the man who speaks disparagingly about those around him. He exalts himself at the expense of others. He builds his happiness on the unhappiness of those around him. Because of this, the proud man does not like to share credit or glory. Because of these facts, it is better to be with the lowly. “Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud” (Prov. 16:19).
Riches, honor, and life, will come to the person who is humble and fears the Lord. “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life” (Prov. 22:4).
Every virtue bears other good fruit. The spirit of the humble will be upheld, or sustained by personal honor. “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit” (Prov. 29:23).
The self-sufficient person has no need for God, and so desires no fellowship with Him. So be it. In contrast, the Lord is pleased to dwell with a person who is contrite over sin, and one who bears a humble spirit. God will encourage the heart of such a person. “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Isaiah 57:15)
In the kingdom of heaven, it is the humble person who is honored. “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:4)
The advocacy of Self Esteem theology is contrary to the kingdom of heaven. “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12)
Paul served the Lord with humility of mind. “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying-in wait of the Jews:” (Acts 20:19)
Lack of gospel humility is manifested in acts of non-repentance. “And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.” (2 Cor. 12:21)
Because Satan is a counterfeiter, there is a false humility that must be understood and rejected. “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. 20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” (Col. 2:18-23)
God will give more grace, abounding grace unto the humble. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6)
The life of a Christian is to be characterized by humility. “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
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