"But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word." — Isaiah 66:2
Humility has fallen on hard times. Our world is not a place that generally rewards humility. If there ever was a "me first" generation, it is ours.
There are many examples of pride and arrogance around us and within us. We even use the term "humble brag" as part of our everyday vernacular. Our civilization is so immersed in vanity that we hardly even notice it anymore. And being self-centered pays these days. It pays big! The world is delighted with those who put themselves in first place, at least for a season.
Do you know what I have noticed in my life? I see the pride in other people far more quickly than I see the pride in my own life. Jesus addressed this same human tendency and certainly did not fail to rebuke it, saying, "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3). How natural it is to recognize the faults of others while explaining away our own!
The Word of the Lord is clear in Isaiah 66:2. God looks with favor to the one who is humble and contrite. The world may devalue those who live in humility, but the Lord looks upon them with approval (1 Peter 5:5).
As with all things related to obeying God, humility demands we choose to please the Lord more than we crave
the approval of people.
While it is tempting to live for the applause of those around us, it is wise to remember how fleeting the admiration of the watching world truly will be. Though the world's acceptance may be quickly gained, it is just as easily lost. Winston Churchill was once asked if it thrilled him that the hall was packed and overflowing every time he made a speech. "It's quite flattering," he replied, "But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech, I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big."
Ultimately, a life spent chasing the world's approval leaves an emptiness that can never be filled. Striving to please a self-absorbed world is a fool's errand. Cheers will inevitably turn to jeers. Instead, we must give our hearts and minds to the pleasure of the Lord.
Whom is it that pleases the Lord? According to Isaiah 66:2, it is the one who trembles at the Word of God. When was the last time you had a visceral reaction to what the Lord proclaimed in His Word? Have you ever opened the Scripture, considered the holiness of God, recognized all of your sin and disobedience, and found yourself trembling at the reality of the magnitude of God's righteousness?
Humility and trembling should be complimentary responses for the one who meditates on the glory of God! In a culture obsessed with self, we don't tremble in reverent awe at much of anything. Where there is no humility, there will be no trembling. This humility of which I speak does not come naturally. As a matter of fact, it is quite foreign to the flesh! It is a response that must be cultivated in our hearts as we meditate on the chasm between who we think we are and who God is revealed to be. Though we cannot know Him fully, we can immerse ourselves in meditating on His holiness. The impact of doing so is immeasurable!
If God looks with favor upon the one who trembles at His Word, we must prioritize the cultivation of humility in our hearts.
When we become increasingly aware of our sin and grow more disgusted by it, we become less impressed with ourselves. When we rightly understand our sin and the magnitude of what the Lord has done for us, the results must be a broken and contrite heart. We must tremble at the Word of God.
George Mueller was once asked about the secret to his life and ministry. His response was startling. He said, "There was a day when I died, utterly died; died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends, and since then I have studied to show myself approved only to God."
May we find the grace today to live in humility and once again tremble at the holiness of God. It is in that moment of desperation we will find all we need to live in strength and spiritual power.