J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Pride and Humility – 1 Samuel 2:4-8

There is a reason that the Academy Awards are shown on primetime.  And there is a reason the Nobel Peace Prize is announced on the internet or on a blurb on the evening news.  Our society does not celebrate the meek, the weak, or even the peaceful.  Our society triumphs the strong, the victorious, and the glamorous.  Ironically, our society also triumphs the downtrodden, the miserable, and the chronic arrests of many a Hollywood starlet, but the peaceful, the quiet, and the humble do not merit much air time.  There isn’t a TMZ or Access Hollywood for the meek, but there is one for the gorgeous and the trashy.

Because God has been so gracious to us, we are to live humbly, working with all of our might, giving thanks to God.  But we are not to assume anything by our hard work:  not riches, not glory, and not comfort.

James 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

No, we are merely to be servants obeying.  We should not be striving to be secure from needing God.  You see, it is never God’s intention to move you into a place where you are not dependent upon Him.  God always requires you to live by faith because the place of faith is one of humility.  A humble faith recognizes God’s power and glory and our lack thereof.

Yet our hearts cry for self-sufficiency.  Our hearts cry out to need no thing and no one.  Oh, perhaps we understand that we need Jesus for salvation.  But whether we need Jesus to go to work, love our spouses, raise our children, and pay our bills…hmm we don’t so well there.  But this is the place that God calls His children. James 2:6,10

6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble…10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

This week, we are going to continue the song of Hannah.  In it we are going to see God’s opposition of the proud and the pouring out of grace to the humble.  And in it, I think we will much more challenged than you think.  Perhaps even, we will find ourselves at a few crossroads.  So with that in mind, let’s answer this Big Picture Question.

Big Picture Question: What does it mean that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble?

Remember, we are in the midst of listening to the song Hannah sang as she gave her son Samuel away into the ministry.  After years of wanting a child, God finally gave her one, and now she is giving her child away to God.  In singing this song, we are going to see our Big Picture Question answered.  Hannah is going to answer the question of God’s giving grace and opposing the proud by showing us 3 examples of God doing just that:  giving of grace and opposing the proud.  As we look at each one, we should see clearly God’s heart about pride and humility.  And any time we see God’s heart, we should examine our own.  Look at the first example.

Example One:  4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength.

We looked at this one briefly last week.  God is not just against people who are strong or people who have perseverance and fortitude.  Plenty of people in the Bible are like that:  Paul endured multiple visits to the prison.  David fought Goliath.  John the Baptist stood up for God and was beheaded.  Deborah, the judge, led Israel‘s army into battle.

All were strong, but they didn’t find themselves under God’s judgment.  What gives?  Well, God doesn’t judge people for being strong.  He judges them for trusting their strength and not His.  God has equipped many people, including some of you, with immense talent, wisdom, and strength.   And some of you guys are incredibly persevering.  If you persevere and do life trusting God and not yourself, then you recognize your weakness, your feebleness and God builds you up.  But if you run your business, go to work, raise your kids, argue on the internet all from your own wisdom, not daily admitting your weakness and need for God, He will ultimately humble you.

Folks, this truth might very well get us.  This is the hardest truth to live out in our culture.

  • Our hearts cry out not to be weak but to be strong.
  • Our hearts cry out for self-sufficiency.
  • Our hearts cry out for independence and freedom.

But there is so much more going on in your day to day other than just your strength and wisdom.  Your work, your taking care of your kids, your going to work and school, they are areas in which you are to trust God’s strength and not your own.  You know how you do that?  Just like a kid:  you ask and you give thanks.  Are you continually asking and begging God for wisdom, strength, and guidance?   If not, you’re the proud and will be opposed.  Do you continually give God thanks for all that you have?  If not, you think all that is yours came by your own hand, and you will be opposed.  Look at God’s heart against those who trust themselves in this way:

Example Two:  5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.

You know when you read this, you probably ask yourself, “Well when is this going to happen?”  When is God to reverse the fortunes of the rich and the hungry?  We ask that because we probably all know people who have no reliance on God, claim absolutely no faith and more than likely appear to be on a path to continue that way for the rest of their lives.  These are folks who are also insanely wealthy and successful and absolutely do not acknowledge God in any of the things they do or have.  Maybe the people you are thinking of aren’t rich, but they just have more than you do and that makes you angry.

So does this verse mean that no matter what, those folks are going to lose all their money and wind up in the unemployment line?  Well first of all, God does do that at times.  God does mete out His punishment on some by taking away the wealth that they depend upon.  We see this in scripture.  God crippled Pharaoh’s work force by rescuing the children of Israel in the book of Exodus.  In Isaiah 39, God promises to take away the riches, the homes, and even the children of King Hezekiah.  And MC Hammer lost all the money he made in the 90’s.  But God promises to humble those who do not trust Him ultimately at the end of all things

James 5:1-5 – Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

Scary stuff.  Trust yourself, trust your own talents and wisdom, trust your wealth and your possessions, and expect to be opposed by God.  So, does that mean that it is impossible for rich people to serve God?   No of course not, it just makes the life of service to God actually harder than easier.  Matthew 19:23-24 is perhaps the most famous passage that discusses this:  23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

People of wealth in this world have the daunting task of not trusting their finances for their life and future.  Despite having every earthly advantage, a person of wealth has to count those things they have as no advantage at all and cling to God.   Now, there are of course several rich, Godly people in scripture.

  • King David was insanely wealthy and called a man after God’s own heart.
  • Zacchaeus in Luke 19 was a rich tax collector.  Of course, after he professed faith in Christ, he paid back all the people that he robbed.
  • Joseph of Arimathea was rich enough to donate his funeral tomb for Jesus’ body.
  • Joseph called Barnabas in Acts 4 owned a ton of land and sold a good bit of it to further the work of the early church.

So apparently, people can be rich and be believers, but once they see their life as one that is given completely over to the work of the Kingdom, any riches they have are only to advance God’s kingdom.  It is fair to ask also, does this passage teach that the poor will become rich once they know Jesus?  You know I bet a message like that would be pretty popular, and if you watch preachers on TV or look at many of the most popular ministers around our country, that is exactly what they are promising.  You could probably fill a basketball arena with people if that was your message.

To understand riches, even yours, and make no mistake, in this world, most of us are considered insanely wealthy, we need to understand how God defines Godly wealth.  The Bible is very clear that once you have in Christ, you have riches.  In fact, you will be the richest of all people with a portfolio that is not dependent upon the stock market or the nation’s economy.  But Matthew 6 tells us that our striving really should be the striving to do works and actions that please God – these are called treasures in heaven and these treasures cannot be taken away from you.

But who wants that?  Who wants treasures in heaven when there some pretty sweet indulgences here are on earth?  I mean, a remote controlled fireplace just seems like more fun than treasures in heaven.  3 tiered digital cable just seems like so much more fun that eternity worshiping God.  Those things are not inherently wrong.  The question is just what are you pursuing?  The third example of how God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble can be found in the end of verse 5.

Example Three:  The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.

Now, first of all, Hannah didn’t have seven children.  She ultimately had five, so she is not speaking of herself here.  Seven is a number often used in the bible to demonstrate completion.  Hannah is saying God is going to bless the humble barren women and punish the proud woman.  A couple of questions should pop up when we read this verse though.  Does God promise that every barren woman will have children like Hannah?    Is this verse saying that every Peninnah in the world is going to be brought low and humiliated?

What this verse is saying is that God gives satisfaction and contentment to those who are weak and feeble.   That’s what these 2 verses are really emphasizing.  There is an ultimate coming of the kingdom where God makes right all that is wrong.  Those who are weak and humble with faith will be lifted up.  Those who are strong and prideful will be brought down.

You see, what’s going on here with Hannah, Peninnah and Samuel is not just an ancient culture’s catfight between a Godly woman and a shrew where one woman gets what she wants in order to shame another woman.  No, what happens in Peninnah being silenced and Hannah being is blessed is a picture of God’s grace to the weak and God’s opposition to the proud.  “This is no piddly affair – this (story) is a manifestation of the way God rules and will bring his kingdom.  Hannah’s relief is a sample of the way God works and of the way He will work when He brings His kingdom in its fullness.   The saving help God gave Hannah is a foretaste, a scale-model demonstration of how God will do it when He does it in grand style…every time God lifts you out of the miry bog and sets your feet upon a rock is a sample of the coming of the kingdom of God, a down payment of the full deliverance, the macro-salvation, that will be yours at last.”  Dale Davis

So if God is going to pour out grace to the weak and oppose the proud, we should rightly ask, “How does He do it?”   Does God design these things to happen or insure that they will happen?  There really are two ways that you can think about it:  God is either the architect designing the lifting up of one and the bringing down of another or God is a janitor cleaning up the mess on the back end.  You see, when you walk through the various circumstances of your life:  having plenty of money or scrimping by, feeling great or feeling lousy, two cars that work or two that break down all the time, God is either ordaining these things to happen so that He might pour grace out on the humble and oppose the proud or these things happen and God comes along afterwards to make sure that people are either given grace or judgment.  Yours and every other person in this world’s circumstances are sort of like a building.  Either God built the building to pour out grace and judgment or God is the custodian who cleans up the messes to make sure that people get grace and judgment.

And though it is difficult for our finite minds to wrestle with, God is most definitely an architect.  He insures that the weak are given grace and the proud are opposed because He is the one who ordains and decrees the events in your life to make it happen.  Though these raises a great number of questions, listen to Hannah speak of how God does these things.

6 The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

This kind of language is shocking to see in print, isn’t it?  God kills and God brings to life.  God ultimately sends people to hell and He rescues some to Heaven.  Doesn’t this make God a murderer?  Isn’t God unfair to do this?  You know what?  God would be a murderer and God would be unfair to send some to hell and others to heaven if it were not for one fact.  It is His divine right to do as He will.

Romans 9:20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?  21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the weak, God brings some to life and others He leaves to death, He saves some to heaven and resigns others to hell.  He is not unfair in doing this because you, each and every human on the planet, and all of creation are God’s pottery.  He made you and creation, and therefore has the right to do as He sees fit and wise.  We struggle with these problems because we sometimes see God merely as a parent and this in an incomplete picture.  God’s interaction with us more than our picture of a parent over a child.  Parents are only parents because the process by which God put in place for those things to happen works.  Whatever authority a parent has is only given to them by God.  But God creates out of nothing and therefore claims the sovereign right to do has He will with His creation.  He designs and architects yours and every other person’s life bringing some to life and others to death.  Pouring out grace to some and pouring out judgment on others.

So, how in the world can a person live in light of such truths if God is like that?  Do we become fatalistic and frozen into inaction?   Of course not, God’s sovereignty will cause one of two reactions.  Either you will hear that truth and have the Holy Spirit move you towards humility and your will cry out for grace.  God will meet that cry with grace.  Or you will hear this truth and your heart will be hardened, you will continue to trust in self, and ultimately, you will be opposed by God.  Look at verse 7

7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.  8  He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.

God is the architect.  Nothing happens in this world without His divine decree, and as Hebrews 1 tells us, God the Father through Jesus, upholds this entire world, sustaining it by the word of His power.  Right now, if your heart is proud, if you stand wanting to be self-sufficient apart from God, then expect God to oppose you.  If you think God is just here to bless your hard work like He is salt to a bland meal, expect to be opposed.  But if God is your architect, your strength, and your only hope in which to live in this world, expect God to lift you up and strengthen and encourage you.   God takes the needy from the ash heap and sits them with princes and gives them a seat of honor.  And if your heart is still struggling with this truth, you might think, “I’m still not convinced.  What Gives God the Right?”  Well, that question is answered in the end of verse 8.

For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.

God is the architect.  God is the creator.  He made the earth and all that is in it.  The imagery of the Lord’s pillars upholding the earth is vivid.  The imagery of pillars holding up the earth reinforces the truth that the only way in which the world is sustained and continues is that it is God who sustains it.  All of creation, including you, is completely dependant upon God’s sustaining power.  You will either submit your heart to this truth and cry out for grace, strength, and forgiveness, or your heart will dig in with pride and You.  Will.  Be.  Opposed.

One source of encouragement for you is found at the beginning of the James 2 passage that was used for our time of repentance.  Look at it again.  James 2:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  But God gives more grace.  God gives more grace.  God gives more grace.  Let’s begin to land this plane by asking this question:  Before God, are you the proud or the humble?

If you have a personal relationship with Christ and have by faith have asked Him to forgive you of your sins, that is the posture of humility.  You have ceased your war against God and your ceaseless worship of self.  If that is you, then you are humble and God’s grace and forgiveness are poured out on you.  But if you have never acknowledged Jesus as the perfect son of God who died for your sins, then you are the proud.  And God opposes you.  And if God opposes you, you will be frustrated in your life and ultimately punished for your sins in Hell.

In this moment, I invite you to examine your heart.  I invite you pray for the Holy Spirit to examine your heart praying, “Search me O God.  Try me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there be any hurtful way in me.  Lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23.  Ask the Holy Spirit to press into your life at this moment either confirming you know Jesus as your Savior or gifting you with faith in Him for the very first time.  If you hear this message and disregard it or hear this message and do not find Jesus as your forgiving Savior, you will be opposed by God presently and eternally as remaining faithless and without repentance insures that you are the proud.

But I pray for each and every heart here to cry out to God, “I am weak.  I offer you nothing, God.  Without you, I am completely sinful.  Thank you that Jesus died for my sins and rose again that I might live.  Please forgive me and transform me.  Lift me up and I am weak and helpless.”

Now having said that, I speak now to all that would claim Jesus as their Savior.   Positionally, you may very well be the weak and humble whom God has saved and poured His grace out on.  But in the day to day of your life, do you live out that truth?   Do you see God’s divine hand orchestrating your life so that you might be forever dependant upon Him and you embrace this forever dependence or do you just do what you want and then say catch phrases like “Everything happens for a reason” and think that is going to run and make sense of the mess that you make.

When we think God just makes good out of our messes, we reduce God to serving us.  Commands like, “All things work together for the good of those who are called by the Lord” become just a hope that God will serve us somehow in the midst of chaos.  The problem with that approach to life is that it leaves you wondering and waiting that God will do something good and ignoring or overlooking the good He is doing.  That position is incredibly proud and arrogant because it refuses to see what God is doing until things get better.  And because of that, there are many a Christian walking around today whose face looks like they have been sucking lemons because they are immensely unhappy.

But when you believe that God sovereignly ordains and works in all things, then the posture of the heart is one of humility.  You don’t have to wait for things to get good before you find joy.  The position of humility becomes one where God is pouring out grace and you can trust that when things are difficult God is actively working and making all things occur for His glory and you’re good.  There is no waiting.  There is joy in any circumstance.

Folks, I don’t want to discourage you from praying that God would alleviate your circumstances.  That is exactly what Hannah did.  She prayed and God blessed her.  She prayed humbly recognizing that she was not entitled to get what she wanted and that only God could help her.  And the blessing of Samuel didn’t leave Hannah entitled or proud.  It left her humbled as evidenced by this prayer that highlights that all of these things are within God’s power.

Folks, right now at SK, a lot of families and a lot of people are getting busted up.   We have depression, marital conflict, discontentment, disease, financial woes, and the list goes on and on.  My encouragement to you is this:  God pours out more grace.  Walk in humility before God.  Your circumstances are not an accident – on the contrary, God is purposefully placing these circumstances in your life.  Don’t wait for things to get better to be happy..  Ask God in humility and faith right now, that God would give you joy in the midst of what God has called you to.  Ask that God would pour out His grace and lift you up in that circumstance whether or not it ever changes.    Humility breeds contentment.  Pride breeds discontentment.

Let’s not be the people that think that health, wealth, and wisdom are the only blessings of God because He ordains both the sun and the rain.  Let’s pray that we could repent of our pride and entitlement and find ourselves enjoying God and all that He is doing whether or not our circumstances ever change.

September 30, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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