In the days of the selfie and mass public narcissism, it is clear that Christians have an opportunity to be set apart. But how? Should we seek to practice humility by walking around, heads down, mealy-mouthed, and paralyzed by our total depravity? What exactly does Christian humility look like?
The Scriptures tell us that Moses was the most humble man on the earth (Num 12:3). We could learn a lot from his example, as it is recorded in the early chapters of Exodus. His immediate task was to save the Hebrews from Egyptian oppression and his ultimate task to make known the power and glory of the one true God. It is fair to say that he did not get off to a good start. First he murdered a man; then, humiliated, he spent the next 40 years tending sheep in the wilderness. By the time that the Lord told him to go back to deliver His people in His power, Moses had a litany of self-abasing excuses. Who was going to listen to an 80 year-old Hebrew, fugitive, shepherd with a speech impediment?
Humble as he may have sounded when he made these excuses, God was angry with Moses for this line of reasoning. He reminded Moses that it was He who had made his mouth; and, in no uncertain terms God made clear to Moses that the mission was about His own power, character, and glory. So Moses went. His humility was not displayed by his negative self-talk, but instead by his trusting boldness to follow the “I AM” before the throne of Pharaoh on a quest that would look to the world like an epic act of foolishness. His humility was his obedient confidence in the Lord alone.
By way of contrast, I’m only called to help my husband lead our 7 kids (and maybe a few friends)--not a whole nation!--toward the throne of heaven, but I can relate. Likely you can too. Most Christians at some point will be commissioned to a task that makes us feel completely out of our depth. Perhaps like Moses you have had a twisted mouth or even a murderous past that leave you feeling impotent and unworthy to do your job.
I have days when all I want to say is, “I can’t.” I can’t make one more meal. I can’t say the right thing to my hurting friend. I can’t get these siblings to stop fighting. I can’t be content with uncertainty about finances. I can’t explain long division any other way (well that one may be true) and I can’t be patient with someone who needs another way. I definitely can’t smile at anyone under the age of 10 after bedtime. I just can’t. I’m not the girl for the job.
Accurate as this assessment may be, to disobey the call of Christ is always pride, not humility. Moses asked, “Who am I?” God answered, “I will be with you” (Ex 4:11-12). Like Moses, our humility is not in our ability to slink like a worm, to self-deprecate at every compliment, or to lose hope in any success. It is to look away from ourselves entirely and draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, to the one who gives mercy and help in time of need (Heb 4:16). In The Everlasting Righteousness, Horatius Bonar gives us the secret to true Gospel-wrought humility by giving us a potent picture of humble, submissive, confidence in God leading up to the Exodus. It need not be fully understood (or even felt) but it can and must be trusted and obeyed. He wrote:
In the Passover-blood, the idea was chiefly that of protection from peril. The lamb stood sentinel at the door of each family; the blood was their "shield and buckler." There might be trembling hearts within, wondering perhaps how a little blood could be so efficacious, and make their dwelling so impregnable; disquieted, too, because they could not see the blood, but were obliged to be content with knowing that God saw it (Exodus 12:13); yet no amount of fearfulness could alter the potency of that sprinkled blood, and no weakness of faith could make that God-given shield less efficacious against "the enemy and the avenger." The blood, the symbol of substitution, was on the lintel; and that was enough. They did not see it, nor feel it; but they knew that it was there, and that sufficed. God saw it, and that was better than their seeing it.
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