Thursday, November 3, 2016

Christ in the Proverbs: Proverbs 11:2 --- Defining Humility

Proverbs 11:2
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
    but with the humble is wisdom.

Man does not get to define humility.  Only God's Word can rightly define humility.  The man who thinks he can define humility apart from the Lord, only shows he is proud, for humility must be defined in the light of who the Lord is, and who man is in relationship to him.

Trying to define man apart from the Lord, is like trying to describe the moon without the sun, an ax without an axman, or a migrating bird without its Creator.  The moon might boast about the glory of its light.  But its boasting is false, for all of its light is derived from the sun.  The ax might boast in its ability to cut down a forest.  But its boasting would be false, for it could do nothing apart from the man who made the ax and swings it.  A migrating bird might boast about its wisdom to migrate to warmer climes each fall.  But its boasting would be false, for it is the Lord who implanted that wise instinct.

In a similar way, image bearers who boast in themselves, are like the moon, forgetting that all glory reflects its Creator and Redeemer.  Image bearers who boast in themselves, are like that ax, forgetting our Maker and Keeper, who is the source of all our strength.  Image bearers who boast in themselves, are like that migrating bird, forgetting that there is only One who gives wisdom, and he is the Lord.

There is a link between this verse and the previous verse about a false balance or false weights used to cheat in selling and buying.  Duane Garrett puts it like this: 

"God delights in 'accurate weights' (weights that are as heavy as they should be and not lightened for purposes of fraud); the arrogant, however, have no dignity at all but only disgrace (literally 'lightness').  Both false weights and arrogant people claim to be 'heavier' than they really are."[1]

Humility is seeing ourselves as we truly are in relationship to the Lord.  Image bearers, like the moon, an ax, and migrating birds, must be defined in relationship to something or someone else.  In the case of human beings, who were created to reflect the triune God and his character, we are defined in relationship to him.  And, since the Lord and his Word define all reality, we must understand humility from what he has revealed to us in his Word.

Jesus Christ is the Lord incarnate, who took to himself our human nature.  One morning, Jesus was teaching a crowd by the Sea of Galilee.  Peter and some of his fellow fishermen washed their nets on the shore, while Jesus preached from one of their boats.  After the sermon, Jesus said to Peter, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."  Peter replied, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets."

Peter exhibits a certain amount of reverence for Jesus in his words.  He calls him "Master," and he obeys his word.  Still, however, one can detect a reluctance in his words.  After all, they had just cleaned the nets, were tired from working all night, and Peter's area of expertise was fishing.

But then a miracle that revealed the glory of Jesus occurred: 

"And when they had done this [let down their nets], they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.  They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink."

Then, we learn Peter's reaction to Jesus:

"But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'"

Notice, Peter's humility.  It came from seeing who Jesus really was.  Before seeing the Lord's glory, Peter called Jesus, "Master."  After seeing Jesus, Peter calls him, "Lord," the same word that is used for Jahweh (I AM) in the Old Testament.  Peter came to see who Jesus really was and the result was humility.  He "fell down at Jesus' knees." 

Humility is a true assessment of ourselves in the light of the Lord's character and glory.  Four other corollaries follow from seeing the character and glory of the Lord:

First, humility will acknowledge our sins and our sinful nature.  Peter saw the Lord's glory, and the result was a confession of his sinful nature:  "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."

Second, humility will receive the forgiveness Jesus came to bring us through his cross.  We see our Lord's response to Peter's confession of sin, when he says, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men."

Third, humility will receive Jesus' kingdom commission to bring fallen sinners into his kingdom.  He says, "from now on you will be catching men."  Jesus' commission is to bear his image, his name, and his saving message in and to a fallen world.

Fourth, humility will seek to live in the presence of Jesus at all times.  The disciples lived in the presence of Jesus.  Verse 11 says, "And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him."  To attempt to bring sinners into God's kingdom requires the presence of Jesus.  No one else has the power to change the heart of sinners or our own, except our Lord.  But in Proverbs 11:2 Solomon spoke better than he knew.  "With the humble is wisdom" --- yes, indeed, for Wisdom incarnate, the Lord himself is with his people.

[1] Duane A. Garrett, New American Commentary: Proverbs, 125.

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