57. The Humble Kingdom

Focus on Christ Meditations: 57.  The Humble Kingdom

Jn 15:19,20   I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: `No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.

There is always a temptation, when we start talking about the kingdom and about Jesus reigning, to fall into triumphalism. We have been considering his power and authority and how he was and is in complete control and how he rules in the midst of his enemies. Now this should leave us feeling good about him and about our place ‘in him’, and that is right and proper, for indeed we are the children of God and we have got everything going for us.

Having said that, there is this thing that we are now focusing on which I can only describe as the humility of Christ in the way he came (his humble birth), the way he grew up (hidden from the eyes of the world for the first thirty years) and then, as we are about to see, the way he ministered. The temptation for the Jews when they read the Isaiah prophecies at least, would be to expect a conquering king as their Messiah, who was coming to usher in a new world order, one where the Roman overlords would be thrown out of Israel and Israel would be seen as a world-leading nation. Indeed, that is what many of them did expect. However, the reality was different and in three particular respects.

A ‘played-down’ ministry: And then Jesus came and we see some strange acts, for example, after healing the leper who he touched, Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone.” (Mt 8:4) What, we’ve just seen a miracle of healing and you want to keep it quiet? But then we find, “Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was.” (Mt 12:15,16) Large crowds healed and he tells them to keep quiet about the many miracles that occurred???? But it gets worse. Shortly after Peter has made his famous declaration of who Jesus was, a conversation ensues and, “he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.” (Mt 16:20) They have just been given revelation and now he tells them to keep quiet about it????

But then there is the episode on the mount of Transfiguration and “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Mt 17:9) They have just seen the glory of God on Jesus and he says don’t let anyone know what you just seen – well not yet anyway.  Mark also records the same thing happening when he cast out evil spirits (Mk 3:12) and also with the deaf semi-mute he healed (Mk 7:36).

So why did Jesus act like this? It appears that many if not most of these instances happened earlier in the three years of his ministry and we are left with the sense that Jesus didn’t want his following to grow so quickly that his time of ministry, revealing the Father and teaching his disciples, would be cut short. There appears a specific time frame in which he was working towards the Cross and so the will of God in that respect had to prevail. Thus he played down so much of his power and authority until near the end, when in fact he played it up to provoke the religious authorities to rise against him (the raising of Lazarus as we saw previously).

A life of persecution/opposition: Yes. the second of these two things that go against the ‘greatness and glory’ image that the Jews might have expected of their Messiah is the fact of the rejection he found among the religious leaders at least in his people – and he did nothing to ease it! That is the strange thing about Jesus’ rule. In the previous study we suggested various ways in which he was in absolute control and, from a human standpoint at least, we might have expected that power and authority to be used to convince the religious leaders that he was their Messiah – but he didn’t. In fact he seemed to do quite the opposite; he confronted them with their intransigence, self-aggrandizement, and hardness of heart. It is little wonder that this, in the face of human sin, provoked hostility as it still does today. But instead of trying to play it down, at the appropriate time he played it up to bring about his Father’s will, his death on the Cross. We have already noted in earlier studies the hostility that was there opposing him from early on, and which became the primary motivating force to bring about his death.

The Cross itself: Yes, the fact of the Cross was not foreseen, as we have previously noted, until Jesus himself started warning his disciples about it. If the prophetic pictures of the Messiah had largely been of a conquering king, the thought of death on the cursed Cross is the ultimate picture of weakness and humility, especially when we find out it was at the heart of the divine strategy to bring salvation to the world. Now wonder Paul could write, “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Cor 1:23)

Yes, we preach the glory and wonder of the Christ, the king ruling over God’s kingdom, the one seated at his Father’s right hand in heaven, ruling in the midst of his enemies – and it is essential that we do – but we must always balance it with the grace and humility of Christ if we are to be true to the record. And that will be true of our lives as well. Yes, on the one hand, we can rejoice at the wonder of being God’s children with all His resources available to us and with Him on our side, but on the other we must remember that He looks for grace and humility in us as we seek to be Christ-like, living out the will of God for our lives. Ours is not to demand, but to ask. Ours is not to be hostile but peace-loving. Ours is not to be arrogant but gracious. This is the kingdom of earth expressed through our lives and when we approach life like that, He will always be there for us, providing for us and revealing us for what we are – His children.

Knowing that we have a tendency to over-emphasise things, we will not leave these studies about the Christ on the ‘meek and mild’ note for that would not be an accurate representation. To hold the balance we will move on in the next studies to consider the varieties of ways the Lord moves in our lives today, and then see Christ as revealed in the book of Revelation.

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18. Aspiring to Humility

Aspiring Meditations: 18.  Aspiring to Humility

Col 3:12 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Prov 22:4  Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life.

Mic 6:8  And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God

Phil 2:3  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Titus 3:1,2  Remind the people to ….. show true humility toward all men.

Humility is another of those words that gets hardly any press in today’s world. Many will know of Dickens’ character, Uriah Heep who, as one Internet page has it, was ‘notable for his cloying humility, obsequiousness, and insincerity, making frequent references to his ‘umbleness’, and who, if you’ve ever seen David Copperfield on TV, leaves you memories of a groveling man constantly wringing his hands – but it was all false!

A dictionary definition of ‘humility’ might be ‘Absence of pride, having a modest outlook, or low or realistic awareness or view of one’s self importance,’ which nicely fits the apostle Paul’s exhortation, “I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Rom 12:3) For the Christian it is having a right estimation of who we are, and we’ll come back to this later.

Now interestingly, of course, in the Old Testament, apart from one oblique reference in Psa 45:4 the word is not used of God and His Messiah. Why? Because He is completely all-knowing and all-wise, and that applies as much to Himself as it does to everything else. God knows He is all-powerful, so He doesn’t need pride to boost His ego like we so often do. The person who truly knows himself or herself will truly be humble.

Perhaps the best example of that in the Old Testament was Moses who was described as, “a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” (Num 12:3) Moses had been through the mill, as we might say today, ground down by the failures of life – failure at forty as a Prince of Egypt who killed an Egyptian and had to flee, and who lived for the next forty years as a nobody on the backside of the desert looking after a bunch of sheep. In his final forty years he knew that all the power lay with the Lord. Hence he prayed much.

The teaching of the Old Testament shows how the Lord delights in the humble, for example, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way,” (Psa 25:9) and, “The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground,” (Psa 147:6) and, “For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.” (Psa 149:4) and, “He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.” (Prov 3:34 seen in  Jas 4:6 & 1 Pet 5:5)

When Jesus came, he taught, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt 11:29) Remember our definition, “realistic awareness”. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.” (Jn 5:19)

With this in mind we might remember his teaching, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5) Recognising our limitations is a sign of maturity and security (the insecure keep pretending and fail to see the big picture – see below). When we do recognize our limitations it will also affect how we view others: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Eph 4:2) This recognition is a part of wisdom: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (Jas 3:13)

The anointed, powerful and authoritative apostle Paul knew these truths which was why he could say, “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears.” (Acts 20:19) He knew the origin and source and power of his ministry – and it was not him!

But before we finish, we need to realise something that we have alluded to a couple of times: humility is the recognition of who we are, yes, those reliant on our Lord and upon His Holy Spirit, but the other side of the coin is equally valid: I am a glorious child of God with all the resources of God. I have the potential to get it wrong, but I also, with His help, have the potential for getting it right, really right! Humility accepts both bad and good. That simple little verse in the Song of Songs always stays with me: “dark I am yet lovely.” (Song 1:5a) By that she meant she was sun-burnt dark brown by having been out in the world, in the fields and vineyards, and yet she remained beautiful, an object of love.

And so it is with you and me. Humility faces failure and weakness and vulnerability, but it also recognizes glory and greatness in us that He has made. The apostle Paul declared, “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God,” (2 Cor 3:5) recognising that they were competent apostles but that competence came from the Lord. A little later he said, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Cor 4:7) We may be jars of clay but with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us we contain the glory of God. Seeing both things is humility. Hallelujah!

39. Harmonious Lives

Meditations in 1 Peter : 39  Harmonious Lives

1 Pet 3:8,9 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

When you come across verses like this and think about them in the light of the world in which we live, it makes you realise what the world is NOT!   If the world was actually like the things in these verses, how good it would be!  Let’s consider them.

“Finally.” Don’t be deceived by this word. Peter is being a classic preacher. He thinks he’s near the end but, as we’ll see, he’s got a lot more to say yet. But it is the end of the very specific instructions to slaves, to wives and to husbands and so in a sense it is a summary of how to live.

“Live in harmony with one another.” That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it! Paul had said exactly the same thing on Romans 12:16. When we think of the word ‘harmony’, we think of blending together in a good way. In music a harmony is two or more voices blending together to produce a pleasant sound. Harmony therefore, is about good relationships that flow together in unity and accord. Is that what Paul meant when he spoke of being “one in spirit and purpose.” (Phil 2:2)  I wonder how many homes there are, though, where this sort of unity, this harmony, is completely unknown?

“Be sympathetic.” When you are sympathetic you are understanding and caring, feeling for that other person. When you are sympathetic you draw close in understanding to that person and it is another aspect of the unity that Peter and Paul had in mind. When we are sympathetic we do not stand at a distance but come close to that other person. To be able to sympathise with someone means we understand what they are going through. The writer to the Hebrews, speaking of Christ, wrote, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence.” (Heb 4:15,16). He was saying Christ sympathises with us for he has been through the same things as us and because he does, that can give us confidence to draw near to him.

“Love as brothers.” Sometimes people struggle to put content to the word love, but I think a simple definition is warm affection, attachment, liking, benevolence or strong benign feelings for someone, or selfless, sacrificial, unrestricted good will towards all others.

But here Peter says “love as brothers.” He has in mind the specific relationship. The writer to the Hebrews said exactly the same thing (see Heb 13:1) Brothers are for one another. The family tie means there is a loyalty, support and togetherness. It is the unity of family.

Be compassionate and humble.” Compassion is a stage further on from sympathy. Sympathy means having understanding and siding with that person  but compassion takes us further and is about entering into the feelings of that person and feeling as they feel. That is true unity. Compassion brings us down to the level of the plight of the other person and instinctively it means we humble ourselves and do not hold ourselves above that person. No, we recognise that without Christ we are all the same. This knowledge is a good leveller.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” Yes, you are going to receive insults and there will be those who intend evil for you, but don’t be like them. Refuse to join in that game. See people as potential brothers and sisters in Christ and not as enemies. If you view them as enemies, then remember Christ’s instruction: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt 5:44) There it is, love and pray for them!

but with blessing.” That is the way to overcome. Don’t just be defensive about your enemies but seek to bless them. I am always mindful of the Lord’s instructions to Israel while in exile, that came through Jeremiah: seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jer 29:7) That is amazing! Bless your captors! This requires a completely different mindset, a godly mindset.

because to this you were called.” Realise that we have been called not so that we can just be saved from sin and hell, but so that we might live lives that reveal Christ to the world. It is a calling and the Spirit is there to enable us to fulfil that calling.

so that you may inherit a blessing.” As we are obedient and allow the Spirit to equip and enable and guide us, so blessing follows. Blessing in this case is what is waiting for us, God’s plan for us, our inheritance. It is simply goodness. Goodness will follow what we do when we live like this. It is very practical. This is how things WILL work out if we live this way. Let’s do it!

29. A Worthy Life

Ephesians Meditations No.29

Eph  4:1-3 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Paul now goes on to make an appeal for a certain sort of life to be lived out. He makes his appeal on the basis of who he is: As a prisoner for the Lord, then.” Previously when he spoke of being a prisoner he said, “Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus.” Now whether this present  ‘for‘ means a literal prisoner in jail, or whether he means a prisoner for the purposes of Jesus Christ, is unclear. Either is possible, but the key point is that he is coming as one who considers himself a prisoner of Jesus and for Jesus and therefore he comes from a position of integrity that can be followed. The word thenemphasizes this.

So now he makes his appeal: I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” He is going to go on and urge unity based on the truths that he has been expounding previously but immediately in these verses he is going to speak about the sort of attitude that is required for unity. This appeal is one that Paul uses a number of times: “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Phil 1:27) and “that you may live a life worthy of the Lord.” (Col 1:10) and “urging you to live lives worthy of God.” (1 Thess 2:12) and “as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” (2 Thess 1:5) and “we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling.” (2 Thess 1:11)

When we speak of someone ‘being worthy’ in this context we mean that they live up to the standard of, or matching the person or thing to which they are related. For example, we expect a person to live up to the standards of the high office that they exercise. We expect a member of the royal family or other national leadership to be an example, to be worthy of the role of leading a people. Thus here, Paul is saying, ‘I want you to live up to the calling that you have, of one called by God to be a light to the world. That is the basis for his appeal to a certain standard of behaviour. Do we check ourselves and think of the standard to which we should measure ourselves – God, His calling, the Gospel, the kingdom of God? As Christians we are not able to just live as we think; our standard is not what we think is right, it is the Lord Himself and His calling on our lives to be citizens of His kingdom, indeed His children.

It is with this standard in mind, and all that he has spoken about previously in this letter, that he makes a specific appeal: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Now this is a call to a way of thinking, an attitude and an outworking behaviour. The way of thinking is to “be completely humble and gentle.” Humility is about knowing who we are, really who we are – those who are sinners prone to getting it wrong and needing Christ’s salvation to change us. When we truly realise that that is who we are, then we will be humble, rightly esteeming ourselves, and because we do that we will be gentle with others because we know that we are frail, inadequate and prone to making mistakes, just like they do.

Indeed when we do recognise that, left to ourselves, we are no better than anyone else, then we can be patient, bearing with one another.” We know that we are just like them and therefore we, and they, need time to work things through, needing patience. Knowing what we are truly like, we will want others to treat us gently, putting up with us, coping with us as we struggle to work out our salvation or, as Paul puts it, we want others to ‘bear with’ us. And what is his final objective? It is that they “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” It actually requires effort to over come the negatives that we find rising up within us about other people. Oh how easy it is to criticise other people when they don’t match up to our standards, or when they don’t do something as well as you know you can do. At such times it is so easy for criticism to rise up and, of course, at the heart of it, we are forgetting what we are like ourselves.

So do you see the sequence that we have been considering? Paul starts out by saying in effect, Look I’m sold out for Christ, I’m his prisoner, so I think I have some grounds to speak as I do. Look, he goes on, I want you to aim to live up to the standards of your high calling, called by God to be lights to the world, examples of the Gospel in action. You are Christ’s body and the world needs to see that we are all one, so make sure you cultivate an attitude that enables that unity to operate, knowing who you are, being one with others, not looking down on others, but realising that you have the same weaknesses and tendencies for getting it wrong that your brothers and sisters in Christ have. Don’t let any wrong attitude therefore divide you. Be one. Can we take on board this teaching – really take it on board and live it out so it has visible effect in our locality? May it be so!

22. Pride

‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.22

Psa 52:1 Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long?

Do you ever read or watch the news and wonder? So often there are ‘celebrities’ or ‘great leaders’ or leaders who think they are great, and they come over with such confidence. They have money, stardom or position and they seem so full of themselves. Perhaps you have a college lecturer like that, or a boss at work. They look and sound so sure of themselves, at least in public, and their lifestyles leave much to be desired, and they are godless. In fact they even pronounce on our folly in believing in a make believe God. They don’t need any such belief to support them. They are strong, they are powerful, they have the ear of important people, and who are you after all? You are just some insignificant Christian who doesn’t cause half the ripples in the world that they do!

Boasting is a sign of pride and pride is an overblown estimation of self. Proud people think they are in control, think they are invincible, think they are all-important, think they can do what they like and get away with it. But proud people are wrong! Proud people, although they don’t realise it, have a major problem: “God opposes the proud” (Jas 4:6, 1 Pet 5:5). The apostle Paul taught, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Rom 12:16). Pride we said was an overblown estimation of self. We think our cleverness or our strength or our power has got us to the place where we are, and we don’t realize that it was in fact the grace and mercy of God. We also don’t realize how vulnerable we are. How quickly we fall when the flu strikes or a previously unknown pain strikes, and fear follows a frightening diagnosis. How easily are the mighty fallen!

The heading at the top of the Psalm from which today’s question comes, indicates that David wrote this shortly after he had fled from Saul, gone to the priest for help and been seen by a man by the odd name of Doeg. Yes, this is not so much a question for God as for those who oppose God. Doeg was an Edomite and the Edomites had so often been enemies of God’s people, but Doeg curried favour with Saul to cause upset and opposition against God’s anointed man, David. Doeg was Saul’s chief shepherd (1 Sam 21:7) and Doeg told Saul where David had gone (1 Sam 22:9) and when Saul ordered the priests to be killed, only Doeg would do it (1 Sam 22:18 ,19). Only an outsider would raise his hand against God’s priests. That day he killed 85 of them.

As David writes about this he writes, “Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?Doeg may think much of himself in his own eyes, but in God’s eyes he’s a disgrace! He may think, “I’m Saul’s chief shepherd, I’m an important man and I helped the king” but God calls him a disgrace. That’s the folly of pride; it wrongly assesses itself. It thinks it’s great but the most important Assessor of all, utterly disdains it! He says through Solomon, “I hate pride and arrogance.” (Prov 8:13)

Obadiah exposed pride when he prophesied against Edom, “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, `Who can bring me down to the ground?(Obad 1:3). Pride thinks it is secure. The Edomites thought that because they lived in mountain strongholds they were safe. In their pride they boasted, but the word came, I will bring you down, declares the LORD.” (Obad 1:4). David’s question in our verse today essentially is saying, “Why do you boast you silly person? Don’t you know you are answerable to God and you have no security before Him?”

This is the point, isn’t it, that the proud think they are all important and that they are secure, yet before God they are utterly weak. In that Psalm David goes on, “Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin(v.5). In other words, don’t you realize you are doomed because you oppose God? David derides him for his folly: “Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!(v.7). More and more the word of God reveals the folly of this proud man. He trusted in wealth. Presumably Saul had paid him well as chief over all his flocks. He grew strong in Saul’s court by doing Saul’s ungodly and unrighteous bidding and so, foolishly, thought he was completely secure. Don’t worry about the proud; leave them to the Lord!

When Peter, quoting Proverbs, wrote, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet 5:5) he prefaced it with, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” and followed it by, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.Our call is not to join the ranks of the proud, but to remember who we are, remember our frailty and weakness and need of God, and to get our perspective right. As Paul said, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.(Rom 12:3) When we do this, it will not only act as a safety check for us, it will help us realize again the wonder of who we are in God, because we will find ourselves meditating on the wonder of what God has done for us and in us. When we do that there is no room for pride. “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded” (Rom 3:27 ). Let’s make sure that is how it is.

5. The Meek

MEDITATIONS IN THE BEATITUDES – 5

Mt 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

‘Meek’ and ‘meekness’ are words rarely heard in the English language today and, indeed, the NIV only uses the word ‘meek’ three times, one of which is in our verse today. The only time the word ‘meekness’ is used is, “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you” (2 Cor 10:1). The NIV tends to use instead the words ‘gentleness’ and ‘humble’ though these don’t convey quite the same meaning. A dictionary definition of ‘meek’ is ‘humble and submissive’ and therein is the key to this verse. For instance, older versions of the Bible translate Num 12:3 as “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth.When the modern versions say he was very ‘humble’ they do not catch the particular characteristic of Moses that made him such a great man.

When we study Moses, one of the things that kept happening during his leadership of the new people of Israel, was that people grumbled or even rebelled. In every situation except one, Moses immediately turned to the Lord and submitted the problem to Him. This wasn’t just humility, this was submissiveness to God. Similarly when Paul above refers to the meekness of Christ, he is referring to his example of being totally submitted to his Father’s will.

Negatively, meekness is the absence of self-assertiveness and self-concern. Positively it is that acceptance of the will of God over all things. When people, as in Moses’ examples, rise up against us, the meek person simply goes to the Lord with the problem and accepts this as something the Lord has so far allowed to happen. Meekness is a characteristic of the prayer the believers prayed in Acts 4:23-30. They had just been threatened by the religious leaders and as they come to pray, they DON‘T pray against those religious leaders, they simply acclaim the Lord’s greatness (v.24-26) and then declared their acceptance of all that had happened as being God’s will (v.27-28) and simply asked God to give them boldness to declare the Gospel while God would do signs and wonders (v.29,30). Observe that in all that they simply sought the Lord’s will in all things. So how does this fit in with the previous beatitudes?

First there was the need for a recognition of our spiritual poverty, second there was the requirement that that be accompanied by a mourning or grieving for that spiritual poverty, and now third, there is the requirement of coming to a place of submitting totally to God’s will. That surely is one of the primary requirements for a person to come to Christ, that they submit to God’s way of salvation, through Christ on the Cross, and allow him to lead them from that time on. How simple those words: “allow him to lead them”. What does it mean? It means that Christ will lead us by his Holy Spirit to bring our lives in line with his Father’s will. This means a change in character, a change in attitude, a change in desires, a change in goals, a change in behaviour. It is a complete submission to God’s plan for our individual lives. As we go through life and upsets come, we turn to the Lord and ask, “What do you want here, Lord?” That is meekness.

But what about the second part of the verse? Inherit the earth? When we speak of an inheritance we mean something that is coming to us that has been left to us following the death of a family member. In this case, as a result of Jesus’ death, it means all that is now ours as a result of what Jesus has achieved on the Cross (to see this more fully, go to the series of meditations that consider the effects of Jesus’ work on the Cross). Now part of this, which many people miss, is that as a result of God’s work of salvation in us, we start to enjoy living, we start to enjoy this world, in a completely new way. We start to appreciate life, we start to appreciate this world as God’s wonderful provision for us.

“The earth” is shorthand for, everything God has provided for us on this planet. No longer are we struggling and striving to get pleasure, to achieve, to get on top of this world. Suddenly now, as we submit ourselves to God’s perfect will for our lives, we start enjoying life in a new way. There is peace, harmony, contentment, enjoyment. As we come to rest in God’s will we inherit life, new life, stress-free life, peaceful life, harmonious life, here and now. What a blessing! That all comes as we give ourselves to the Lord and to His will. That is meekness and that opens the doorway for God to bring to us the blessings of life in this world that He desires to bring. Enjoy!

Humility

Readings in Luke Continued – No.25

Lk 7:7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.

Just a few extra words. Just before the centurion says this we find Luke recording him saying, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.” and Matthew records virtually the same thing. Both of them record this man’s humility but Luke having added earlier the facts that the Jews came on his behalf to Jesus, now adds in this simple sentence by way of explanation. It’s like the centurion says, this is why I didn’t come to you myself, because I don’t count myself worthy to come to you.

Now this is quite amazing because this is a centurion who is an officer of the Roman army and they are the rulers over this country – the Jews are subservient to them. You would expect it to be the other way round, the Roman not deigning to go to Jesus. Luke has obviously caught something when he has been collecting his materials for his Gospel. He caught the remarkable humility that there was in this man. The others hadn’t picked up on this but, as we’ve said previously a number of times, Luke is a doctor and doctors pick up on people. I wonder, would we have been a Matthew and given this man a reasonable but somewhat cursory coverage, or would we have been like Luke and picked up on the unusual nature of this man. Are we people watchers, do we take in what they are really like, because that is what comes out here in this simple verse.

Humility appeals to Jesus. It is the sign of a person who knows what they are really like. John the Baptist’s teaching and preaching brought people to their senses, made them face up to themselves. John made them aware of their moral failures, of their need to get right with God. Jesus then came to a prepared people with the offer of God’s love. This Roman is aware of spiritual realities. In what follows, he knows who Jesus is – a man with authority to change things. He recognises in Jesus authority over sickness in the same way he has authority over soldiers. He says a word and they jump. Jesus says a word and illness goes. This man has spiritual perception far greater than most of the Jews over whom he ruled. He realises that Jesus is someone special. Anyone less would not have this authority that Jesus has. This is spiritual authority and that is much, much greater than simple human authority which relies on human power or force to exercise it. No, Jesus has a power that cannot be explained humanly, a power to change human bodies. This Roman soldier recognises that here is someone far higher up the spiritual-social scale!

Young people speak of ‘blagging it’ meaning they bluff it out and get what they can by pushing their luck. This centurion doesn’t do that because he is aware of the realities of this situation. He may have the human authority but Jesus has the spiritual authority and you can’t make someone exercise authority; that’s the nature of it. It’s what the person who has it exercises – if they want! This man also recognises that in the authority that Jesus has is included knowledge, knowledge of the realities of a situation and of people. He knows he can’t bluster and throw his weight around with Jesus because Jesus will see right through him, right through his vulnerability, his weakness in concern for his servant. Indeed that concern for his servant indicates a compassionate heart and compassionate hearts aren’t brash, they are gentle. This man has an incredible awareness of the reality of who he is, of his situation, and of Jesus.

So what is humility? It is the awareness of the truth of the situation about ourselves. Humility sees me exactly as I am. It knows my faults and my weaknesses and therefore it doesn’t allow boasting. Yet, it will also see the reality of the good things about me and so it will not allow any false modesty. In Psalm 45, the writer, speaking about the Lord going out like a vanquishing king, says, “In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness.” (Psa 45:4) Do you see that? Humility put on a par with truth and righteousness. It is important to the Lord because it is a sign of a person having a right assessment of himself in God’s world. Solomon wrote, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Prov 11:2) This right assessment of oneself brings wisdom with it. When you know yourself, you know what you should do, what you are capable of doing. But this can work both ways. James instructed, Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (Jas 3:13) Humility brings forth wisdom but it also comes from wisdom. The wise know their true position and are humble. Paul instructed, “think of yourself with sober judgment,” (Rom 12:3) which is the same thing.

Humility is therefore an important thing before God. Peter instructed, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Pet 5:5,6). Proud people have an overblown view of themselves. A humble person knows who they are – rightly! God wants people who fit rightly in His world which means they know and understand who they are, how they fit in and how they stand before Him. The centurion was an excellent example of humility. We need to follow him.