Humility Preserves

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I am reading through the book of Numbers during my time with the Lord.  I read a passage in Numbers 16 the other day that I do not remember ever reading or hearing about.  I grew up going to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, youth group on Wednesday, and AWANA.  I went to Bible College at Cedarville University and have been a part of numerous Bible studies.  Somehow, I have missed this story.  The humility and love for the people of Israel challenges and convicts me.

The story I am referring to follows a familiar story that many of us know:  the rebellion of Korah.  Korah was a son of Levi along with 250 chiefs of the congregation rose up before Moses questioning his authority.  Throughout the entire story of Korah’s rebellion Moses’ humility continues to shine through.  “When Moses heard it, he fell on his face.” (Numbers 16:4).  Later God spoke to Moses and told Moses to separate the congregation of Israel from Korah and all his followers and their families and again we see the humility of Moses, “And they (Moses and Aaron) fell on their faces and said, ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all the congregation?” (Numbers 16:22)

The rest of this story ends with God opening the earth and Korah, his followers, and their families are swallowed up by the earth because of their pride.  What I do not remember ever reading was what happened after Korah and his family and followers were swallowed by the earth.  As you read these verses focus on the humility of Moses and Aaron.  We have seen it in the story of Korah, but Moses’ and Aaron’s humility continues to be what shines forth from them.

But on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, “You killed the people of the Lord.”  And when the congregation had assembled against Moses and against Aaron, they turned toward the tent of meeting, and behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared.  And Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying “Get away from the midst of this congregation, thay I may consume them in a moment.”  And they (Moses and Aaron) fell on their faces.  And Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer, and put fire on it from off the altar and lay incense on it and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the Lord; the plague has begun.”  So Aaron took it as Moses said and ran into the midst of the assembly.  And behold, the plague had already begun among the people.  And he put on the incense and made atonement for the people.  And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped.  Now those who died in the plague were 14,700, besides those who died in the affair of Korah.  And Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting, when the plague was stopped. (Numbers 16:41-50).

God is ready to consume the Israelites with a plague because of their pride, and Moses and Aaron intercede for the people of Israel and stave off their complete destruction and annihilation.  God was showing forth His justice, and Moses and Aaron were seeking God’s mercy, which He granted.

Consider how this applies to our own lives.  Do we sit back and watch or do we intercede on behalf of others.  Moses and Aaron did not just intercede, they went “quickly” and “ran” to intercede on behalf of the people of Israel.

I ask myself, “Am I quick to intercede, or do I think it is their just punishment?”  God saw the sin of pride rampant in the camp of the Israelites, and the honor of humility in the hearts and actions of Aaron and Moses.  It’s easy to see in this story.

Can we see pride or humility in our own story?  The closer we walk with God on a daily basis the greater our humility becomes.

What are you on a quest for?

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Have you ever been on a quest?  I love a good adventure.  I love to read about an adventure in a good book, watch a good adventure on TV, and hear about another’s true life adventure.  Life in its greatest sense is an adventure.

Life with God is an even greater adventure.

We never know when we trust Him where it will take us, who we will meet, or the challenges we will have to overcome.  Yet, so many refuse to trust Him because they are afraid of the risk.

Afraid of the unknown.  Afraid of the adventure that will lie before them.

Afraid of the cost.

We get into our comfort zones and refuse to leave them.  Not willing to “move from the boat to the water.”

We keep an unseen ledger sheet in our heads and our hearts and every cost is weighed out by what is to be gained.  Too many times our fear of the cost outweighs the risk of our faith.

What would it cost vs. what we would gain revolves in a never ending battle in our hearts and our heads.

So what if:

  1. We confessed our sins and our faults to others. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16).

When we have secret sins that would mortify anyone if they knew about them, do we confess them?  What would it cost us if we openly and honestly confessed our sins?  (It’s not like God is asking us to publish our sins on every form of media possible.  Rather, He is asking us to be open with a few people that will hold us accountable.  Plus, those we have hurt or offended must be included in this process so forgiveness can be granted).  We may lose our dignity.  We may lose our reputations.  We may lose favor.  When we keep on sinning or cover up the sin, it becomes a cancer that eats away at our very souls.  We never have the chance to be healed from the sin “that so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1).  Confession brings about healing.

  1. We loved as Christ loved us. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8).

The cost of love is sometimes the highest cost of all.  “But God demonstrated His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).  The love of God cost Him His Son’s life.  Why?  “To cover a multitude of sins.”  (I Peter 4:8).  Jesus’ righteousness became our righteousness.  What if we loved someone else so much, our love covered their sins and changed them from an ugly cancer to a new creation in Christ?  We do not have the ability to save them, but our love may be what causes them to seek Christ.  Remember Jesus’ love for the woman at the well.  What about the woman caught in the act of adultery?  What about His faithful love for us?  What if our love covered a multitude of sin in someone’s life and they were radically changed?

  1. We had the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17, 18).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had so much faith in who God was that they were willing to tell the King, “Whether we live or die, we believe that God is God.”  That is the faith of a mustard seed.  That is the faith that moves mountains.  Faith, that whether our prayer is answered how we pray it or not “Whether we live or die,” still believes that God is who He says He is.  Then thanking Him for the work that He is doing in our lives through every situation, we resolve to walk through faith “making known His deeds among the people.” (Psalm 105:1).  Sometimes deliverance does not come the way we pray, because God is doing a different work in us than answering our prayers the way we pray them would allow.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were delivered from the fiery furnace.  It was many years, before Joseph saw the hand of God in the situation he had been placed. Yet, he never changed who he stood with…the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Through all the trials that Joseph endured, God changed him.  The boy who boastfully proclaimed his dream of ruling over his brothers and strutting around like a proud peacock in his coat of many colors was transformed through his years in Egypt into a humble man who was able to confidently say, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20).  The cost of faith is great.  We may never know like Joseph the good that God can bring from an evil situation, but we must always be confident that if we are walking by faith and able to pass the tests of morality and humility as Joseph did, God will mean it for good.  We must have faith!

  1. We had the meekness/humility of Moses. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Now the man Moses was very meek (humble), more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3)

Humility often costs us our pride.  We may have to confess our sins.  We may have to admit someone else is right.  We may have to swallow our pride and say that both opinions are right, but I choose to let your opinion or your way stand.  Humility is costly, but pride is costlier.  Humility may cause momentary pain, but pride usually costs us relationships.  Look at the cost of Satan’s pride.  Look at the cost of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride.  Look at the cost of Peter’s pride. (Before the cock crows three times, you will deny Me.)  Humility causes momentary pain with long term benefits.  Pride causes momentary satisfaction with long term pain…not just for us but for those we lord our pride over.  Will humility be your banner or will pride be your grave marker?

  1. We had the courage of Peter. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’” (Matthew 14:28).

For each of these things – confession of sin, self-sacrificing love, faith, and meekness – courage must be used to execute them.  The boat seemed safe.  Ask the other disciples if they felt safe in the boat?  Ask Peter if his risk of fear vs. courage was worth the sensation of looking at Jesus while walking on the water?

We are all on a journey, a quest.  We all must answer the questions: What is the cost?  What is the gain?  The journey with Him is the choice we must all make.  What are the things we must pack as we go on this quest of following God?  Will you take with you confession of sin (vulnerability and authenticity), self-sacrificing love, faith, humility, and courage? Or will you take secrecy of hidden sin that eats away like a cancer, selfishness, doubt, pride, and fear?  Will you reach for momentary pain and long term benefits or momentary satisfaction and long term pain?  Only you can make the choice.

Humility and Honor, or Pride and Destruction

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Esther 6

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18).  Haman has built himself up in his own eyes and is preparing for the demise of the only one who will not honor him as he feels he deserves.  Honor should not be forced, but should be given to whomever is worthy to receive it.  There are times that people do not deserve honor based on their character but receive honor based on their position such as David with King Saul.  Haman being in such a high position in the kingdom of Persia felt he was owed this honor by all at all times.

God in His infinite wisdom brings about a change in the direction of Haman’s plans by causing King Ahasuerus to not be able to sleep.  Having just finished a lovely meal with the Queen and Haman, he could not go to sleep.  So while Haman had his gallows constructed for Mordecai, the King had “the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, read before the king.” (Esther 6:1).  This book recorded the events that had taken place in the kingdom that were notable and praiseworthy.  In essence, it was the kingdom’s journal.

As the chronicle was read, the story of Mordecai saving the life of the King by overhearing the plot against his life was recited.  The king stopped the reader and asked if Mordecai had been honored for this act of faithfulness, and following the hand of God the act was not rewarded since God had plans for the reward to happen on this day.  Haman shows up in the outer court at just the right moment and the King desires him to enter so he can ask him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?”  (Esther 6:6).  Again God’s timing is perfect.  Haman can imagine no one more deserving of the King’s honor than himself so he thinks about how he would want to be honored and shares this with the King.  The King thought it was a marvelous idea so he tells Haman, “Hurry, take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the King’s gate.  Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.”

Haman had gone to the King to ask permission to hang Mordecai on his 75 foot gallows but instead he must parade Mordecai through the streets on the King’s horse with the king’s robe as he shouts, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”  If Haman knew this honor was not for him he might have suggested something a little less ostentatious.  He had to lead the man he wants to kill through the streets honoring him.  What a change of events, yet God has His hand in all situations.

Mordecai did not go back to the palace after this mini parade, but rather went home and told his wife and his friends all that had happened.  As he sits in the shadow of the gallows he has built for Mordecai, his wife and friends inform him that his future is not as bright as it once was.  “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.” (Esther 6:13).  Though God’s name is not mentioned in the book of Esther, the hand of God is seen not just by those of us that can read the story in its entirety but also by those that are a part of the story as it unfolds.  It seems Zeresh and Haman’s wise men see the finger of God moving the pieces of this story before their eyes.  God works in wonderful ways.  Sometimes it is obvious and sometimes it is little steps at a time until the big picture is revealed.  As we submit to God in our lives and willingly follow His leading in our lives, the picture becomes clearer.

As Haman was hanging his head in defeat listening to his wife and friends, the King’s eunuch comes to get Haman for the feast with the King and the Queen.  Haman must have been late, maybe he forgot about his feast with the King and the Queen, or maybe he did not want to go now that his honor had been stripped by Mordecai the Jew.  Whatever happened, the eunuchs hurried him along to the feast.

Questions:

  1. What did the King say about Mordecai in Esther 6:10?
  1. The King obviously knew where Mordecai worked and his nationality. Go back to Esther 3:8-11 and reread what Haman presented to the King.  What are your observations about the passage?
  1. Haman pushed his political agenda and his deep seated prejudice with the King. Since the King had no other wise people he consulted, the entire Jewish race would be wiped out without the King even realizing who was being annihilated.  What does this scenario teach about having wise counselors, mentors, and friends to help guide our decisions?
  1. How do these verses apply to this situation with the King, Haman, and the edict against the Jews? Proverbs 3:35, Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 14:16.
  1. Once the mini parade was over where did Haman go? Where did Mordecai go? (Esther 6:12)
  1. What does this show about Mordecai’s character?

The Power of Position

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Power, pride, position, prestige, and fortune seem to go to people’s heads and there is nothing but their own demise that brings them back to reality.  Some people think so highly of themselves that nothing matters but the selfish desires that propels them to energetically jump out of bed each morning ready to face the next conquest.  These selfish desires for power, prestige, and fortune are more important than the people they use as stepping stones to get to the ideal destination.  In many instances in history, this lust for power and fortune costs people their lives.  This is seen in the numerous battles that have been fought over the years in order to conquer new lands and gain more wealth.

Haman fits quite nicely into the picture painted above.  As the story in Esther continues to unfold, the desires of Haman become visible and his means are no different than the many that have gone before him.  Haman was appointed the top official in King Ahasuerus’ kingdom. (Esther 3:1) In order to feed into this quest for prestige even more, the king ordered that all must bow down and pay homage to Haman.  (Esther 3:2).  Homage or reverence means to bow down as to worship.  King Ahasuerus ordered all the people to bow down and worship Haman.  Mordecai, being a Jew, was not going to worship anyone except God, the Creator of the Universe.

Mordecai did not obey.  Forced worship is not true worship, and forced respect is not true respect.  This bowing down to pay homage to Haman did nothing more than feed into Haman’s ego about himself and cause a wider gap between him and his subjects.  Mordecai was reminded time and time again by the king’s servants that he was disobeying the king’s edict.  This did not matter to Mordecai; he was being true to his God.

After Mordecai’s continued refusal to bow down to Haman, these same servants went to Haman and reported to him Mordecai’s disobedience.  It was not just his disobedience they reported but also his nationality, “he was a Jew.” (Esther 3:4).  To say the least Haman was furious, but was able to control himself and not lay a hand on Mordecai, but rather “Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.” (Esther 3:6).

This injustice to Haman burned within him for a year as he cast lots “day after day, and month after month” (Esther 3:7) to find the appropriate time to handle this situation. Casting lots was a common practice throughout the Bible.  It was used by the High Priest to assist in making decisions, knowing that the decision was an impartial one albeit a chance decision.  Various things were used to assist in this decision making process like stones, sticks, cards, or dice.  “I drew the short end of the stick” comes from this practice of casting lots.  Whoever drew the short stick was the intended person for the question to be answered.  Casting lots is seen in the life of Jonah, Jesus and His clothing at the cross, and Matthias who replaced Judas as one of the twelve apostles.

Finally, after twelve months of casting lots day after day, Haman went to King Ahasuerus with his evil plot.  He presented the Jews as a group of people that were insubordinate and did not follow the rules of the King.  Haman twisted the facts and the rules of the Jews into a plot of terror that if allowed to continue would cause the demise of the kingdom of Ahasuerus. After twelve months of hatching a plot and saving his money, Haman had a plan.  Haman would personally deposit 10,000 talents of his own silver into the treasury of the king so that all the Jews could be destroyed.  The king’s scribes were summoned the thirteenth day of the next month and the edict was written “according to all that Haman commanded.” (Esther 3:12).  Once the decree was written the “instructions to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month…and to plunder their goods.” (Esther 3:13).

Questions:

  1. Who is Haman and where did he come from? (Genesis 36:1, Exodus 17:8-16, Deut. 25:17-19, I Samuel 15) The Amalekites lived in the same area as Esau and the Edomites, so it is believed they are descendants of Esau.)
  1. Record the chronology of the events of this chapter in order to see the length of time it took for this plan to come to fruition.
  1. What did Mordecai do that he told Esther not to do? (Esther 3:4)
  1. Do you think this was the appropriate time for Mordecai to disclose his ancestors?
  1. In essence, it was not his ancestors that Mordecai was taking a stand for, but whom?
  1. Compare the edict that was written in Esther 3:13 with the order from God in I Samuel 15:3?
  1. What would have happened if Saul would have obeyed in I Samuel 15?
  1. Once the edict was written and began to circulate what was the response of the people versus the response of the King and Haman? (Esther 3:15).

Pride

Pride.  I am reading through the chronological Bible with my daughters and we read Isaiah 14 yesterday.  As I was reading, I was struck between the similarities in Isaiah 14:12-13 and Genesis 3.  I love to see how the Bible works together and continues to teach me new things even though I have spent many years reading and studying it.

Pride.  Isaiah 14:12-13 is a written record by the prophet Isaiah of the fall of Satan.  Satan was created by God as an angel.  His name was Lucifer.  According to Isaiah 14:12-13, “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God, I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”  Satan, as an angel created by God, decided that He wanted to have the power and prestige of God so he said he would “make himself like the Most High.”   The errors in thinking abound in this short phrase.

Pride.  “I will make myself like the Most High.”  God did not make Himself, He did not create Himself.  God always has been.  As finite creatures we cannot fully grasp the concept of eternality, no beginning or no end.  It is a concept bigger than our finite minds can process; however, the facts still do not change despite the fact that we cannot understand it:  God is eternal and was not created nor did He create Himself.

Pride.  “I will make myself like the Most High.”  Since Satan is a created being he cannot make himself into an infinite creature.  Since Satan was made by God, he cannot make himself like God.  A pot cannot say to the potter that it wants to make itself into the potter.  We understand the impossibility of this, yet Satan did not see the unachievable quest he was on as he led one-third of the angels to follow him as he attempted “to make himself like the Most High.”

Pride.  In this quest of making himself “like the Most High” Satan became less like the Most High as he fell from the status of perfection in the presence of God and took on the persona of evil.  As we compare this with Genesis 3:5 and the exchange between the serpent and the woman we can see the same trap that Satan fell for. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5).  “You will be like God” and “Make himself like the Most High” are the same thought.  Only in their pride they wanted to be like God, not in their humility.  Satan, in the form of the serpent, used the same words of deceit on the woman that he used on himself.  Neither instance resulted in what they had hoped for, rather their aspirations of being like God turned into them being less like God.

Pride.  The serpent and the woman, once they made their decision to be like God, now had in their make-up, evil.  God is holy and has no evil.  Instead of being more like God they are less like God.  This same trap that the woman fell for is the same trap the Satan uses on us today.  We want to be like God, we want the attention and the glory.  We have placed ourselves as the one to be worshipped, rather than the Creator of the universe.  Nothing has changed over the years.  Pride was the seed that sprouted into Satan’s fall, and pride was the seed in the fall of the woman.  Where has your pride gotten you?  Are you more respected, in a better position, have more wisdom, or “like God” because of your pride?  If I had to choose a person to spend my day with and the choice was between a person that was proud and a person that was humble, I would choose the humble person any day.  I would not want to listen to someone talk about themselves all day.  Pride…where has it gotten you?