A Believer After God’s Heart
Samuel Lesson #180
July 23, 2019
“Father, it’s a good privilege we have to be free in this nation, free to assemble, free to teach Your Word, and free to proclaim the gospel. Father, we pray that we will continue to enjoy those privileges. We pray that our government will continue to recognize that these freedoms, these liberties, do not derive from the government but that they derive from You.
“They’re part of who we are as those who have been created in Your image and likeness. Father, we pray that we would continue to have leaders who will understand these vital concepts that undergird this nation and have made this nation a wonderful beacon of light in this world.
“It is a source of biblical knowledge as we have had churches here proclaim the truth and teach it and send missionaries throughout the world. Father, also, we have been a support for Your people, for a national homeland for the Jewish people in Israel and we continue to support Israel.
“For those reasons we pray You will continue to bless this nation and that You would raise up godly men and women who can lead us and direct us and maintain our freedom.
“Father, we pray for us as believers that we might be faithful and steadfast in our study of Your Word and our application of it in our lives that we might dedicate ourselves to transforming our minds so we can be conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Tonight we are continuing our study in 2 Samuel. We have been going through not only the episodes, the stories, the events, and the people from 1 Samuel all the way through now into 2 Samuel 7, but we have also taken the time to pursue some significant topical studies, one of which is the center of 2 Samuel 7 where we look at the Davidic Covenant.
We have been looking at what the Bible teaches about the Davidic Covenant now for several months. The reason is because this is a foundational covenant. You often find people who spend a lot of time studying the Abrahamic Covenant. They spend a lot of time studying the New Covenant because that seems to be related to the Church Age.
I don’t believe the New Covenant is part of the Church Age. It is the future. It is what is promised to Israel when they come into their kingdom.
The Davidic Covenant is also very significant. We’ve gone through passages that relate it to the rest of the Old Testament and into the New Testament. One of the most significant passages that is really a prayer based on the Davidic Covenant is Psalm 89.
We’ve been taking our time to go through Psalm 89 and it is an extremely rich psalm with just incredible information, especially about the character of God. It’s a prayer for God not to forget this covenant with David, to restore the Davidic monarchy, or to strengthen it at the very least. It reflects on the character of God, His integrity that undergirds that covenant.
Last week we came down to the section about God elevating David. We focused on the fact that God was seeking for someone who would be loyal to Him. It is said in Acts 13 as well as in 2 Samuel that David was a man that was after God’s own heart.
What I want to do this evening is talk what it means to be a believer who is after God’s heart. What exactly does that mean and why is that so important?
As we do this, let’s take time for just a reminder of where we’ve been in Psalm 89. There are three basic divisions to the psalm. The first focuses on God’s love and faithfulness, praising His character.
That’s what undergirds all promises. Every single time we claim a promise and every time we read about a promise what guarantees it is the character of God, His righteousness and His justice. He will do what He has said He will do. That’s covered in the first 18 verses of the psalm.
Then in Psalm 89:19–37 which is where we are now the promise to David, the covenant itself, is rehearsed. New information is given in this section which is not in 2 Samuel 7 passage. Then we’ll get to the petition itself in the last section, Psalm 89:38–52.
As we have gotten into this section, the middle section talking about God’s promise to David, that’s the foundation for the psalmist’s prayer. The application to that is when we pray we ought to think about how the psalms are structured. We ought to think about focusing first on God and His character, thinking through every aspect of His character, His righteousness, His justice, His love, His eternality, His omniscience, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His immutability, and His veracity.
Think about how each of those characteristics relates to whatever problem, whatever situation, chaos, or difficulty might be in part of our life. As we look at this middle section of Psalm 89 we’re looking at God’s promise to protect, preserve, and to bless David.
In that section the psalmist talks about how God raised up David. He elevated him. David was “choice”. Why was David choice? He was choice because he was a man after God’s own heart.
We saw in Psalm 89:20 that God uses this interesting expression that He found David. That’s a bit of what we call an anthropomorphism, which is where we attribute to God something human. That isn’t actually the case, but it helps us to connect with God and to understand what has been said about God.
Usually the word “to find” which is the Hebrew word matza’ is used where God is seeking something and He finds it.
As we look at that we’re reminded of a verse in 2 Chronicles 16:9 that God’s eyes are going to and fro across the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.
So God is seeking. Again, it’s stating this in anthropomorphic terms. It’s expressing it in human terms so we can understand it better, saying that through His omniscience He is seeking those who are loyal to Him so that He might bless them. We’ll learn a little bit more about that as we go along.
This is the idea so in two passages as we were coming to the close last time we see in 1 Samuel 13:14, “But now your kingdom shall not continue.” Samuel is addressing Saul and telling him that the kingdom will be taken from him because of his disobedience.
In contrast to Saul’s disobedience there is a statement here that David is a man after God’s own heart. That helps us to understand that idiom a little better. The contrast is that Saul is not a man after God’s own heart. We’ll see tonight that Saul was arrogant and disobeyed God. In contrast God is looking for someone who is loyal to Him, someone who is obedient to Him, and someone who will follow Him.
That’s mentioned in this verse, “the Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart.” In Acts 13:22 Paul is rehearsing some of the events in the Old Testament. He says that God chose David and raised him up to be king saying, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.”
We see this language of finding and seeking. God is looking for believers who will follow Him, who are going to be after God’s own heart.
We need to understand that. In Psalm 89:3 God says, “I have made a covenant with My chosen [choice]. I have sworn to My servant David.” Part of having a heart for God, a man after God’s own heart, is to have that quality of being a servant to God, recognizing that we have been bought with a price. We are not our own. We are put on this earth by God to serve Him as believers.
Three questions came to my mind as I was thinking about this. First, what is God looking for? These passages tell us that God’s eyes are going to and fro throughout the whole earth seeking those who are loyal to Him. What is He looking for? He is looking for those who are devoted to Him, loyal to Him.
The Hebrew word there is shalom, which means those who are at peace with Him. It’s not just simply that they’ve been reconciled to God, but it’s that they are pursuing that relationship with God.
So, what is it that God is looking for? What is the character quality that is important? What is the key element for God to have in a leader? When God is looking for a man after His own heart what exactly does that mean in understanding the character quality in us that God values?
It has to do with a virtue and what we’ll see is that it’s the virtue of humility and we need to understand what that means.
In Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’ ” We could paraphrase that, saying if anyone wants to follow Me. What is God looking for? He’s basically looking for someone willing to follow Him and walk in obedience.
Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Nineteen times in the gospels Jesus says to someone to follow Him. Again and again. What is central to being a follower of Jesus?
It’s not just being a believer. A believer is someone who simply trusts in Christ as their Savior. They have eternal life. They’re adopted into God’s royal family. They will go to Heaven when they die, but beyond that, Jesus is looking for students, for disciples, those who will follow Him. That means to walk in obedience to God.
The thing that we see here is this idiom, “take up your cross and follow Me”. What does that mean? You’ll hear different interpretations listening to different people. It’s important to look and investigate the Roman system of justice.
What does it mean to take up your cross? The worst criminals were crucified. The criminals who were crucified were those who had gone against the power and authority of Rome, those who had rebelled against Rome in the worst ways. For example, the well-known Spartacus movie is about a slave who revolted. When those slaves who revolted were captured they were all crucified.
In the Roman way of thinking, the way to humiliate them and humble them was they were forced to carry their cross to the execution place. The idea of carrying your cross meant that now the criminal had been forced to submit to the authority of Rome.
Taking up your cross was an idiom that meant submit—in this case, submit to the authority of God. Submit yourself to God. That is essential. We will see to the whole idea of humility. Humility is such a misunderstood concept in our culture as we’ll see as we get into this.
So what does the Bible actually teach about humility? To start with, we have to understand what humility is. I did a little exercise today and went to some dictionaries to see how they define humility. The bottom line is that dictionaries are a bad place to go to understand biblical terminology.
If you go to the dictionary to get a definition for love, nothing the dictionary uses to define love is what the Bible means by love. When you get to humility, hardly anything that is said helps. It’s more confusing than it is enlightening.
For example, the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) says it’s the quality of having a humble view of one’s own importance. One of the things you learn if you write definitions is that you never define a term with a cognate. So, if you’re defining humility, you don’t define it as being humble. That doesn’t clarify anything.
Having a humble view of one’s own importance is also what? Do we just have low self-esteem? Are we running ourselves down? Are we beating up on ourselves? What exactly does that convey?
The Collins Dictionary gives a number of different meanings. One is being conscious of one’s failings. That flits around the edges because as you’ll see, Paul says in Romans that we are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to.
This is a problem with arrogance. We think we’re a lot better than we are. We think we’re a lot more virtuous than we are. We have a higher view of ourselves than is actually true because we tend to put on rose-colored glasses and look at ourselves optimistically.
We are born with a high view of ourselves. That’s the essence of the sin nature. We are self-absorbed and we think we’re the center of the universe. If you don’t believe me, just go around a baby anytime. Any baby or infant thinks they’re the center of the world and if you don’t make them the center of the world, then they’ll scream and cry until they get your attention and they become the center of the world.
The idea of being conscious of one’s failings is based on having an objective view of yourself. You know your strengths. You know your weaknesses.
Another definition is unpretentious. A better definition would mean that you’re not arrogant. That’s the contrast that we see in Scripture. Those who are not humble are those who are disobedient to God. They think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. They are arrogant.
Lowly is another definition. It doesn’t really indicate a whole lot. The next meaning Collins gives is deferential or servile. Deferential can also be very negative. I didn’t really find any of these things very helpful.
So what we need to do is really look at Scripture and let God define what He means by these qualities. For Romans 12:3 I put two examples, two translations on the slide. The first one is from the NET Bible. It’s not a bad one. The problem I have is one word they use. I thought they’d have a better word. It’s the same word that’s used in the New King James Version.
Paul says, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly …” The contrast is to not think unrealistically about yourself. Don’t think you’re greater than you are or better than you are.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have confidence in your abilities, but don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to. The contrast is to think soberly. Now we think of sober as being in contrast to being drunk. What happens when you’re drunk is that you’re not thinking clearly. What sober means as its core meaning is to think clearly about yourself. Think honestly about yourself.
This is what is brought out in the New American Standard translation, “to think so as to have sound judgment”. If you’re going to have sound judgment, it means you have to understand something. Judgment is always based on knowledge. It’s not based on emotion or feeling or gut reaction or anything like that.
You have to think about the criteria. Why or on what basis are you making this evaluation? The only way we can honestly evaluate ourselves is if we know the Word of God and if we understand what God says about our basic human fallen sinful condition. Can we really be honest about who we are and our strengths and weaknesses without that knowledge?
What we see in the Scripture is that humility is a foundational Christian virtue. It’s not something that we can produce on our own. In Galatians 5:23 we see that gentleness, which is a translation of the Greek word PRAUTES, which has more the idea of humility, is a fruit of the Spirit. That means it’s produced in our lives as we walk by the Spirit. As we grow and as we mature, God will transform us and develop genuine humility in us.
The idea of humility as a virtue is significant. A virtue is a character quality. Virtue in the Greek is the word ARETÉ. This is why Camp Areté is called Camp Areté. It’s to build Christian character, Christian virtue, into the lives of the young people that go to Camp Areté.
In classical Greek there were certain virtues that were highlighted. They were prudence, which is not a word we use much anymore. Prudence basically means the careful and thoughtful management of someone’s life. So, are you carefully managing your life?
Again that means you have to be mature and you have to understand what the issues are to make good, thoughtful, and wise decisions. Prudence was a classic virtue understood by the Romans and parents were to teach this to their children and instill these virtues into their lives.
A second classic virtue was justice. Justice had to do with knowing right and wrong and teaching children and young people to be that which was right and avoid that which was wrong. Where do you get those values? Are those values something you choose because you like them? Do these values come from culture and this is what people around me believe are right and wrong? Or do they have an ultimate, eternal source that is absolute, that is the ultimate, actually?
Most people think of values today as being totally relative. They say, “Well that works for you. That morality works for you. Those values work for you, but I have different values.”
How do we know what is true? You can’t say that everyone has their own system of values and everyone’s right because these systems conflict with each other. It’s a self-defeating, irrational argument. If we believe certain things are right and certain things are wrong and we use these terms as absolutes, then we need to think carefully where we’re getting our values. The only place we can get eternal values is from the Word of God because God is eternal.
A third virtue has to do with perseverance and endurance which means basically “sticking to it”. Then a fourth is temperance, meaning self-control, self-mastery, or self-discipline. It means not just letting our emotions, our passions, or our desires run away with us.
In Christianity there are Christian virtues, foundational Christian virtues. We’ve mentioned humility. We also talk about love as a Christian virtue, which again is produced by God the Holy Spirit. Then comes mercy, which is an application of grace as well as forgiveness.
You can see when you talk about humility, love, mercy, and forgiveness that all of those are integrated as part of understanding love. They’re all related to this idea of grace, forgiveness, and mercy, and they’re intertwined. You cannot be gracious if you don’t understand humility, if you’re not humble.
Someone may seem to be gracious, but if they’re operating on arrogance, they’re just being manipulative. True humility is not going to be manipulative. It is concerned not about controlling other people, but it’s concerned about serving other people.
1 Peter 5:5–6, “Likewise you younger people—Peter is addressing those who are young in the congregation because younger people haven’t lived long enough to have been knocked down enough. They tend to be arrogant. This is just a weakness of youth, so he addresses the youth—submit yourselves to your elders”.
As he talks about humility, which is what comes in at the end of the verse, he says that God gives grace to the humble. Being humble, we see in this passage, is related to submission to authority. Here it’s related to the church, the elders, the leaders of the church, and he goes on to say, “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility for ‘God resists the proud,—the word for resist here is also used for troops lining up to go into battle against other troops, so it has that idea of God going to make war against the arrogant. He has set Himself against the arrogant—but He gives grace to the humble.’ ” The humble are those who are submissive to God’s authority.
When we go back to this idea of being submissive to authority, we need to realize that we’re all under authority. We’re under all kinds of authority. First of all, we’re all under the authority of God. Every one of us is accountable to God. God is going to hold us accountable. So that’s the first area of authority.
The second area of authority has to do with the nation we live in, the government and the laws of the government. We’re under the authority of the government. We’re under the authority of the police. We’re under the authority of the courts and the justice system.
We also have authority in the family. You have authority from parents and other family members, like grandparents. We are to be submissive to those authorities.
We are under authority in school. We have teachers. If we are involved in sports we have coaches. If you’re involved in any other kinds of activities you have authorities. If you’re involved in learning skills, whether it’s the classroom where you go to school or something else, you’re always under authority.
We’re under many different systems of authority and if we don’t learn submission to authority, we can never truly learn. Submission is the key to learning and growing. It’s the key to learning that you’re wrong and that there’s a better way to do something. That’s part of humility, recognizing that we don’t know it all. We don’t have all the answers. We have to sit and listen to those who know more and who will teach us.
In terms of spirituality, ultimately we have to be under the authority of God. Peter concluded in verse 6 by saying, “Therefore humble yourselves—another way of saying submit yourselves to the power of God, to the authority of God—to the mighty hand of God.”
Why? “That He may exalt you in due time.”
All of us in our self-absorption get ambitious. We want to exalt ourselves. We want to be promoted. We want all kinds of visual success. Here the key is spiritually we are waiting for God to be the One to exalt us. We’ll come back and see the ultimate example of that exaltation before we finish up this evening.
In trying to define humility what we see is that biblically humility is not taking on some view of running yourself down or having low self-esteem or being spineless or weak or letting someone take advantage of you and walk all over you. That’s a common misconception of what humility is.
Humility is being willingly obedient to those in authority over us, starting with God. It is the attitude of wanting to help or serve others. It’s the opposite of self-promotion, self-assertion, and self-absorption. When it comes to God, it’s the desire to serve God, obey God, and to follow Him.
When we think about David as a man after God’s own heart, what we’re seeing is that it’s ultimately talking about humility, the desire to follow God, and in the words of Jesus to “take up your cross and follow God”.
It doesn’t mean David was perfect. It doesn’t mean he didn’t sin. It doesn’t mean he didn’t disobey God in some form or ways which he did, but the bottom line for David was that he wanted to serve God. He wanted to follow God. He wanted to obey God. That’s the essence of what’s meant when we talk about “having a heart for God” or being “a man after God’s own heart”.
Humility is being willingly obedient to those in authority over us. It’s the attitude of service and wanting to help others and to serve others. It’s the opposite of self-centeredness, self-promotion, self-assertion, and self-absorption. When it comes to God it’s the desire to serve God and to submit to God’s authority.
To do that we have to know what God wants. We have to know His Word. Ultimately humility involves grace orientation. We have to learn it’s all about what God’s given us. It’s not about who we are. It’s not about our talents.
All of us have great abilities in some areas. We have great talents. We have intellectual skills. We have physical skills, but that’s not why we’re important. That doesn’t make us better than anyone. God has given us everything that we have.
Whatever natural talents we have come from God. Whatever spiritual gifts are from God. So humility involves that grace orientation. It’s not about us. It’s about what God has given us. It involves submission to God’s authority and submission to authority that God has ordained in a nation, in a family, in the military, and in education.
It’s foundational to being teachable. You never really learn anything and do well in life if we’re not humble. We have to be humble to grow spiritually. We have to have humility to have any success in life.
All of that just gives us a definition so we understand something about humility. The next thing I want to do is try to put a picture, a physical picture, on this somewhat abstract character quality.
How can we see humility in action in the lives of people? I’ve taken three examples from the Old Testament and the first one is Abraham. Abraham is the first person that shows us a really clear picture of humility. We have others who were humble but we don’t get into as much detail in their lives as we do with Abraham.
The story of Abraham starts in Genesis 12 and if we read through it takes us through 10 chapters, through chapter 22. What God is doing in that process is taking Abraham through that process very early. He’s probably in his late 50s or 60s when some of these events take place.
He’s calling Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees to go to a land that God is going to show him. God is making certain promises to Abraham. The key promise is that he promises to give him a multitude of descendants. God describes them as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sands of the sea.
This is a huge number of descendants. Abraham is old by this time. He’s in his late 60s. Sarah has never been able to have children. How in the world is this promise going to be fulfilled? He thinks it’s a pretty good promise to have a lot of descendants. He decides that maybe he ought to help God out since God is going to bless the whole world through his descendants.
He decides he’s going to help God bring this about. In the first example in Genesis 15 he says, “God, I’ve got a good idea. It’s going to be really hard for me to have kids and hard for Sarah to have kids. Why don’t we take my servant, Eliezer? He’s been with me a long time. He’s faithful. He’s obedient. He’s trustworthy. I’ll adopt him and he’ll be the promise. He’ll be the seed you promised me.”
God says, “No. That’s not going to work.”
Abraham is being taught that he has to wait on God. He has to trust God and that he, Abraham, can’t make it happen on his own. That is pride. We want to help God out. We have a great idea and think, “God, You have a lot of great ideas. You’re pretty powerful, but I’ve got a better idea.”
We see that run through all of these examples in Scripture. We all fail in those ways.
What happens is that God tells Abraham it’s not going to be through Eliezer. Another ten or fifteen years go by. Now God enters into that covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 and we have the actual, literal cutting of the covenant where that establishes it and then God makes the promise that He’s going to bless Abraham through a son.
In this process since chapter 15 Abraham has been trying to help God and his wife is trying to help God. Sarah came along and said, “Well, I can’t have any kids. Why don’t you take my servant, Hagar, and you have relations with her and then she’ll have a son and we’ll raise him up as your son? We’ll help God out. We’ll solve that problem.”
Abraham did what his wife said and it just created a lot of problems. One of the reasons we have the whole Arab/Israeli conflict today is that it goes back to Abraham trying to help God.
In spite of that, God comes to Abraham and says, “It’s not going to be Ishmael. It will be a descendant of you and Sarah.” He makes that covenant with Abraham and time goes by and then in Genesis 17 God comes to Abraham again and says, “Within the year Sarah will be pregnant.”
Of course, neither one of them believe it. Sarah is hiding behind the tent covers and when she hears God’s promise, she just cackles. So they’re going to end up naming their son Isaac, because that means laughter. God asks what she’s laughing at. He’s made a promise and it’s going to be fulfilled.
So the promise is fulfilled and Sarah gives birth to Isaac and he’s the promised seed. As time goes by, Isaac grows up. He’s a young man, probably in his twenties, maybe in his thirties. God comes to Abraham and tells him something that will blow his mind.
In Genesis 22 God comes to Abraham and he’s says in verse 2, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, who you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
How would you feel? Think about this. You waited for years, thirty plus years, for this son to be born. This is where all your hopes and dreams are. God’s promise is going to be fulfilled through this son. There’s going to be a multitude of descendants and God says to kill him? And not just kill him.
A burnt offering meant that Abraham would take Isaac, tie him down to the altar, and then he would slit Isaac’s throat and the altar would be on a pile of wood all around it. Then after he slit Isaac’s throat and Isaac bled out, then God would light the fire, which would completely consume the body of Isaac as a burnt offering.
What’s interesting is that when Abraham was younger and he was thinking he could help God, God has been constantly teaching him that he needs to depend on God. He said, “I will fulfill My word. Just let me handle it.”
Abraham reaches a point by Genesis 22 that he is going to trust God. He doesn’t get upset. He doesn’t try to get out of it. He just immediately trusts God and goes along with God and takes the kindling to Mount Moriah, which is where the Temple Mount is today.
There he prepares the altar. He piles up the wood. Isaac says, “Well, Dad, where’s the sacrifice?”
Abraham in Genesis 22 shows that he understands what’s going to happen. He says, “God will provide the sacrifice.”
What we learn from this is what God is actually looking for. In Genesis 22:12 we get the clue when God stopped Abraham from killing Isaac. God said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God …”
That was the test. The test was asking if Abraham had learned humility. Had he learned to be obedient to God, even when you don’t understand it, it seems irrational, and I’m telling you to do something that goes counter to everything you’ve been taught. You’re going to trust me no matter what.
Trust is a key element in fearing God. Proverbs tells that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fearing God is being obedient to Him, respecting His authority, and obeying Him. This is part of humility.
Then we learn from Hebrews 11:17 in the New Testament that, “By faith, Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac,—we know this was a test—and he who had received the promises—that is, the promises of the covenant—offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called …’ ”
The writer of Hebrews tells us this was exactly what was going on. Abraham was being tested. He knew that his test was all related to the promise of a son, the promise of a seed in the Abrahamic Covenant. Abraham thought it through and in Hebrews 11:19 we read, “Ánd he concluded that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”
What this is saying is that Abraham finally understood that God’s going to make good on His promise. He promised a seed. Isaac is that seed. There are going to be innumerable descendants from Isaac, so even if I go through with this and kill him, God is going to bring him back from the dead.
Abraham is totally relaxed when he is taking Isaac and tying him to the altar. This is a picture of his humility. He’s learned to obey God and to trust Him.
The second example comes from Abraham’s grandson, Jacob. Jacob was a twin. He was the younger of the two boys. Esau’s the older by a few seconds and when Jacob comes out he’s grabbing at the heel of Esau. This is why he’s named Jacob. It means a “heel grabber”, but that had a connotation that had a way of trying to grab something that isn’t theirs.
It becomes a word for a supplanter. It’s a word for someone who is a con man. He’s constantly trying to get what isn’t his and make it his. This is his characteristic. When you read through the whole story you find out he runs away from Esau because Esau is threatening to murder him.
He goes to his Uncle Laban. Laban is more of a con man than Jacob is, and more of a trickster than he is. He out-cons the con man. There’s a lot of humor in this whole section of Genesis. God is teaching Jacob not to be the con man, not to try to get things on his terms.
This is what had happened. Before Jacob and Esau were born, God said that the “older [Esau] would serve the younger [Jacob]”. That was God’s statement. That was God’s promise. Jacob didn’t have to make that happen, but he thought he did. He thought he had to manipulate the situation to get the inheritance of the firstborn.
God had already promised that to him by saying that the older would serve the younger. Jacob tricks Isaac into giving him the blessing when Esau is coming in from the fields and he’s starving to death. Jacob is cooking the lentil soup. Esau says, “Sure, I’ll trade you the birthright. Just give me something to eat.” Esau minimizes the birthright.
This is not how Jacob really got it. This was how Jacob was manipulating it. God had to knock this arrogance out of Jacob. Sadly we all get to go through situations in life when God is knocking the arrogance out of us. It’s not good to learn these things the hard way.
God wants to knock that arrogance out of us to teach us to be totally dependent upon Him. What happens is we see all these episodes that take place with Laban where for twenty years Jacob has had to work for his uncle. He is just mistreated and abused. He’s been taken advantage of, but what happens is he learns humility.
We see that in what happens in Genesis 33. Genesis describes Jacob coming back to the Land. Now he’s got flocks and herds. He’s got wives. He’s got all these children, but he’s afraid because when he left after he’d tricked Esau out of the birthright, Esau was so angry he was threatening to murder Jacob. He hated Jacob. He was breathing threats.
His mother, Rachel, told Jacob to get out of town, leave the Land, and go to your Uncle Laban until Esau calms down. Now Jacob is coming back and he’s afraid that Esau is still mad at him, that Esau is going to kill him. He sends Esau all these presents ahead, but when Jacob comes into Esau’s presence, we’re told in Genesis 33:3, “Then he—Jacob—crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.”
It’s a process. He’s walking toward his brother and he bows down. He walks closer and bows down again and then walks a little closer and bows down again. Why are we told he did it seven times? Why is that important?
It’s important because in the ancient world if you were a lowly subject in a kingdom and you were coming into the presence of the king, then to show that you were an obedient, submissive citizen to the king, you would bow down seven times. That is an extreme show of loyalty and submission so that’s what Jacob is doing.
He’s submitting to Esau. He’s the first born now. He’s got the inheritance, yet he’s willing to show this humility toward Esau and not take advantage of his position and come back and lord it over Esau. He has learned genuine humility over this course of time.
The arrogance and self-absorption that had once marked Jacob is no longer there. He has learned genuine humility.
What’s interesting is that in the last event that occurs in the previous chapter, Jacob has stopped at a place on the other side of the Jordan and there he has this encounter with God where he wrestled with God. We read in Genesis 32:30 that Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, which means face-to-face in Hebrew.
He says, “For I have seen God face-to-face, and my life is preserved.” He recognizes that God has taught him humility and he is submissive.
This is what Jesus talks about in Luke 18:14, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” If you think you’re great and you think you’re God’s answer to whatever and you can get along by yourself and you’re totally self-sufficient, then God is going to “bust your chops”. God is going to humble you.
Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled by God. But the last of the verse says, “He who humbles himself will be exalted”—by God.
The third example is Moses. Think about Moses. Moses is born into Egypt. He becomes adopted into Pharaoh’s royal family. He is educated with the best education in Egypt. He is on track to be the ruler of the land. He has more wealth than anyone else. He has more wealth than anyone in Egypt outside of the Pharaoh because of his position.
When he discovers he’s really a Hebrew, he sees an Egyptian taskmaster beating a slave, so he’s going to solve the problem himself. He hasn’t learned anything about God or trust in God so he goes in to murder the Egyptian, which is a pure act of arrogance so God has to humble Moses.
The first forty years of his life he is a prince of Egypt. It takes the next forty years for Moses to learn humility. He knows he’s the promised deliverer, but God says He can’t use him as the promised deliverer until He knocks this arrogance and pride and self-sufficiency out of him.
He goes to the desert. He’s a shepherd and no one knows who he is. No one cares where he came from. All of his wealth is gone. All of his resources as a member of the royal family are gone. He’s just in one of the most hated professions in Egypt.
In our culture this would be equivalent to someone being a garbage collector. You’re just at the lowest rung of society. That’s where he is when after forty years God finally calls Moses into this service he’s going to have because he’s finally willing to submit, be humble, and to serve the Lord.
He is then going to take approximately two and a half to three million Jews out of Egypt, take them to the desert. Some of you just got back from camp. John, you had to deal with thirty-five or forty kids and just think of all the wonderful headaches and logistics involved with that and the transportation and everything.
Multiply out to where you have three million. All the problems, all the headaches, all the personality conflicts and everything else. Moses handled that. That is a man who is strong. A man who knows who he is. A man with organizational skills, intelligence, and all of this going for him.
Yet the Scripture says about him in Numbers 12:3, “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.” Humble there doesn’t mean someone who’s weak, someone who’s spineless, someone who’s walked over, or someone who’s a doormat.
It means he was the most oriented person to God’s authority on the planet. He understood submission to authority so he was humble. The word there in the Hebrew for humble is the word ‘anaw. It means the exact same thing when they translated it in the Septuagint with the word PRAUS. PRAUS is the noun and then you have PRAUTAS, which is the adjective. It’s the same word and it means humble. It’s translated sometimes with the word gentle, sometimes with the word meek.
For a picture of the opposite of humility we have Saul, King Saul. King Saul comes from a humble background, so to speak. He’s from the smallest tribe, smallest clan, and he’s a nobody. So he’s trying to act with pseudo-humility when Samuel picks him out and he becomes king.
God anoints him as king. He has Samuel anoint him as king. He does good at first. Eventually he gives in to arrogance. He just swells up with pride in who he is and what he has accomplished. What happens is we see the blindness of arrogance.
If you’re arrogant, you’ll be blind to yourself. You’ll be blind to your weakness. You’ll make serious errors and you’ll convince yourself that you’re right. Arrogance blinds us to truth. Look at what happens in 1 Samuel 15. You see the perfect example of the self-deception of arrogance.
God has sent Saul on a mission. The mission is to absolutely annihilate, destroy, and wipe out every man, woman, and child and all the livestock of the Amalekites. But he doesn’t do it. He leaves the king alive and he leaves a lot of the livestock alive because he rationalizes that they could get something out of this.
God sends Samuel to confront him with this and in 1 Samuel 15:18–19 you get the confrontation and the challenge. “Now the Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’
“Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?” Evil is disobedience to God here, not killing every man, woman, child, and all the animals.
Listen to how Saul answers. “But I did obey the voice of the Lord.” See arrogance causes him to be self-deceived. He obeyed the Lord 98% and said that was good enough. It’s good enough for me so it ought to be good enough for God. His self-absorption made him the authority and not God the authority, so he did what he wanted to do. He tries to justify it by saying he’s brought Agag back and they can get some good out of him, maybe by holding him for ransom or something.
Samuel says to him in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?” In other words, God is more concerned with you obeying Him than He is with your acts of going to Bible class or reading your Bible or going through the motions of Christianity. He wants obedience from the heart.
Then he says in verse 23, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” So arrogance is just a form of idolatry and it is following in the path of Satan. That’s why Samuel calls it witchcraft.
What we see is that word that was translated “meek” in the Greek for Moses is PRAUS. Jesus emphasizes humility in the Sermon on the Mount.
So, we have verses like Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Socialists come along and say the poor are blessed. It’s not talking about economics here. It’s talking about the poor in spirit. They leave that out or ignore it.
The word for poor is someone who is absolutely and totally destitute. They have no resources left. They have nothing in and of themselves to depend on. They don’t have two pennies to rub together. They don’t have anything whatsoever. They don’t have a place to sleep at night.
It’s used in terms of poor in spirit for the person who learns they have no resources on their own to make life work. They have to be totally dependent upon God and not rely on anything they have. It’s an idiom for humility and means blessed are those who are humble, truly humble, and totally dependent on God in order to make anything work. They have to totally rest in God.
Two verses later we have the phrase “blessed are the meek”, PRAUS, which is the same word used to describe Moses in Numbers. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” It shouldn’t be translated inherit the earth. It should say inherit the Land, the Land God gave to Israel. All of this is in the context of God bringing in the kingdom.
The meek there is the person who is humble. They’re obedient to God. They’re the ones who will receive the inheritance. This is a quote from Psalm 37:11 that the meek shall inherit the Land. Also we see in Psalm 69:32, “The humble shall see this and be glad.” That’s parallel to the next line’s “you who seek God.”
So what is essential to humility? It is seeking God. Putting God first. He is the focal point. Jesus emphasized humility as one of His foundational virtues, especially when He’s speaking about following Him. This was a major message that He gave.
For example in Matthew 11:28 He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you …” What does that mean? A yoke is something that is put on two oxen to join them together, so they will pull together to carry a load. It became an idiom for submitting to the authority of the person who is driving them. They did what they were told to do.
When Jesus says to take His yoke upon you He is saying to submit to His authority and “learn from Me for I am gentle—there’s that word PRAUS for gentle, humble—and lowly in heart,—a synonym for genuine humility— and you will find rest for your souls.”
Jesus says you have to submit to His authority and be humble. He comes back to this whole issue of submission to authority and then He follows that up by repeating it in the next two verses and using that same vocabulary.
James talks about this as essential to learning the Word of God. Before we really learn the Word of God and grow spiritually he says, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness—what that really means in the Greek is to lay aside all the trappings of sin and arrogance and evil that’s in your life—and receive with humility the Word of God.” You can’t learn the Word of God if you’re not humble.
Paul also emphasizes this in 2 Corinthians 10:1, “I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ…” He’s using both of those two words, meekness and gentleness (PRAUS and TAPEINOS). That’s the key.
Christ is humble and gentle. We’re to imitate Christ.
So that takes us back to understanding that commandment in 1 Peter 5:5, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders.” This applies to all of us because we all have problems with humility. Submit to the authorities over you. “Submit to one another and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ ”
The ultimate example that we have in the New Testament is that of Christ and we see that in a couple of verses in Philippians. Paul is telling the Philippians they need to learn humility.
In Philippians 4:3–4 he says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit,—so when we get full of ourselves and we’re ambitious and we think we know how to do everything and we’re going to go our own independent way, what the Scripture says is not to do that. It’s just self-centeredness. That’s the opposite of humility. That’s the path of Saul and not the path of David—but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than yourselves. Let each of you look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Then we have the example of Jesus in Philippians 2:8, “… He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death—losing His life. Humility is obedience to God.
He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death. That’s the same word we saw related to humility. TAPEINOO. Here’s the verb, a synonym for PRAUS.
So Christ humbled Himself. What does the Scripture say? “Humble yourself and God will exalt you.” So Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death.
Then we see His exaltation in Philippians 2:9–11, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name …”
The key issue to having a heart for God and being a believer after God’s own heart is 1 Peter 5:6, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”
This is what David did. God was searching for a man who was after His own heart and He found David. David was totally humble and obedient to God. Again, that doesn’t mean he didn’t sin. He did horribly, but it meant David was always ultimately devoted to God.
That is the key to success in our life. The key to spiritual success and the key to everything is being submissive to the authority of God.
“Father, thank You for this time to look at this subject. It strikes each of us deeply because each of us struggles with key areas where we are arrogant, self-sufficient, and self-absorbed. We think about our spiritual lives and our lives in general totally in terms with what’s best for us.
“These passages teach us that if we’re going to be a man or a woman after Your heart, then we need to be submissive to You. We need to humble ourselves. We need to be obedient to You, submit to Your Word, and submit to Your authority. We need to think more highly of You and Your mission for us than we do for what we want to accomplish and get out of life.
“We’re put here on this earth, whatever we’re doing, whatever job, career, or task we have, we are here ultimately here to serve You. Father, we pray that You would bring these things back to our mind and that we would think about them, and that God the Holy Spirit would drive it home in our souls. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”