Friday, November 23, 2018

Why God Humbles Us

In my quiet time with God today, I read the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapters 4-6.

Daniel, living as an exile in Babylon, which had conquered God's people, is an adviser to the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel interprets a dream for the king, telling Nebuchadnezzar that, although he is powerful and rich at the moment, his kingdom will soon be taken from him. Because of his arrogance, Nebuchadnezzar will be driven from his throne, forced to live like a wild animal.

A year passes and the king is still in power...unchastened by the dream. Then, one day while walking on the roof of his palace, Nebuchadnezzar observes with self-satisfaction, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Daniel 4:30)

Just then, a voice came from heaven and told the king, "This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times [seven years] will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” (Daniel 4:31-32)

After seven years of God's humiliation for his arrogance, Nebuchadnezzar repented for his sins and confessed his faith in God. As he tells it, his sanity is restored. (The abiding insanity of the human race is the notion that we can "be like God," masters of our own lives and fates. Nebuchadnezzar apparently had followed this insane line of thinking to the nth degree.)

Eventually, his advisers and others sought Nebuchadnezzar out and his kingship was restored, although he approached it with a different attitude. His kingship and all of the other gifts God chose to bestow on him weren't his due, nor the result of his goodness or power: They were only trusts given to Him by God to be used with faithfulness, diligence, and wisdom.

In Daniel 4:37, the king says, "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble."

"And those who walk in pride he is able to humble."

We may sometimes resent or question the ways in which God humbles us. But maybe God has to humble us in order to restore our sanity, to help us to acknowledge the fundamental fact of the universe, that God is God and we're not. He needs to humble us so that we will turn back to Him and live.

The way of self-centered pride may gain us the whole world. But eventually, it will cost us our eternal lives. When we insist on worshiping at what Carolyn Arends has called "the altar of ego," we aren't walking with the God we know in Jesus Christ.

Jesus asks, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" (Mark 8:36)

Nebuchadnezzar's answer to that question was, "It doesn't profit anyone at all to gain the trophies of this dying world and lose our life with God for all eternity."

I try to spend time in God's Word each day. I don’t do that to earn brownie points with God. God doesn’t give brownie points. He gave Himself on the cross for sinners like me. I spend time in God’s Word each day so that I don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this world or this human being is all that. I need to be reminded of how gracious, loving, powerful, and righteous God is. I need to reconnect with the only Source of life there is: the God revealed in Jesus.

I don't want to be my own man. I want to be God's man. I want to be a man who belongs to the One Who bought my soul out of sin and death by His death on the cross. I want to belong to Jesus.

I don't need the kingdoms of this world--prominence, popularity, power, property. I just need the God revealed in Jesus. I ask that God would remind me of that each day, to keep me sane.

"One thing I have asked of the LORD, this is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and seek Him in His temple." (Psalm 27:4)

That’s how I feel when I’m sane. And I'm not always sane. Sometimes I let my ego, my thoughts, my emotions, or my desires take control. 
I need to be humbled to see God, the world, and me aright. That's why I keep coming back to God in His Word, the God I know in Jesus, the God Who has established His Church as a fellowship of healing for recovering sinners like me: So that His sanity will penetrate my life and so that I will believe in Him and live.

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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