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Im4God Newsletter 01.28.05@

Welcome to the / January 28th, 2005 Newsletter!
You can email Webservant Peter J. Louie by replying to this message.

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Psalm 139:17-24 - Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
   How vast is the sum of them!
18If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
   I awake, and I am still with you.

19Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
   O men of blood, depart from me!
20They speak against you with malicious intent;
   your enemies take your name in vain!
21Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
   And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22I hate them with complete hatred;
   I count them my enemies.

23Search me, O God, and know my heart!
   Try me and know my thoughts!
24And see if there be any grievous way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting!

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Moses: The Making of a Humble Man   
by Mark Mullery

What's older than Adam and more common than a cold? Give up? The sin of pride. When Adam and Eve proudly decided they knew better than God how they should live, they weren't breaking any new ground. Satan had already dedicated his entire existence to pride, and fallen from God's grace as a result. In exalting their wisdom and judgment above God's, Adam and Eve were just following Satan's example.

Is it any wonder, given these deep roots, that pride is the most universal of human traits? It afflicts Harvard Ph. D's and the illiterate, the old and the young, the farmer and the fashion model. We all like sheep have gone astray, Isaiah tells us, each of us to his own way rather than God's (Is 53:6). Left to ourselves and apart from God's gracious intervention, we are all defined by and, like Satan, ultimately condemned for our pride.

If pride is the poison, what is the antidote? Humility.

The marketplace, academia, and professional sports see humility as a weakness, a hindrance, a negative. But God sees it as a great good. In fact, God actively opposes proud people but gives grace to the humble (1Pe 5:5).

How can a Christian become more humble? If God wants us to grow in humility, how will he help us do that? Of the many ways God promotes our humility, one of the more concrete is the provision of examples in Scripture. In all of Scripture, one man is singled out for his humility: Moses. Indeed, the Bible records that Moses was "more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth" (Nu 12:3).

Greatness and Humility

When you think of Moses, "humble" may not be the first word that comes to mind. After all, he was certainly a very great man, and aren't greatness and humility natural antagonists? Indeed, what leader has ever achieved more than Moses?

He led an unarmed, untrained, unprepared, poverty-stricken mass of two million rebellious slaves out of Egypt, plundering it in the process, and into a hostile, trackless wilderness. For Egypt, this was an unmitigated disaster on every level  demographic, political, economic, social, etc.  and took place despite the wishes of Pharaoh and the efforts of his army.

As Moses led these millions through 40 years of wanderings in the desert, he served as their judge, lawgiver, prophet, and chronicler. So definitive was his leadership, that 2,000 years later, in New Testament times, Jews saw themselves as "disciples of Moses" and referred to the Old Testament as "Moses and the Prophets."

At the Transfiguration it is Moses who, along with Elijah, appears alongside the Son of God (Mt 17:3). Both Peter and Stephen preach that Jesus is a prophet "like Moses" (Ac 3:22, 7:37). What a phrase!

Who else but Moses had a face that glowed with the glory of God? (2Co 3:7). Who else had the privilege of building an earthly model of the heavenly tabernacle? (Heb 8:5) Who else had an archangel get in a fight with Satan over his body? (Jude 9) Who else spoke with such authority that to reject his law would be to die? (Heb 10:28) Who else wrote a worship song that Scripture records as being sung in Heaven? (Rev 15:3)

What kind of an ego would you expect in such a man? Could anyone be humble after all that? And yet the narrator's comment about Moses in Numbers 12:3 is that "Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth." How did he become humble? We know he wasn't born that way. So how did he learn humility? Let's examine the life of Moses, seeking to learn how he could be so great, yet so humble.

In the Courts of Egypt: The Need for Humility

Moses was born into circumstances that were, in one sense of the word, truly humble. His was an enslaved and hated race. So despised were the Jews that, at the time of Moses' birth, Egyptian law required that all male Hebrew newborns must be killed.

Through God's extraordinary providence, the baby Moses, born under a death sentence, not only survived but was adopted into Pharaoh's household and raised as a prince in the luxury and excesses of the royal court. Being educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, Moses became a man mighty in word and deed. He spoke well, freely walked the halls of power, and was well known among that great nation's elite. He'd received the best the world had to offer in literature, horsemanship, military tactics, and use of weapons. His future was bright and, at age 40, his star was ascending.

Then a strange thing happened. Deciding to visit his kinsmen, he sees one being mistreated by an Egyptian. Moses' blood boils at the injustice. In a flash of anger he kills the Egyptian, burying his body in the sand. The next day our avenger, seeking to break up a fight between two Hebrews, is pushed aside with these words, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?" (Ac 7:27-8) Moses, knowing he's been exposed, flees Egypt before the authorities can catch him; indeed, Pharaoh seeks his life in payment for the crime.

In this phase of Moses' life, we see a remarkable man, spared by God and destined for greatness. We see a man who loved his own people, the people of God, and began to sense God's call to rescue them from bondage. We see a man bold enough to break up fights and zealous enough to seek to bring justice where injustice prevailed.

Nevertheless, this first forty-year chapter of Moses' life closes with him hunted by the people who raised him, and rejected by the people he sought to save. Why? I believe it's because of Moses' pride.

Although born into humble circumstances, Moses wasn't born humble. No one is. He'd received the best education available, but hadn't yet been educated in the school of humility. He'd lived forty years, but hadn't outlived pride; he thought he could deliver his people on his own.

Let us be sobered by Moses' example. True humility comes naturally for no one. It is, in fact, an unnatural, otherworldly act. Humility, impossible in the flesh, is supernatural in origin, requiring a transforming work by God's power. Lineage, wealth, age, giftings, discipline, church affiliation  when it comes to gaining humility, none of these matter in the slightest. Left to yourself, you will never be humble. The universal root sin of pride can corrupt and destroy whatever you set out to do, even things done for God.

Moses sensed he was to rescue God's people. One day he would be their ruler and judge. But until humility came, he was nothing more than a fugitive.

Let us be encouraged by Moses' example. Moses wasn't too old or too educated to become humble. At age 40, he possessed a huge ego, and had made a real mess of things, but it wasn't too late.

How about you? Where are you now? Have you started on the road to humility? Are you educating your soul in humility? Has your pride made a mess of things? Have you sensed God leading you in a certain way and then tried to force it to happen in your own timing and power?

Be encouraged. Moses did that, too. But he ended up a humble, fruitful man. And how did that humility come about? Where did he learn it?

In the Desert of Midian: The School of Humility

After killing the Egyptian, Moses fled to a desert place called Midian. There he met and married a local girl named Zipporah. There he had two children. There it is possible he learned more about YHWH, the God of the Israelites, from his father-in-law Jethro. There he encountered God personally as he gazed into a burning bush. What a change from Egypt!

In the middle of nowhere, among wandering Bedouins, Moses' former power, wealth, and prestige meant nothing. Imagine the loneliness of long days in the desert with the flocks and herds. Imagine the opportunities for reflection on where he'd been, and where things had gone wrong. It was exactly where God wanted him.

God often takes us out of our normal routines to deepen our experience of him and remind us how dependent we are on him. Even Jesus was alone in the wilderness before being tempted by Satan. Jonah was alone in the fish. David had to flee his home from Saul, and later from Absalom. Paul spent lonely times in prison. How do you respond when you're in the wilderness? Do you see these times as a blessing or a curse? As a mistake or as a part of God's loving design for communion with you?

The loneliness and affliction of the desert became the school where Moses learned humility. God frequently uses affliction to promote our humility. The Hebrew word for "humble" in Numbers 12:3 is anaw. It means to be "bent over (under the pressure of circumstances) and, consequently, as affliction does its proper work, humble."

Yes, when God brings pressure in our lives  sickness, unemployment, unfulfilled longings, or any of a thousand other difficulties  it's designed to humble us, to bend us over. Moses' forty years in the palaces of Egypt were followed by forty more in the desert. The desert exposes our self-sufficiency and pride, teaching us (again!) that God is the Master and we the servants ... He the Creator, we the created ... He the Sustainer, we the sustained.

In bringing us low, God's design is that we'll bow, not with complaints and murmuring, but in worship, faith, and thanksgiving. In these times, God is not merely displaying his power. In mercy, love, and grace, he's changing us that we might be equipped to do his will in his strength.

In that desert, Moses was bowed down that he might learn to look up. Once he had learned that lesson  really learned it  he was ready to lead God's people.

Out from Egypt: The Fruit of Humility

And so, after forty years in the desert, the fugitive returns to Egypt a changed man. He who was mocked  "Who made you ruler and judge?"  now returns as ruler and judge. He returns to lead God's people out of Egypt, to do miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and for forty more years in the desert.

Same man, same place, same goal, completely different results. Why? Humility.

After learning to bow down and look up, Moses knows his limitations. No longer does he automatically put himself forward as the solution. He who had been "powerful in speech and action" (Ac 7:22) doesn't even believe himself qualified to speak the message God has given him. This time, Moses depends on God.

When the Hebrew foremen complain to Moses about their plight, Moses prays. When the people are thirsty at Marah and complain, he cries out to God. When he is opposed by his own jealous brother and sister, the scene ends with him praying for his sister to be healed of leprosy. When the spies return from Canaan and ten give a report full of unbelief, he falls face down in front of them and intercedes.

Is he sinless? No. Does he still fall into sinful anger on occasion? Yes. But see how radically the course of his life has been shifted. Now, when trials come and bend him over, he looks up. When faced with a need, he prays to God. Proud people don't pray. Proud people act first, and maybe ask God later. But Moses prays.

Moses' humility is also seen in the way he consistently lives for the good of those he serves. Remember, these are people who don't like to follow. They don't write many encouragement notes. They all have graduate degrees in Grumbling and Complaining, with an emphasis on Slandering of Leaders. Yet we find Moses serving, leading, and interceding for them with extraordinary patience, even when he's exhausted, even when he's not thanked.

Why? Because humble people know how patient God has been with them. Humble people remember how grievously they've grumbled and complained. Humble people remember how they've slandered God. In light of the patience, kindness, and long-suffering God had showed him, how could Moses not extend the same to his rebellious countrymen?

Bringing it Home

So, what is humility? We might think of humility as operating in three directions: in, up, and out.

The humble look in. The humble man accurately perceives his limitations and his standing before God in Christ. He will not think more of himself  or less  than God does. Agreeing with God's assessment of himself, he will ever recall that he is a created, redeemed being whose life is tied up in God.

The humble look up. As Moses became humble, he became intensely God-centered. To live rightly as a creature made in the image of the Creator is to live in dependence upon and fellowship with God. Humble people pray. Humble people read Scripture. Humble people look up.

The humble look out. Humble people use their strengths for the good of others. When Moses returned to Egypt, wouldn't he have been tempted to work his way back inside the palace to a position of wealth and power? After all, what a difference he could make "on the inside"! But he chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time (Heb 11:24-5). Like Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, humility stoops to serve others.

Where are you today? Are you in the courts of Egypt, interested in the things of God, and sensing his call, but confused, selfishly ambitious, and proud? Are you in the desert, set aside by God, bent over by trials so you can learn to look up to him? In the desert, at the burning bush, Moses had a defining experience, a life-changing encounter with a holy God. The result was a humble man who lived the rest of his life fruitfully for God's glory and the people's good.

Our defining experience is the Cross of Christ. At the Cross we are measured by God and found wanting. There, our pride is exposed. At the Cross we are bent over. Those who, in response to God's grace, look up to him, find a Savior. This is the Son, the Messiah, the Lamb, who makes the proud humble, the self-sufficient dependent, and the selfish selfless.

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Article source: Sovereign Grace Magazine (September/October 2000)

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