Humility is one of the chief characteristics of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Christian. Yet we live in a nation that knows very little about humility. It is seen as a weakness mostly among the American population. I have heard humility despised by Christain people in unexpected places. We teach people to think of humility as a person becoming a doormat. A humble person is a person who doesn’t make his own way, get very far in life, ascend the ladder of success, or make any real, lasting difference. Meekness, its spiritual traveling companion, is even more despised in the Church and nation than humility. Yet where you find one, you see the other.
Today’s essay is about neither humility nor meekness as topics in themselves. Humility comes up towards the end of today’s passage, but it should be understood more in the totality of what is being said. Psalm 25:9 says “He leads the humble in what is right and teaches the humble his way.” Humility is not defined crisply in our text, but it is displayed clearly if we look for it. Meekness is more of the outworking of humility. A humble person becomes meek. David is a great king with many tools at his disposal to solve his military and political problems. When his enemies exult, there is the sword, the war horse, the chariot, and military alliances. He could surround himself with advisers and make a strategy that to outside observers would “appear” to be wise. But instead, he chooses to go to God humbly, turns away from power and his own wisdom, and seeks the Lord’s path rather than his own. If you listen to the spirit of his words, you will hear a gentle and compliant spirit in the tone of David’s voice. This is meekness. Humility marks out those that receive grace, while meekness is found in those that inherit the earth. Neither are the weaknesses of cowards but are the strength of those that know the Lord. That we do not understand this today, nor demonstrate it in our lives as a contrast to the worldlings, is evidence of our pride and self-seeking. Seeing our enemies exulting and triumphing, we should imitate the great Saints and seek the way of Christ, which David demonstrates for us here in Psalm 25:1-10.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. 3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. 6 Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord! 8 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
One thing the modern Church and World are good at is keeping people from coming to the end of their rope. We have developed a lot of management techniques and built a lot of societal safety nets to keep people from hitting rock bottom. “At the end of our rope” is an old saying meant to give the image of one climbing down a cliff side on a rope that is too short to reach the bottom. Hand over hand, we lower ourselves down until we realize that the rope is insufficient for the task. Hopeless, we hang there asking for a miracle. But we are such obstinate creatures that this is what it takes for us to see that we are not sufficient in ourselves. Of course, David is a believer talking to believers, so we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that God only brings those in need of salvation to the end of their rope. He does this for Saints as well because the great danger of becoming a Christian and beginning to bring forth obedience to God are the blessings that come with it. We can find ourselves in a place where we come to love the blessings more than the Giver of the blessings.
This is why God brings us to the end of our rope. It is why we all experience multiple times in our lives, even prolonged times, where we feel as David feels here. Times when our enemies are putting us to shame and exulting over us, and it feels like they are on the verge of total victory. These are the times of desperation. For David, it was the Philistines or some external enemy that appeared ready to bring him and Israel into slavery that drove him to “lift up his soul” to his God. For us, it is enemies within and without. I often am my own worst enemy. Satan does not have to bother much with me as I am most often engaged in conflict within myself. The conflict is between me (the Philistine) and my God who dwells within me. You see, I know the truth, but I feel as Paul felt in Romans 7 when he says what I want to do I don’t, what I don’t want to do I do, O wretched man that I am.
My sense of entitlement
My lack of patience
My cruel use of language
My over speaking
My complaining spirit
My coarse joking, irony, and sarcasm
My critical spirit
My pride of life as if the ride goes on forever
My weak sense of self
My complete lack of humility
My complete lack also of meekness
These are the enemies that exult over me and put me to shame. These are the enemies that I sometimes feel will triumph over me. Through temptation and my failure, the Enemy tears down the kingdom of God in the eyes of my children and neighbors, and friends; it sometimes feels as if I am fighting a losing battle.
In times of desperation, when the Spiritual battle is hot, the words of Ephesians 2 shine forth brighter and brighter.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
David in Psalm 25 doesn’t use the same language as Paul in Ephesians 2, but he does claim the promises of God there in a similar way. In this essay, I will encourage both myself and you to claim God’s promises, calling on him as he is revealed in Scripture and as we experience Him in our lives. May the truths herein be helpful to us in our future times of desperation.
Tomorrow we’ll add Part 2 where we will start to get into the nuts and bolts of Psalm 25:1-10