Man has been seeking his own glory ever since he rebelled in the Garden. The Old Testament characterizes Babylon as a uniquely egregious manifestation of man’s pride, a nation that rose to worldly glory and ended in utter destruction and desolation. According to the book of Revelation a new version of Babylon will manifest in the end times, and it will again end in absolute destruction.
Note how the pride of Babylon is described in three Old Testament passages:
- In Genesis 11:4 the people of Babel (Babylon) endeavor to build “a tower whose top will reach into heaven.”
- Isaiah says of the king of Babylon: “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God…I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” Isaiah 14:13a,14
- Jeremiah writes: “‘Though Babylon should ascend to the heavens, and though she should fortify her lofty stronghold, from Me destroyers will come to her,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 51:53
Babylon is described as desiring to ascend into heaven, of wanting to be like God.
In contrast to prideful Babylon, note how Jesus is described in the New Testament:
Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things. Ephesians 4:9-10
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name. Philippians 2:8-9
Before Jesus ascended, He descended. Before God highly exalted Him, Jesus humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.
Jesus teaches in Matthew 23:12, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
It is one of the most frequently repeated teachings in the bible.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time. 1 Peter 5:6
Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:10
All men seek glory. God wired us that way. But the bible’s path to glory shares nothing in common with the world’s path to glory. The bible teaches that any human effort at lifting himself up will end in utter failure. If a man is to experience true exaltation it will be at the hand of God and God alone. The “when” and the “how much” are also determined by God. The Christian’s charge is to be hidden in Christ. He is to seek to be named in Christ, as opposed to seeking a name for himself. Man’s path to glory is always via humility. Jesus states that the path to biblical greatness is becoming a servant to others (Matthew 23:11).
What does it mean to pursue humility before God? Isaiah says two things accompany humility in the man to whom God looks: contrition and trembling at God’s word (Isaiah 66:1-2). If we are serious about humility, we will be serious about repentance, and we will be serious about fearing God and God’s word.
- In your own words, define humility.
- Fearing God is not a popular idea in the cultural Christianity of our day. Can you identify any ways in which your mindset in this area has been influenced more by the culture we live in than by the bible?