July 25, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“And what does the Lord require of you? He requires you to act justly. He requires you to love mercy. He requires you to walk humbly with Him. [These are not mere suggestions!].” (Micah 6.8)
“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5.5 referencing Proverbs 3.34)
I have been reflecting on Micah 6.8 as a rubric for understanding and identifying “being clothed with righteousness.” Righteousness, living in right relationship with and to God, can be seen in the call of God through Micah as “acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly before God.” I will offer a second rubric beginning tomorrow from Ephesians 6 which outlines “putting on the full armor of God.” But, before I can do that, I must complete the spiritual wardrobe of the “three piece suit.” And to do that, I cannot forget the call of God to “walk humbly.”
The apostle Paul warned those who called themselves followers of the Way as disciples of Christ, to not be consumed by pride with words such as: “do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought but consider all things with sober judgment” (a warning against drunken bravado); “for if anyone believes he is “truly something” he is nothing and has deceived himself or herself” (a warning against valuing one’s self and accomplishments as self-rendered); or, “regard one another with great humility of mind as greater than yourself- don’t be haughty, arrogant or rude.” In one of his four letters to the faith community in Corinth, he described the very essence of love as “it is not arrogant or rude and takes nothing so personally that the response is filled with bitterness.” The warning against false pride, which promotes self above all else, is common throughout the Old and New Testaments as well as many cultures and philosophies. It is uncommon within the culture and climate of those who have been “sin-fected” by the lies of Satan who himself promoted pride as the true religion of self-righteous freedom. To walk humbly is the call to service and gratitude toward God. From Isaiah’s recollection we hear “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news and promote peace, who bring glad tidings and talk of salvation declaring ‘Our God saves!’” Those mountains, by the way, of which Isaiah speaks, are the places of leadership of faith, reason and politics. It is in a similar place that the disciples found themselves with Jesus and were confronted with that fateful question “Who do the people and YOU say that I AM?” Many answers were offered but Peter responded with the greatest profession of faith saying “You are the Christ of God, the Messiah, who is the Son of God!” Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but only by My Father in Heaven!” (Matthew 16.16+) We are obviously called to enjoy the walk of humility and its blessing. In Ephesians 6, we will hear a similar call to have feet shod with the gospel of peace. It is the walk of humility which Jesus modeled to Calvary as He carried the yoke of crucifixion. He is said to have “walked as a lamb led to slaughter without uttering a sound.” He was in perfect peace, no matter how terrifying the circumstance, with the will of God. Besides, He was far too busy fashioning that yoke so that we would be able to be equally yoked with Him on earth as we will be in Heaven. There is so much rich imagery which rises up out of this good news of “walking humbly.”
Ultimately, to “put on” humility alludes to setting one’s personal agenda of whatever would promote one’s self above others aside and “take up” the cross of Jesus to follow Him. It is just as Jesus did when He took up His own cross and followed God. He did not journey alone from Pilate’s courtyard in the presence of His enemies to Golgotha, “The Place of the Skull” where He was crucified for our sins. God was with Him all the time and all the way. It was His conflict with the human side of His equation that led Him to cry out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani,” or “My God, My God, why is it I feel you have forsaken Me?” It is so indicative of the struggle which He espoused in the Garden just hours before when He asked “Father, if it can be Your will, allow this cup of sorrow to pass from Me. Yet, not My will but Yours be done!” In our humanity, it is so easy to blame God for the bad things which happen to us. Even Jesus warned His disciples, “In this world there will be trouble, terrible trial, even death; remain faithful.” He would never ask His disciples to do what He Himself would not do. He could have claimed equality with God and demonstrated it by calling down the army of Heaven to defeat the enemy, removing Himself from the cross to avoid death and by taking over the seat of Jerusalem in a coup to establish an earthly kingdom. But, these were not things bound in God’s will for His life. He declared, “I have come to serve and not be served.” He humbled Himself at the feet of His disciples and washed their feet at the Last Supper. That was supposed to be the task of the owner of the house. He took it upon Himself as this was a place that would serve as a “house of the Lord.” Even Simon the Pharisee, in his day, had ignored washing Jesus’ feet when he invited Him to dinner. It was the opportunity then for the woman broken by the world to come and anoint Jesus’ feet with oil and tears, then dry them with her hair. It was an enethma to Simon and a blessing to Jesus. It was a shining example of “walking humbly freed from sin” offered by the woman who had been forgiven everything and called a daughter of the Most High God.
And no one may have understood it better than Paul himself. As Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee who had studied under the auspices of the great Gamaliel, he thought so highly of himself and his cause that he gained the favor of the Temple leadership to exterminate those who opposed him and them as being “ones of Christ.” It was said he held the cloaks of those who disrobed themselves in order to stone Stephen and he was glad to do so. His arrogance and “wrong belief” led him to be a chief sinner. That is what he called himself following his conversion to be a follower of Christ. He was a student well-versed in the Law and the Prophets. He knew every jot and tittle of the way of the Pharisee and could “execute that justice and mercy” with effectiveness so as to alienate and isolate those “weaker than them.” That is, he could until he met Jesus face to face on the Damascus Road. He left Jerusalem on a crusade atop a great white horse worthy of a commanding and conquering general. He entered Damascus a struggling blind man covered by the dust of the road upon which he walked. His life forever changed to “act justly” by sharing the Good News with all people, to “love mercy” by promoting the gospel of forgiveness and salvation and to “walk humbly” giving Jesus Christ, the Son of God and his Savior all the glory and honor. Paul talked the talk and walked the walk of that which he knew best- Jesus. Paul set aside the “dress for success” attitude of the Pharisee and was “clothed with righteousness” by the grace of the Holy Spirit of the One whom he loved and served. So, too, ought we!
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
Father, You alone are God and perfect in righteousness even toward us who are far from perfect. We thank You for the good news of a great joy which is for all people including us and by it we know that we who believe are saved and clothed in righteousness. Accept our words of gratitude and the actions that bear them out. May they speak volumes to those who remain in and of the world so they will come to know the truth that can truly set them free. We ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.