yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you:
tapeinothete (2PAPM) enopion kuriou, kai hupsosei (3SFAI) humas:
(Jas 4:7, 1Sa 2:9; Job 22:29; Ps 27:6; 28:9; 30:1; 113:7; 147:6; Mt
23:12; Lk 14:11; 18:14; 1Pe 5:6)
This theme of God humbling the
proud, but exalting the humble, runs throughout Scripture (1Sa 2:4, 5,
6, 7, 8; Job 42:6, 10-17; Ps 34:18; 51:17; Pr 3:34; 29:25; Isa 57:15;
66:2; Ezek. 17:24; Mt. 23:12; Lk 14:11; 18:14; 1Pe 5:6).
A conditional promise, but oh, what
a blessed promise it is!
Humble...exalt - Be made low
so that you can be made high! This is a foundational Biblical
principle. John the Baptist who Jesus said was greatest of men (Mt
11:11, Lk 7:28) understood this vital spiritual principle, as
evidenced by his declaration that...
He (Jesus) must (speaks of
= continually must) increase (auxano
= continually), but I must decrease (present
continually decrease in dignity, authority, popularity). (John 3:30)
Comment: A Presbyterian
pastor in Melbourne, Australia introduced J. Hudson Taylor by using
many superlatives, especially the word great. Taylor stepped to the
pulpit and quietly said, “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an
illustrious Master.” If John the Baptist in heaven heard that
statement, he must have shouted “Hallelujah!”
As an aside, it is notable that the
verb must ()
is used three significant times in John 3 -- the “must” of the
sinner (Jn 3:7), the “must” of the Savior (Jn 3:14), and the “must”
of the servant (Jn 3:30).
Note that the idea of humility
permeates this section saturated with commands (cp, Appearing before
the series of commands = Jas 4:6 [tapeinos]
and as the last command = Jas 4:10 - [tapeinoo]).
The excellent Puritan expositor
Thomas Manton writes that...
The apostle goes on inculcating and
pressing the same duty upon them; and lest they should rest content
with externals, he uses a word that particularly implies the internal
acts of the soul.
Note from the context that it is not the outward expressions that God
looks for in mourning (Jas 4:9-note),
but the humble heart. God, who is a spirit, does not count bodily
actions so much. Tears and wailing and beating the body may all be
counterfeit, or else done without a principle of grace; and there may
often be inward humiliation though an unemotional person does not
yield tears. Godly sorrow (cp 2Co 7:10, 11) does not always vent
itself through the eyes. (Some religious sects) place much importance
on tears and afflicting the body. The spirit-work is the more
difficult. Duties require much spirit, and soul-acts are too strong
for weak people. I allude to Christ’s expression concerning spiritual
fasting in Matthew 9:15,16. Old worldly hearts cannot endure the rigor
of such spiritual duties.
So then, in your first duties see that you not only mourn and
weep but humble your souls. When you confess sins, it
is not words and tears that God looks for, but a deep shame of the
evil of your nature, your iniquities of life, and your defects in
When you pray, look not so much at
the outward heat and strength—agitated spirits and earnestness of
speech; but see that the soul reaches for God by holy ardor and
desires. In confessing public sins, it is not the exact enumeration
but zeal for God’s glory, compassion for others’ good, and holy
desires of promoting righteousness that the Lord looks for. Ashes and
sackcloth are nothing to the work of the soul: “Is that what you call
a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?” (Is 58:5, cp Ps 51:17-note,
1Sa 15:22. 23). (A Practical Exposition of
James) (Bolding added
Expositor's Bible Commentary
comments that in context James refers to...
the specific form of humbling (as)...repentance for the sin of transferring affections from God to
pleasures of the world (cp Jas 4:1, 2, 3, 4). However, the principle
stated in this verse is much more comprehensive in its application.
That God exalts those who humble themselves is a
consistent biblical principle (cf. Mt 23:12; Lk 14:11; 18:14; Php
2:5-11; 1Pe 5:6.)
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament.
Zondervan Publishing or
Pradis = computer version)
Spurgeon warns that...
If you exalt yourself, He will pull
you down. If you lie down in the dust before Him, He will lift you up.
It is according to God's usual way of acting to practice these
reversals. Mary truly sang,
"He hath put down the mighty from
their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry
with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away." (Lk 1:52KJV)
= low, not high, figuratively of one's attitude/social position)
literally means to level, to cause something to be lower or to make low (eg,
to level off a mountain in Lk 3:5 from Lxx of Is 40:4). Tapeinoo
means to bow down, to make low, to humble. Most NT uses
of tapeinoo are figurative and include the following meanings: To cause someone to lose prestige, to reduce to a meaner
condition or lower rank, to abase. To be ranked below others.
Tapeinoo is in the
which is like an order from a commanding general which calls for full
attention and immediate obedience. It calls their being willing to
accept this attitude. James commands his readers to submit voluntarily
that they might be made low. The verb is
indicates that the subject acting upon the individual is an outside
force, in this case God. The idea then is not be humbled but allow
yourself to be humbled or placed in a lower position. This work of God
in humbling us is a work of His grace -- the "gravity of grace" always
flows from higher to lower.
Hiebert adds that...
may be understood in the sense of
but it could mean "allow yourselves to be humbled." It is not to be a
forced humiliation, but a voluntary self-abasement.
Archibald Alexander once
Humility is to the Christian what
ballast is to the ship; it keeps him in his proper position and
regulates all his thoughts and feelings.
MacArthur notes that in the
present context James uses tapeinoo meaning...
to make oneself low, not in the
self-put-downs that many people use in order to induce others to build
them up, but in a genuine realization of complete unworthiness and
lostness because of sin. As the penitent sinner submits to God and
draws closer to Him, like Isaiah he cries out, “Woe is me, for I am
ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people
of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts”
(Isa 6:5). The more an unbeliever sees God as He really is, glorious
and holy, the more clearly he sees himself as he really is, sinful and
J. James. Moody or
In secular Greek, the person who
was tapeinos described the one who was base, ignoble or of low
birth, servile, held in low esteem. Obviously in the Bible, the
supreme example of humility and humbling one's self is the Lord Jesus
Wuest says that tapeinoo
to make low, bring low, to bring
into a humble condition, to abase, to assign a lower rank or place to,
to humble or abase one’s self, to be ranked below others who are
honored or rewarded, to have a modest opinion of one’s self, to behave
in an unassuming manner.”
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans
The Theological Lexicon of the
NT has the following note which although referring primarily to
the noun tapeinos is helpful to discern the essence of the verb
The humble are contrasted with
potentates, the great (Mt 18:4; 23:12; Ro 12:16), the arrogant (Jas
4:6), the rich (Jas 1:9; cf. Php 4:12), with all that is lofty (Lk
3:5; 2Co 11:7; Jas 4:10; 1Pe 5:6) and glorious (Php 3:21; cf. Pr
29:23). Here is a profile of the humble:
(a) They are “little people,” of
modest circumstances, who are regarded with favor by the Lord.
(b) They are unfortunate sufferers (2Cor 7:6; 12:21), whom God
comforts (Php 2:8; Heb 6:6; 10:29).
(c) They are discreet and self-effacing (Ep. Arist. 257; Ro 12:16; Gal
6:1, 2, 3; Eph 4:2; 1Ti 3:6; 1Pe 3:8).
(d) They are humble before the Lord and reserved with respect to their
brethren, persuaded of “the misery and emptiness of the whole
creation.” (Spicq, C., & Ernest, J. D. Theological Lexicon of the New
Testament. 3:370-371. Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson)
Notice the NT emphasis on
the importance of humbling oneself that one might be exalted, a
complete antithesis of what the fallen world believes. Human pride
scoffs at and resists this basic Biblical principle.
There are 14 uses of tapeinoo
in 11 verses in the NT...
Matthew 18:4 "Whoever then
humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom
Robertson remarks that "It
is not that the child humbled himself, but that the child is humble
from the nature of the case in relation to older persons. That is
true, however “bumptious” the child himself may be. Bruce observes
that to humble oneself is “the most difficult thing in the world for
saint as for sinner."
Vincent: "Not, as this
little child humbles himself, but, shall make himself humble as this
little child is lowly; shall willingly become by spiritual process
what the child is by nature."
MacArthur: making low In
God’s eyes, the one who lowers himself is the one who is elevated; the
one who genuinely considers himself to be the least is the one God
considers to be the greatest.
R. C. H. Lenski: “He
who thinks of making no claims shall have all that others claim and by
claiming cannot obtain... Only an empty vessel can God fill with His
gifts. And the emptier we are of anything that is due to ourselves,
the more can God pour into these vessels His eternal riches, honors,
and glories” (The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel.
Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1943).
Matthew 23:12 "And whoever exalts (lifts up) himself shall be humbled; and
whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
Comment: The story of the
prodigal son and his older brother in Luke 15 provide an excellent
portrayal of the principle Jesus is teaching in Mt 23:12. The prodigal
came to his senses (Lk 15:18, 19, 21) and as a result of his genuine
humility, he was exalted by the father (Lk 15:20, 22, 23, 24). The
elder son in contrast reacted with anger (Lk 15:28, 29, 30). Is not
the father's show of compassion (Lk 15:20ff) also a picture of our
heavenly Father bestowing "greater grace" on humble, repentant
sinners (Jas 4:6)?
EBC: The principle
enunciated in these verses reflects not natural law but kingdom law:
the eschatological reward will humble the self-exalted and exalt the
self-humbled, after the pattern in Ezek 21:26. What is commended is
humility, not humbug; service, not servility. The supreme example—the
Messiah himself—makes this clear (Mt 20:26-28); for his astonishing
humility and service to others was untainted by servility and was
perfectly compatible with exercising the highest authority. Having
done the greatest service, he has been most highly exalted
Luke 3:5 'Every ravine shall be filled up, And every mountain and hill
shall be brought low; And the crooked shall become straight, And the
rough roads smooth (Quoting Isaiah 40:3)
Comment: Vincent writes "In
allusion to the practice of Eastern monarchs. On occasions of their
progress, heralds were sent out to call on the people to clear and
improve the old roads or to make new ones."
EBC: Isaiah 40:3 was used by
the community at Qumran as a rationale for leading a separated life in
the desert, where they believed they were preparing the way of the
Lord by means of a constant reading of the Law...What needs removal is
the sin of the people.
Luke 14:11 "For everyone who exalts
himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself
shall be exalted."
Comment: "Humbles" is in the
for this to be one's lifestyle (It is in the
= we make the choice to humble ourselves - although often it is God
allowing circumstances/people in our life that give us the
"opportunity" to make this choice)! Conversely everyone who
continually exalts (also
themselves will be humbled!
Luke 18:14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified
rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be
humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted."
Comment: As with the
previous use in Luke 14:11, the second use of tapeinoo is
calling for the individual to continually make a choice of his or her
will to humble themselves!
2Corinthians 11:7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself
that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you
Comment: Humbling myself by
making tents for a living while preaching in Corinth.
EBC: Paul's purpose in
"humbling" himself in the Corinthians' eyes to undertake manual labor
while ministering to them (see Acts 18:3) was to "elevate" them above
their inherited idolatry and vicious past (2Co 11:7; cf. 2Co 4:12;
8:9), just as his "robbing" other churches of money they could not
really spare was motivated solely by his desire to serve the
Corinthians gratuitously and more effectively (2Co 11:8). It was
Paul's policy not to accept financial support from churches in which
he was currently ministering (see note).
2Corinthians 12:21 I am afraid
that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may
mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented
of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced.
Philippians 2:8-note And being found in appearance as a man, He
Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a
Comment: Tapeinoo is
"Not the same as emptied Himself, Php 2:7-note.
It defines that word, showing how the self-emptying manifests itself."
Philippians 4:12-note I know how to get along with
humble means, and I also
know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have
learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having
abundance and suffering need.
Comment: Here tapeinoo
has to do w. the physical rather than the moral or spiritual and is
used in respect to the needs of daily life
- Do this now! The
= let yourself be humbled) yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will
- Do this now! The
= let yourself be humbled) yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God,
that He may exalt you at the proper time
Christians should, therefore, submit themselves to God's "mighty
hand." In the OT, God's hand symbolizes discipline (Ex 3:19; 6:1; Job
30:21; Ps 32:4) and deliverance (Dt 9:26; Ezek 20:34). Both meanings
are appropriate in view of the sufferings of the Asian Christians.
Once more Peter ties his exhortation to humility to eschatology. The
"due time" (en kairo) is the time God sets for Christ's appearing.
Thus the whole destiny of Christians—whether suffering or glory—is
There are 138 uses of tapeinoo
Ge 15:13; 16:9; 31:50; 34:2; Ex
1:12; Lev 16:29, 31; 23:27, 29, 32; 25:39; Deut 21:14; 22:24, 29;
26:6; Jdg 16:5, 6, 19; 19:24; 20:5; Ru 1:21; 1Sa 2:7; 7:13; 12:8;
26:9; 2Sa 7:10; 13:12, 14, 22, 32; 22:28; 1Ki 8:35; 1Chr 4:10; 17:9f;
20:4; 2Chr 6:26; 13:18; 28:19; 32:26; 33:12, 23; 34:27; Ezra 8:21;
Esther 4:17; 6:13; Job 22:12, 23, 29; 24:9; 31:10; 34:25; 40:11; Ps
18:27; 35:13, 14; 38:8; 39:2; 44:19, 25; 51:8, 17; 55:19; 72:4; 74:21;
75:7; 81:14; 88:15; 89:10; 90:15; 94:5; 105:18; 106:42, 43; 107:12,
17; 116:6, 10; 119:67, 71, 75, 107; 142:6; 143:3; 147:6; Pr 10:4;
13:7; 18:12; 25:7; 29:23; Eccl 10:18; 12:4; Isa 1:25; 2:9, 11, 12, 17;
3:8, 17, 26; 5:15; 10:33; 13:11; 25:11, 12; 26:5; 29:4; 40:4; 51:21,
23; 57:9; 58:3, 5, 10; 60:14; 64:12; Jer 13:18; 31:37; Lam 1:5, 8, 12;
2:5; 3:32, 33, 34; 5:11; Ezek 17:24; 21:26; 22:10 Da 4:37; 5:19, 22;
7:24; 10:12; 11:30; Hos 2:15; 5:5; 7:10; 14:8; Mal 2:12.
TDNT comments on the
frequent use of tapeinoo in the Lxx...
The prominence of the verb shows
that the main reference is to an action rather than a state, and the
chief Hebrew originals confirm this. Thus the group ‘ānâ has the basic
sense of “stooping,” “bowing down,” and then “humbling oneself” (or
“being humbled” by sickness, poverty, want, etc.). From this we get
such senses as humility, modesty, subservience, compliance, and
In fasting people humble themselves
before God, but the OT never glorifies such self-abasement, stressing
instead the humble attitude of the heart (cf. Pr 25:7; Joel 2:12, 13;
G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the
New Testament. Eerdmans)
Here are a few representative
uses of tapeinoo in the Lxx...
Genesis 15:13 And God said to
Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a
land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved (Heb =
abad; Lxx = tapeinoo) and oppressed four hundred years.
Genesis 16:9 Then the angel of the
LORD said to her, "Return
(command) to your mistress, and
(Command - Heb = anah = to be bowed down, afflicted; Lxx = tapeinoo)
yourself to her authority."
Exodus 1:12 But the more they
afflicted (Heb = anah = to be bowed down, afflicted; Lxx =
tapeinoo) them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out,
so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel.
Leviticus 16:29 (Context:
Instructions regarding the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur) "And this
shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the
tenth day of the month, you shall humble (Heb =
anah = to be bowed down, afflicted; Lxx = tapeinoo) your souls, and
not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among
you... 31 "It is to be a Sabbath of solemn rest (Heb =
shabbathon; Lxx = anapausis = cessation from wearisome activity for
the sake of rest,) for you, that you may humble (afflict)
(Heb = anah = to be bowed down, afflicted; Lxx = tapeinoo) your souls;
it is a permanent statute.
Comment: Humble your
souls is literally "afflict his soul" which traditionally was
understood by the Jews as signifying abstinence from all food. This is
the only fast day prescribed in the Mosaic law.
Constable: All the
Israelites were to humble their souls (fast) and refrain from work in
preparation for this event. This self-affliction included spiritual
humbling as well as going without food (cf. Isa 58:3). Fasting was
an indication that the practitioner regarded his need to seek God as
more pressing than his need to feed his body. It often accompanied
prayer (cf. Ps 35:13). Refraining from work resulted from the same
sense of priority. No human activity was necessary nor did God permit
it in addition to the sacrifice that He provided to atone for sin. (Leviticus)
Leviticus 23:27 (Context:
Instructions regarding the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur) "On exactly
the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall
be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble (Heb
= anah = to be bowed down, afflicted; Lxx = tapeinoo) your souls and
present an offering by fire to the LORD...29 "If there is any person
who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut
off from his people...32 "It is to be a Sabbath of complete rest to
you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month
at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your Sabbath."
Ru 1:21 "I went out full, but the
LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the
LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted
(Heb = raa = done harm/calamity; Lxx = tapeinoo) me?"
1Sa 2:7 "The LORD makes poor and
rich; He brings low (Heb = shaphel = to be or become low or
abased; Lxx = tapeinoo =
= continually), He also exalts.
1Ki 8:35 (cp 2Chr 6:26) "When the
heavens are shut up and there is no rain, because they have sinned
against Thee, and they pray toward this place and confess Thy name and
turn from their sin when Thou dost afflict (Heb = anah =
to be bowed down, afflicted; Lxx = tapeinoo) them,
1Chr 4:10 Now Jabez called on the
God of Israel, saying, "Oh that Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and
enlarge my border, and that Thy hand might be with me, and that Thou
wouldst keep me from harm, that it may not pain (Heb =
atsab = hurt, pain, grieve; Lxx = tapeinoo) me!" And God granted him
what he requested.
2Chr 28:19 For the LORD humbled
(Heb = kana; Lxx = tapeinoo) Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for
he had brought about a lack of restraint in Judah and was very
unfaithful to the LORD.
2Chr 32:26 (Context = 2Chr 32:25
"his heart was proud" - Read the entire chapter for a better sense of
the context of Hezekiah's pride 2Chr 32:1-33) However, Hezekiah
humbled (Heb = kana; Lxx = tapeinoo) the pride (Heb = gobah =
height, haughtiness, loftiness) of his heart, both he and the
inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come
on them in the days of Hezekiah.
One of the most incredible Biblical
records of someone humbling himself is evil
2Chr 33:12 And when he was in
distress, he entreated the LORD his God and humbled (Heb =
kana; Lxx = tapeinoo) himself greatly before the God of his fathers.
13 When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his
supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then
Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.
2Chr 33:23 Moreover, he
did not humble (Heb = kana; Lxx = tapeinoo) himself before
the LORD as his father Manasseh had done, but Amon multiplied guilt.
2Chr 34:27 "Because your heart was
tender and you humbled (Heb = kana; Lxx = tapeinoo) yourself
before God, when you heard His words against this place and against
its inhabitants, and because you humbled (Heb = kana; Lxx =
tapeinoo) yourself before Me, tore your clothes, and wept before Me, I
truly have heard you," declares the LORD.
Ezra 8:21 Then I proclaimed a fast
there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble (Heb =
anah = to be bowed down, afflicted; Lxx = tapeinoo) ourselves before
our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and
all our possessions.
Comment: This passage was
the text of John Robinson’s last sermon at Leiden before the Pilgrims
sailed for the New World in 1620.
Job 40:11 "Pour out the
overflowings of your anger; And look on everyone who is proud, and
make him low.
For you save a humble (tapeinos)
people, but the haughty (proud) eyes you bring down (low) (Heb
= shaphel = to be or become low or abased; Lxx = tapeinoo).
Psalm 35:13-note But as for me, when
they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul
with fasting; and my prayer kept returning to my bosom. 14 I
went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down
(Heb = shachach = bow down or crouch, Lxx = tapeinoo) mourning, as one
who sorrows for a mother.
Psalm 51:17-note The sacrifices of God
are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite (Heb = dakah; Lxx
= tapeinoo) heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise
Psalm 119:67-note Before I was
afflicted (Heb = anah = to be bowed down, afflicted; Lxx =
tapeinoo) I went astray, But now I keep Thy word.
It is good for me that I was afflicted (Heb = anah = to be bowed down,
afflicted; Lxx = tapeinoo), That I may learn Thy statutes.
I am exceedingly afflicted (Heb = anah = to be bowed down, afflicted;
Lxx = tapeinoo); Revive me, O LORD, according to Thy word.
The true way to be humble, is not
to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your
real height against some higher nature.
C. H. Spurgeon
Let us be humble that we may not
need to be humbled, but may be exalted by the grace of God.
Ralph Martin observes
humility before God is the only way
to true joy. Humility—that state of total dependence on God—is foreign
to “the world.” To seek to be exalted by the world is dangerous, as
well as futile (Jas 1:9, 10, 11-note).
But to humble oneself before God is to await his eschatological
reversal and to look to him for his intervention (Luke 14:11).
(Martin, R. P. Vol. 48: Word Biblical Commentary: James. Dallas: Word,
THOMAS A KEMPIS: Having a
Humble Opinion of Self
EVERY man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge
without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better
than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of
the stars. He who knows himself well becomes mean in his own eyes and
is not happy when praised by men.
If I knew all things in the world and had not charity, what would it
profit me before God Who will judge me by my deeds?
Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much
fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be
called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does
little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other
things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise.
Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and
a clean conscience inspires great trust in God.
The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely
will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be
proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear
because of the talent given you. If you think you know many things and
understand them well enough, realize at the same time that there is
much you do not know. Hence, do not affect wisdom, but admit your
ignorance. Why prefer yourself to anyone else when many are more
learned, more cultured than you?
If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, then love
to be unknown and considered as nothing. Truly to know and despise
self is the best and most perfect counsel. To think of oneself as
nothing, and always to think well and highly of others is the best and
most perfect wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or
commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do
not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail,
but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself.
Illustration - A man who had
just been elected to the British Parliament brought his family to
London and was giving them a tour of the city. When they entered
Westminster Abbey, his eight-year-old daughter seemed awe-struck by
the size and beauty of that magnificent structure. Her proud father,
curious about what was going on in her mind, asked, "And what, my
child, are you thinking about?" She replied, "Daddy, I was just
thinking about how big you are in our house, but how small you look
Pride can creep into our lives
without our awareness. From time to time it's good for us to be "cut
down to size." We need to be reminded not to think of ourselves more
highly than we ought to think. It's easy to become proud when we stay
in our own circles of life. But when we are thrust into larger
situations, with increased demands, pressures, and competition, we
come to the shocking realization that "big fish in small ponds" shrink
quickly in a large ocean.
One thing that stands out in the Word of God is that the Lord despises
the haughty. Under inspiration the psalmist said, "One who has a
haughty look and a proud heart, him I will not endure" (Psalm 101:5-note)
. And James said, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the
humble" (James 4:6).
If we ask the Holy Spirit to help us see ourselves as we really are,
He will enable us to control our foolish pride. —R W De Haan (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
In the presence of the Lord
- Note that the proper response to the Lord's presence is choosing
humility, being willing to be humbled. A humble person lives his life
knowing that God watches everything.
Thomas Manton writes that...
Duties are truly done when they are
done as in God’s sight. Fear and reverence of God make the heart more
sincere (see Jas 1:27 and 1Pe 3:21). “I obey your precepts and your
statutes, for all my ways are known to you” (Ps 119:168); that was
David’s motive. So then, in all duties of worship remember that you
are before God; there is a broad and pure eye of glory fixed on you.
You are dealing with God, who tells people his thoughts and who
discerns your spirits better than you do yourselves. The right way to
speak of this is described in Acts 10:33, “We are all here in the
presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to
tell us.” We come to pray, to hear, to humble ourselves before God.
The soul will have a double advantage from such thoughts: the work
will be more spiritual, and more pure and upright. It will be more
spiritual in that I am not to be humbled before man but before God.
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”
(1Sa 16:7). Will this satisfy God? Is it the kind of fast he has
chosen (Isaiah 58:5)? It will be more pure and upright in that
whatever a person does to God, he will do it for God’s sake; religious
duties will be performed for reasons of religion, not because they are
customary or to join in what other people are doing, but for God and
The sight of God is a special
help to humiliation. The soul becomes humble by the true knowledge
of God and ourselves: “my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise
myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5, 6). When Job had a
glorious vision of God, he vanished into nothing in his own thoughts.
The stars vanish when the sun rises, and our poor candle is so slight
that it disappears when the glory of God rises in our thoughts. We see
our lack in God’s fullness; the ocean makes us ashamed of our own
little drop. We see our vileness in God’s majesty. What is the dust on
the scales compared to a mountain, and our wickedness in comparison
with God’s holiness? Elijah pulled his cloak over his face when God’s
glory passed by him (1Ki 19:13). Similarly, Isaiah cried out, “Woe to
me! … I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips” when God showed him
his glory (Isa 6:5). Whenever God appeared to the faithful, men were
filled with fear because of their own weakness and corruption.
So then, this tells us how to be
humble in our addresses to God: get as large and comprehensive an idea
of him as you can; see his glory if you want to know your own
baseness. People are feeble in duties because they have low thoughts
of God. They offered the Lord a blemished animal because they did not
consider he was a great King (Malachi 1:14). The elders who saw God in
his glory “fell on their faces” (Revelation 11:16).
(A Practical Exposition of
Pastor Steven Cole agrees
The key to developing biblical
humility is in the phrase, in the presence of the Lord (Jas
4:10). Only those with hardened hearts could be proud in the presence
of the Lord! The holy angels in His presence cover their faces (Isa
6:2). When Isaiah had his vision of the Lord, he was undone—personally
shattered—and immediately aware of his own sinfulness (Isa. 6:5). When
God portrayed the wonders of creation before Job, he had no further
arguments against God. Instead, he said (Job 42:6), “I retract, and I
repent in dust and ashes.” When the apostle John, who formerly had
rested his head on Jesus’ chest, saw Him in His glory on the Isle of
Patmos, he fell at His feet as a dead man (Rev 1:17-note).
Pastor Phil Newton offers
this insight on why one would humble themselves in God's presence...
"Humble yourselves in the
presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you." Why is this so? Consider
the many times we see humility taking place in Scripture. It seems
that there is a pattern of God's people recognizing the Lord's
presence or something of his attributes, and then the response is
humility (e.g., Isaiah, Joshua, David, Moses, Peter, John). (1) They
caught a glimpse of God, as they had never had before; they saw and
experienced something of the divine character before them. (2)
Consequently, each responded by seeing his own weakness, unworthiness,
and helplessness (Mt 5:3-note).
This is the very opposite of the pastor from another generation of
whom it was said he could "strut sitting down." So, think upon the
Lord; get a clear view of your own selfishness with time, money,
conversation, and interests; acknowledge God's worth above all. (Sermons
from the Epistle of James)
IN THE EYE
OF THE OMNISCIENT GOD
from en = in + ops = the eye/see [cp optanomai = see,
perceive with eyes, look at, implying not only the mere act of seeing
but actual perception of what one sees]) means literally in sight, in
front of, in the presence of. Being in sight. Before the face and thus
the idea of face to face! Of doing something in someone’s presence.
In the context of James 4:10, the
humble person lives, as it were, in the eye of God!
A sense of our own utter
unworthiness in God's holy presence can only induce humility.
What thou art in the sight of God,
that thou truly art. -Thomas à Kempis
Enopion can be summarized
into three basic
1) in front of, before, a position in a
spatial sense, in the presence of (Lk 1:19; Acts 10:30, Rev 3:8,
2) in the sight of, in the
presence of (Lk 23:14, Jn 20:30, Acts 10:33, 1Ti 6:12, Re 3:5,
3) in the
opinion of, in the judgment of (Lk 16:15, 2Co 8:21)
Wuest writes that enopion...
was used in such expressions as,
“the case will be drawn up against you in the court at Heracleopolis
in the presence of,” “deliver personally,” “I gave notice in person.”
It is used of one who does or says something in the presence of
someone else, and does it with the consciousness that that one has him
in sight and mind. Paul delivered this solemn charge to Timothy,
conscious of the fact that he was doing so in the sight of God, and he
wished Timothy to ever so regard the charge.
Enopion - 94x in 86v - Lk
1:15, 17, 19, 75, 76; 4:7; 5:18, 25; 8:47; 12:6, 9; 13:26; 14:10;
15:10, 18, 21; 16:15; 23:14; 24:11, 43; Jn 20:30; Acts 2:25; 4:10, 19;
6:5, 6; 7:46; 9:15; 10:30, 31, 33; 19:9, 19; 27:35; Ro 3:20; 12:17;
14:22; 1Cor 1:29; 2Cor 4:2; 7:12; 8:21; Gal 1:20; 1Ti 2:3; 5:4, 20,
21; 6:12, 13; 2Ti 2:14; 4:1; Heb 4:13; 13:21; Jas 4:10; 1Pe 3:4; 1Jn
3:22; 3Jn 1:6; Rev 1:4; 2:14; 3:2, 5, 8, 9; 4:5, 6, 10; 5:8; 7:9, 11,
15; 8:2, 3, 4; 9:13; 11:4, 16; 12:4, 10; 13:12, 13, 14; 14:3, 10;
15:4; 16:19; 19:20; 20:12.
The NAS translates
enopion as before(46), from sight(1), in front of(1), in the
presence of(20), in the sight of(21).
There are over 400 uses in the
and here are a few representative uses...
Ex 21:1 "Now these are the
ordinances which you are to set before (Heb = panim =
face; Lxx = enopion) them.
Ex 23:17 "Three times a year all
your males shall appear before (Heb = panim = face; Lxx =
enopion) the Lord God.
Ex 34:10 Then God said, "Behold, I
am going to make a covenant. Before (neged = in front of, in
sight of, opposite to; Lxx = enopion) all your people I will perform
miracles which have not been produced in all the earth, nor among any
of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the
working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to
perform with you.
notes Let the words of my
mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Thy sight
(Heb = panim = face; Lxx = enopion), O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.
notes Let my supplication
come before (Heb = panim = face; Lxx = enopion) Thee; Deliver
me according to Thy word.
Daniel 1:9 Now God granted Daniel
favor and compassion in the sight (Heb = panim = face; Lxx =
enopion) of the commander of the officials,
He will exalt you -
Richison writes that
The way down is the way up
spiritually. Pride is our biggest spiritual problem. We carry pride of
face, place and race. If we humble ourselves, God will not have to do
it for us. This phrase is a promise that God will elevate us to new
spiritual heights if we humble ourselves before Him. We will find
ourselves in a new sphere of spirituality through humility. This is
the result, not the cause, of God’s lifting us to new spiritual
heights... Revival comes when we humble ourselves before the majesty
of God. Humility allows God to do His work of grace in us. (2Chr 7:14)
Up is down...and down is up in
Christianity! What a precious promise and provision. (from Donald
John Blanchard has a number
of excellent relevant quotes from his book I highly recommended
compilation of quotations -
The Complete Gathered Gold- A
Treasury of Quotations)
If you want to see the height of
the hill of God's eternal love you must go down into the valley of
Thomas Manton put it this
The way to rise is to fall.
Roy Hession the writer of
the great little book on personal revival, Calvary Road, wrote that...
God can only fill valleys, not
Augustine wrote that....
The proud hilltops let the rain run
off; the lowly valleys are richly watered.
Thomas Adams had it right
when he said that...
He that will be knighted must kneel
C. Campbell Morgan
All God's thrones are reached by
The true way to exaltation leads
through the valley of humility. It reflects Jesus' teaching in Mt
23:12 and Lk 14:11 and would be familiar to the Jewish readers from
their Old Testament (Job 5:11; Ps 147:6; 149:4; Ezek 21:26). The
promised exaltation begins with the experience of pardoning grace
restoring the penitent sinner to a position of favor with God and
producing an inner consciousness of liberty and exaltation; it will
come to its outward future consummation when our Lord returns and His
saints are manifested with Him in glory (Col 3:4; 2Th 1:10).
from hupsos = height, elevation)
means to lift up spatially, to
raise high. Figuratively, it can describe lifting one up to a place of
honor, fame, power, or position (to exalt).
Hupsoo is used as a
reference to the crucifixion in Jn 3:14, 8:28, 12:32, 34 (cp
use in Lxx of Ps 9:13 where "affliction" in the Lxx = tapeinosis = low
estate, humiliation, which again links "exaltation" [lift me up] with
"humiliation".). Hupsoo in other contexts clearly alludes
to Jesus' ascension to the right hand of His Father's throne (Acts
2:33, 5:31). It is possible to interpret Jn 12:32 with a "double
meaning" as referring not only to His crucifixion but also His
exaltation to heaven.
Davids comments that here in
The picture is that of someone
prostrate before an oriental monarch, begging mercy. The monarch leans
down from the throne and lifts the petitioner's face from the dust.
The person rises with grateful joy, knowing he or she is forgiven.
(New International Biblical Commentary).
Hupsoo - 20x in 16v and is
rendered in the NAS as exalt(2), exalted(9), exalts(3),
lift(1), lifted(4), made great(1).
Matthew 11:23 "And you, Capernaum,
will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You shall descend to
Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in
you, it would have remained to this day.
Comment: Capernaum was the
"operation center" for Jesus while in Galilee and thus was continually
exposed to the Light of the world (Mt 4:16, 17, Jn 1:5, 7, 3:19, 20,
21, 8:12, 9:5, 12:35, 36) Greater revelation always brings greater
condemnation if the truth is rejected, thus Capernaum would suffer
ever greater condemnation than Sodom (Mt 11:20, 21, 22, 23, 24,
- this concept of differ "degrees" of eternal punishment - Mt 10:14,
15, 12:41, 42, Jn 19:11, Lk 10:12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 11:31,32,
12:47,48, 20:45,46,47, Mk 12:38,39,40, Heb10:29, 30, 31)
Matthew 23:12 "And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and
whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
Comment: Jesus discusses the
"revolutionary" character of His coming Kingdom, in which greatness is
the opposite of what the world supposes, for genuine greatness stoops
to serve. The prideful Pharisees exalted themselves before men, but
would be brought low before God in due time. And so Jesus repeatedly
stressed the importance of humility to His disciples emphasizing that
if one wanted to be great in the Kingdom, he must become the servant
of all (cp Mt 20:20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28)
Luke 1:52 "He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has
exalted those who were humble.
Luke 10:15 "And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven,
will you? You will be brought down to Hades!
Luke 14:11 "For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled,
and he who humbles himself shall be exalted."
Luke 18:14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified
rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be
humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted."
Comment: One can either
exalt one's self or allow God to exalt him, but only the latter man
will be justified or declared righteous. In other words, Jesus
is teaching that the humble man who acknowledges his lack of personal
righteousness and looks to God for righteousness will be exalted,
which in this context indicates that he will be declared righteous.
Justification or being declared righteous depends on God’s grace, not
on human works or merit (cp Ro 3:24-note,
. On the other hand those who exalt themselves and count on their own
righteousness will be humbled by God.
John 3:14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even
so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
Comment: Jesus is
prophesying of His coming crucifixion, and points Nicodemus to an OT
passage he would have been quite familiar with, Nu 21:5, 6, 7, 8, 9.
In that passage the Israelites who had suffered a potentially fatal
bite by the fiery serpents, were to look at the serpent lifted up that
they might be healed. Jesus' main point is that He Himself would also
be lifted up, so that just as all who looked at the serpent on the
pole had been physically healed, so too all who looked by grace
through faith at Christ lifted up on the Cross would spiritually live
(cp Jn 3:3)
John 8:28 Jesus therefore said, "When you lift up the Son of
Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own
initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.
John 12:32 "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw
all men to Myself."..34 The multitude therefore answered Him, "We have
heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can
You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who
is this Son of Man?"
Comment: As noted above
while this use of hupsoo could refer to the crucifixion, it is
difficult to exclude the possibility that it has a double meaning and
also refers to Jesus' ascension and exaltation to the right hand of
His Father in glory (cp Jn 12:23). By comparing Scripture with
Scripture, we know without a doubt that Jesus was not saying all men
would be saved when He said He would "draw all men to" Himself. As has
been succinctly stated Jesus' being lifted up from the earth would
draw all men without distinction but not all without exception. In
other words, the idea is that all men who are saved will be saved in
Acts 2:33 "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of
God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy
Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.
Acts 5:31 "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as
a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness
Acts 13:17 "The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and made
the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an
uplifted arm He led them out from it.
2Corinthians 11:7 Or did I commit a sin
in humbling myself that you
might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you
Comment: John MacArthur
explains that "Greek culture measured the importance of a teacher by
the fee he could command. The false apostles therefore accused Paul of
being a counterfeit, since he refused to charge for his services (cf.
1Co. 9:1-15). They convinced the Corinthians to be offended by Paul’s
refusal to accept support from them, offering that as evidence that he
did not love them (cf. 1Co 22:11). Paul’s resort to manual labor to
support himself (Acts 18:1, 2, 3) also embarrassed the Corinthians,
who felt such work to be beneath the dignity of an apostle. With
biting irony Paul asked his accusers how foregoing his right to
support could possibly be a sin. In fact, by refusing support he had
humbled himself so they could be exalted; that is, lifted out of their
sin and idolatry."
J.: The MacArthur Study Bible Nashville: Word
James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He
will exalt you.
1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of
God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,
Hupsoo is used over 150
times in the
Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint has this note...
A: to lift high, to raise up - Ezra
9:9; to set somebody upon something Ps 27:5; to take up 2Ki
2:13; to raise, to lift up (the voice) - Ge 39:15; to raise (a song) -
Ezra 3:12; to set on high (metaphorical) 2Sa 22,49; to elevate, to
exalt - Ex 15,2; to rise Job 39:27; to be lifted up Ge 7:17; to be
exalted Dt 8:14 (Lust, J., Eynikel, E., & Hauspie, K. A Greek-English
Lexicon of the Septuagint: Revised Edition. Deutsche
Here are some uses from the
Genesis 7:17 Then the flood came
upon the earth for forty days; and the water increased and lifted up
the ark, so that it rose above (Heb = rum = to raise, to
lift, to be exalted, indicates something is raised up high; Lxx =
hupsoo) the earth.
Exodus 15:2 "The LORD is my
strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and
I will praise Him; My father's God, and I will extol (Lxx = hupsoo =
notes For in the day of
trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of
His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up (Heb = rum
= to raise, to lift, to be exalted, indicates something is raised up
high; Lxx = hupsoo) on a rock.
notes The proud look of
man will be abased (Lxx =
And the loftiness of man will be humbled, And the LORD alone will be
exalted in that day.
Thomas Manton asks what does
It means any kind of happiness,
including deliverance out of trouble (“You hear, O Lord, the desire of
the afflicted,” Ps 10:17) or promotion to worldly honor or dignity (“A
man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor,” Pr
29:23). Though promotion brings us to slippery places, the humble will
be sustained and upheld. It is the same with advancement in grace or
glory: “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the
kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:4); that is, he will have the most grace and
Learn from this that submission
and humility are the true way to exaltation. This is often
repeated in the Gospel: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11; see also Mt
23:12). We are all by nature proud and want to be exalted; but the
way to rise is to fall. God gave us a pattern in Jesus
Christ: first, he “made himself nothing … he humbled himself and
became obedient to death … on a cross! Therefore God exalted him … and
gave him the name that is above every name” (see Php 2:5, 6, 7, 8, 9,
So then, do you want
deliverance? Humble yourself! Omnipotence will not be your terror but
protection. Do you want grace? See more of God.
Lastly, we may be encouraged from
all this to wait upon God with a holy humility and confidence in our
lowly state: “When men are brought low and you say, ‘Lift them up!’
then he will save the downcast” (Job 22:29). When all your affairs go
to decay, you may rely on these hopes. Peter says, “that he may lift
you up in due time” (1Pe 5:6). Wait for God, and the promise will
surely be fulfilled; only be humble. Gracious humiliation is a deep
sense of our misery and vileness, with a desire to be reconciled to
God on any terms.
(A Practical Exposition of
Dr. Bonar once remarked that
he could tell when a Christian was growing. In proportion to his
growth in grace he would elevate his Master, talk less of what he was
doing, and become smaller and smaller in his own esteem, until, like
the morning star, he faded away before the rising sun. Jonathan was
willing to decrease, that David might increase; and John the Baptist
showed the same spirit of humility. -Anecdotes, Incidents and
Illustrations and Meditations:
Flowers from a Puritan's Garden.
The Spire - "The best of
God's people have abhorred themselves. Like the spire of a steeple,
minimus in summo, we are least at the highest. David, a king, was
yet like a weaned child."
Thomas Manton is not very clear
about the steeple, but he means that the higher a spire rises toward
heaven the smaller it becomes, and thus the more elevated are our
spirits the less shall we be in our own esteem.
Great thoughts of self and great
grace never go together.
Self-consciousness is a sure
sign that there is not much depth of grace. He who overvalues himself
undervalues his Saviour.
He who abounds in piety is sure to
be filled with humility.
Light things, such as straws and
feathers, are borne aloft; valuable goods keep their places, and
remain below, not because they are chained or riveted there, but by
virtue of their own weight.
When we begin to talk of our
perfection, our imperfection is getting the upper hand.
The more full we become of the
presence of the Lord the more shall we sink in our own esteem, even as
laden vessels sink down to their water-mark, while empty ships float
Lord, make and keep me humble.
Lift me nearer and nearer to heaven,
and then I shall grow less and less in my own esteem.
R Kent Hughes sums up this
great section of James writing...
The gravity of grace will always
channel the rivers of divine favor to the lowly—to those
(1) who submit to God,
(2) whose soul’s momentum is away
from the Devil and toward God,
(3) who purify their inner and
(4) who mourn over their sins, and
(5) who obey the final summary
command, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”
We are not to wait passively for
this to somehow happen. We are not to wait for someone else to humble
us, nor should we wait for the vicissitudes of life to do it. Rather,
self-humbling is our Christian duty. We must take inventory of our
sinfulness and weakness, then bow in total submission to God, yielding
our total being, our dreams, our future, our everything to him. It is
then that he will pour on the grace—grace upon grace—grace heaped upon
grace—“and he will lift you up.”
John Blanchard summed up
James 4:10 when he said that...
God thinks most of the man who
thinks himself least.
E. H. Blake, in The
The Mystery of Truth In the
Christian life we must lose to gain; we must give to obtain; we must
be last to be first; we must be humble to be exalted; we must be least
to be greatest; we must die to live.
Tony Evans writes that...
A lot of people misinterpret the
promise at the end of Jas 4:10. James is not saying that God will
exalt you to some high position in society. He is saying that God will
exalt you above your problem, above that which is keeping you down and
making you a spiritual POW.
But before God can lift us up, He has to take us low. God wants us to
weep and mourn over our sin. He wants us to start seeing our sin the
way He sees it. When we do that, then we’ll get the help that God
gives. (Evans, A. T. (1998). The Battle is the Lord's: Chicago, Ill.: