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Captivated and Consumed By

Series Title: Going Up with the Psalms of Ascent (chapter 22)


These edited transcripts are taken from Dwight's most loved audio series, Highways in Their Hearts. Click here to see the downloadable audio version in our online store.


The biblical virtue of humility is extolled in both Testaments.

Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. (Pr 3:34)

For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. (Ps 138:6)

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,

who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:

“I dwell in the high and holy place,

and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,

to revive the spirit of the lowly,

and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Is 57:15)

But this is the one to whom I will look:

he who is humble and contrite in spirit

and trembles at my word. (Is 66:2)

He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the LORD require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). One could say that all of Jesus's beatitudes express an aspect of humility.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (Jam 4:10)

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" [Prov 3:34]. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Pet 5:5-7)

I pointed out that humility was considered the supreme virtue in the Jewish milieu of our Lord's day, even more important than saintliness. Why? Humility is the basis of all other virtues, without which none of them could manifest themselves.

As water leaves a high level and goes to a lower level, noted Israel's sages, so the Word of God abandons the haughty and proud but seeks those whose minds are humble.

Because the glory of the LORD is to fill the whole earth, there is, therefore, no room for your own glory. The world notices the proud and the arrogant—God opposes them. The world ridicules the humble and the lowly—God exalts them. His is an upside-down kingdom.

Humility, in both Greek and Hebrew, means something low. In contrast, pride lifts itself up, while humility lays itself low. The core concept means to bow down, to stoop, to make low. Interestingly enough, it is used in both a positive and negative sense. In the latter respect, humility often comes about through affliction and suffering. We are humbled.

The Hebrew word for humble comes from a root (anav) which denotes affliction and hardship. The word anav is often used in the context of someone forcing it on someone else. For example, the wicked try to oppress (make low, humble) the righteous. It is also spoken of in the context of God. Yes, God humbles the proud and mighty but He also afflicts His chosen people.

The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. (Dt 8:1-2)

You will not hear this message preached on Christian television because it is not one that sells; it is not something we want to hear. That is why the kingdom is always made up of a remnant of people and not the populace at large. But thanks be to God, He has always had people crazy enough to follow Him, even though it has not always been appealing to do so.

Here is the pilgrim's heart: It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes (Psalm 119:71). Affliction can lead to repentance, which embraces humility, which ushers in God's presence.

It took two weeks to travel from Egypt to the land God wanted to give them, but the people had to be humbled. They still wanted to exalt themselves and their idols, so they had to go through forty years of testing, trial, and purification. They were humbled, and they were ready to enter into the fullness of His promise. This is another example of the principle that holiness takes time.

The idea of affliction being related to humility was commonly understood in the biblical period.

Isaiah writes the following about the coming Messiah, Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. From a strictly human perspective, the suffering servant is misunderstood as being punished by God. That is so often the case for those God chooses for a special mission and humbles through trials, testing, and hardship.

But looks can be deceiving, notes the prophet. From heaven's perspective, Jesus has borne our griefs and sorrows. He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace so that by (or in) his wounds, we are healed. Jesus is the embodiment of humility.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

because the LORD has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor;

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,

and the day of vengeance of our God;

[...] to comfort all who mourn. (Isaiah 61, Luke 4)

Messiah's coming was God keeping His Word to abase the wicked and lift up the poor (anav). He came with good news for the afflicted, the oppressed, and the downtrodden. His arrival is good news for those who know their need and bad news for the self-sufficient.

To the Greek mind, the greatest good in life was freedom.

They detested the idea of submission and subordination and, therefore, disparaged humility. But in biblical thought, the greatest good is God. Humility, therefore, is the virtue that puts one in a rightly oriented relationship with God, from which flows robust repentance and willing obedience. Paradoxically, being reconciled to the Father brings true freedom (John 8:36).

John the Baptist captured the essence of humility when he said about Jesus, He must increase, but I must decrease. T.S. Elliot wrote, "Humility is the simple surrender of oneself wholly to God." He also said something that has always stayed with me over the years; it is so striking and potent. "Christianity is a condition of complete simplicity costing not less than everything."

Humility is being captivated and consumed by the vision that God is all in all; that He is everything. In this vision of God's supremacy and exaltation, the self recedes in its significance. Humility is putting your whole trust in His grace rather than your strength. It is no less than total confidence in your God as the source of all meaning, value, and purpose.


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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.


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