In Search of Humble Beasts

The donkey reminds us of an unchanging, counter-cultural truth

The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.

Psalm 147:6

A humble man is as rare these days as snow in the desert or as a palm tree in the artic. Humbleness is a quality of character that just isn’t trending in our time. We seem to be more drawn to the self-assured, over-inflated type of person. In politics, entertainment, sports, and even in many Christian movements, it seems to be the peacocks that get the most clicks.

But wait, maybe this isn’t just true of our era. Perhaps it’s always been this way.

In any case, here’s why it’s unfortunate. Because God is most favorable to the humble person. In the past, present, and future, when God looks for someone to lift up, He specifically looks for the humble in spirit – not the boaster, not the proud. Scripture couldn’t be clearer on this point:

Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. -Proverbs 3:34

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” -James 4:6

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. -James 4:10

The exaltation of Jesus is the best example. Before Jesus was given the Name that is above all names, He humbled himself as a servant. This is how Paul describes it:

 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. -Philippians 2:8

Even so, as most folks see it these days, it is too much of a risk to walk humbly in this world. After all, people might take advantage of you if you do that. If you’re going to get ahead, you’ll have to bump chests with the best of them. You have to be noisy, overly-aggressive, and forceful.

In the narrative of Saul – the first king of Israel – there is some wonderful irony on this very point. It’s at the beginning of the story and too easy to miss. When Samuel identified and anointed young Saul as the destined first king, it was by no means a pompous moment. There was no crowd or parade. Saul wasn’t posing for the cameras or flexing an agenda.

What was he doing?

Read the story in 1 Samuel 9 and you’ll notice that he was doing something no one else wanted to do. Saul was out in the wilderness looking for lost donkeys. Here’s the irony: It was while he was stooping to the lowly task at hand of wrangling stray jackasses that he was elevated to the position of God’s annointed king.

This is how the Lord always does it. He lifts up the humble – not the proud.

If you are familiar with Saul’s story, you know he didn’t hold that note of humbleness. Pride eventually crept into his heart, which left no room for the Spirit of God that empowered him in the first place. Saul learned the hard lesson that a crown just doesn’t fit a big head.

As we navigate the extremes of our run-away culture, Saul’s story is a helpful reminder of the value that God places on walking humbly with Him. Humbleness is expressed through things like prayer, depending on God’s Spirit, serving the least of these, and by keeping a tight reign on our tongues.

Chasing donkeys may seem like a lost cause now, but we must take the long view revealed to us in the Word. Donkeys now, majestic white horses later.

It’s a new day with God. Run with it.

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