To Prevail over YHWH is to be Humble under Him


John Carter – April 9, 2014 – Genesis 32:22-32
To Prevail over YHWH is to be Humble under Him

What is true humility?
As the joke goes, “I am!” We find this humorously offensive because the humble person doesn’t say that. But that doesn’t mean not saying makes us any more humble. If fact we might not say anything because we want to look more humble. But is not saying anything any more humble than the person who boasts about their humility?

I propose that we should define humility as: the posture one has after becoming intimately aware of the bigness of God and the littleness of Man.

As we wrap up our three week study on Love, Unity, and Humility we are going to look at Genesis 32:22-32 as the final text for what happens to an arrogant person who gains a glimpse of their big God.

We don’t see ourselves as being filled with prideful arrogance

To better understand humility I will start off with addressing something that we are all much more familiar with: arrogance[1]. One of the worst parts about arrogance is that we are so arrogant that we don’t realize how invasive the problem really is. And, when we are faced with it we use our arrogance to hide and cover-up how bad it really is.

When Moses wrote the book of Genesis he was telling the history of the nation of Israel to remind them of who they are and where they came from. Moses starts in Genesis in the Garden and travels through time to show all of the ways God has been faithful in the midst of a prideful people. And by the time Moses starts writing about Jacob we should know that Jacob , which means ‘heel catcher’, got his name by his Mother from birth. With a name like that either your Mom hates you or you are one heck of a selfish jerk. And Jacob as Moses tells the story was a jerk. He was always plotting how to get one up on others and he did this with His Brother three times, with his father, and even with his uncle. Whether it was lies, deceit, or even witchcraft Jacob was willing to do whatever it would take to get ahead. This type of self-promotion is deeply rooted in pride and arrogance.

The interesting thing is the Nation of Israel is no different. They were always looking to advance themselves without regard to their God or even their shame. We read in Hosea 12:3-5 and 13:4-6 that Israel never seemed to learn what it means to be humble before their God. They never dropped the pride.

I truly believe this is a Jesus[2] that Jacob, soon to be Israel, is fighting with. We can discuss the details of this over coffee later, but for the sake of time and of point this is who I will refer to this contender as.

But what is interesting in this fight, beyond getting in a fight with God, is the change that Jacob has. For a reason we’re not told the fight starts. Then Jacob gets his hip dislocated. And with all the pride he can muster he then asks for God, whom Jacob is fighting with to bless him. Punch the president and then ask for some money equals a bad idea. What blows me away about this fight is two things. First, Jacob prevailed. Second, he was blessed.

I don’t know about you but I put getting into a physical altercation with God is in the arrogant category. Any one of us would highly advise against getting in a fight with a your boss or a police officer, how much more God? But, I must point out, that those who prevail against God do not come out victorious but humble. You do not become that intimate with God and then puff out your chest like Jr. Higher with two whiskers on his chin. No, you see God and you become humble.

We see this change of pride into humility when we see Jacob, now Israel, ask for his competitors name.

When you and I come in contact with the living God our prideful arrogance is assaulted. Seeking to know the name of someone is seeking to know something about that person. And when Israel got face to face with God, and began to learn who it was that he was fighting with, his arrogance got assaulted.

Just like Jacob’s pride was physically assaulted when he encountered the presence of God, so will the Cross become an assault on our arrogance too.

It took a wrestling match for Jacob (Israel) to lay down his Pride. I am asking you to kill off the pride before God humbles you like he did Jacob. Kill the pride the plagues you!

So how do we kill off the Pride that is plaguing us? James, the half-brother of Jesus tells us to do this by humbling ourselves in the presence of God and He will exalt us (James 4:10). To do this we should meditate on the cross, because as we meditate on the cross we begin to realize how big God is and how little we are.

I am asking you to turn your eyes to the cross of Jesus to see what was done there so that you can begin to understand who God is. Put down your pride. Put down your arrogance and humble yourself in the sight of the living God of Israel (Jacob). But how does looking at the cross kill pride and humble us?

You see, CJ Mahaney puts it like this, “The Cross never flatters us”[3]. And if you are arrogant like me you are quick to say in your heart “Not so, I have heard preacher after preacher tell me how wonderful I am and that is why Jesus died on the cross for me. Therefore the cross does flatter me!” To that I say still say, “The Cross never flatters us.” To make this point vivid let me paint a picture.

It is often thought that what the cross is to Jesus and us is what an engagement ring is to a man and a woman. Like an engagement ring flatters the bride so we often think that the cross flatters us. But this is a misunderstanding of the cross. This idea of the cross being like an engagement ring is not quite accurate because this picture of the engagement ring fails to show the grotesque nature of why Jesus died on the cross. As a side comment it should be stated that this picture of the engagement ring is only appropriate to maintain as long as we keep it in connection with the Holy Spirit. Meaning, like the engagement ring is a man’s promise to marry a specific woman, so is the gift of the Holy Spirit a promise made by Jesus to return for his Bride (His Church) whom he will marry.

So if the cross isn’t like an engagement ring then what do we liken the cross to? I suggest that to more clearly understand the cross we should see Jesus, the cross, and us in the same way we see the news story of a parent, a bail bond, and the parents’ murderous child. When you and I see a parent talking about their child who is charged with murder we never hear them say, “yep, they did it!”, instead we hear about how wonderful this child is. But you and I, after hearing this comment by the parent, want to vomit in our mouth knowing that the child is a murderer. We are repulsed that anyone would be willing to pay excessive amounts of money to save someone from their due penalty. Now this analogy does have shortcomings but it does begin to expose the reality of the cross. You and I are guilty of a most heinous crime: pride; which equals to an assault on God holiness. But even in our guilt, Jesus, the Son of God, came as a man to not only post our bail but to also pay the full penalty for our crime. Because Jesus died on the cross those who are his will never taste of the second death.

When we begin to look at the cross in this light, of what some would call a ‘substitutionary atonement’ (a substitute who is paying for the penalty of another), then we begin to understand that ‘the cross never flatters us.” (CJ Mahaney) Instead the cross drives us to our knees in utter humility because we at the cross we are able to better see how wonderful and big God is and how pitifully small we truly are. It is at this point that we are able to kill our pride.

Kill your pride and humble yourself for salvation and the Glory of God.

God doesn’t delight in the death of anyone[4] (Ezekiel 18:23). This is why God the Father sent His Son to die so that he might redeem His people through faith in His Son. This is so that we might be brought into the kingdom of God to view the glory of our extraordinary God. But this message of forgiveness and redemption isn’t meant exclusively for us who are in this room. This message of love and humility is meant for the world to hear. Paradigm, the humbling of ourselves and seeking God will be the catalyst for this valley and the world to believe God’s message of love and forgiveness that is found on the cross.

Therefore, kill your pride and humble yourselves in the sight of the cross so that the world might see you and me and then give glory to the Father.

[1] Although there are nuances I will use arrogance and pride in a synonymous fashion.

[2] A Pre-incarnate Jesus or a Christophany

[3] CJ Mahaney, Humility

[4] Especially evil People