Summary: Only God has the right to make a name for us. Abraham submitted and was exalted, the people of Babel exalted and were humbled.
The Humility of Abraham or Pride of Babel
I want to start by looking at Isaiah 57: 15:
For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
God has a plan for each person’s life. Pride kills our ability to follow God’s plan. 1 Peter 5:5 and James 4:6 warn us that God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud. From Genesis to Revelation this warning is echoed over and over again: God hates pride. Proverbs 16:18 – 19 warns us that pride leads to destruction and a haughty spirit comes before a person falls. This passage goes on to warn that it is better to be lowly and humble than to be rich and proud. Benjamin Franklin said it best. He said, “Humility is a virtue so difficult to grasp that if I should ever attain to it, I would be proud of myself.”
I believe that humility is directly affected by the size of our God. If we think little of God or don’t believe God can direct our lives, we will think that we are able to do a better job than He can or we will be like Nebuchadnezzar who looked at his accomplishments and boasted, “Look what I have done”. God showed Nebuchadnezzar what he amounted to without God – a mad man who grazed the fields like an animal. When we put God in proper perspective, our self-image will fall into the right perspective. Humility is not hanging your head low and belittling yourself. Humility is depending on the sovereignty of God, understanding that His ways are right, choosing to align ourselves with the will of God and trusting His ability to lead and direct us. It is a never-ending growing process. That is why Jesus made the statement, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23.
Denying our own ways is an essential part of following Christ. Self-denial is the first step in following God’s will. Self-denial is not the same as depriving yourself, it is depending on God to supply our desires and needs and not playing God with our own lives. I don’t believe anyone is deprived when they deny themselves. Jesus’ command to deny ourselves carries a lot of weight. We are being asked to deny self-gratification, self-sustainment, and self-righteousness. I literally must look at my desires and God’s desire for me and then I must choose. I see worldly pleasures that I can use to get my own pleasures and gratification. But I trust God and I choose to deny pursuing these pleasures believing that God can fulfill these desires when I follow Him instead of my desires. I see my needs and my ways tell me that I need to sustain myself by sacrificing everything necessary and putting my job first. But I choose to trust God and I choose to put Him first trusting that God can sustain me and fill my needs even when I have to make sacrifices to make Him first. I give to God because my money is not my salvation and my trust is not in my dollars. I see the image of what a righteous man or woman looks like. My ways tell me that I have to do good deeds, volunteer and show the world my righteousness. But I choose to trust in what God teaches about righteousness. Jesus provides my righteousness, salvation and makes me holy before God.
God does not honor our self-made righteousness. God doesn’t honor our self-made name in any area of our lives. God measures success based on our obedience. God clearly tells us that when we humble ourselves, He will lift us up. When we do it ourselves, it just doesn’t work. In Matthew 23:12 Jesus said, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” God desires to bless us when we humble ourselves and obey, but will bring low those who lift themselves up. There are two illustrations in Genesis that clearly drive this point home. Lets look at Genesis 11:1-4:
1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.
3 Then they said to one another, Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly. They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.
4 And they said, Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.