1 Chronicles 17:1-27
We don’t live in a day and age when humility is honored. Life, in general, is a rat race. Of course, then there’s also reality TV- and social media is an easy platform for us all to exercise our own vanity. Humility is definitely good (Matthew 6, Paul, Jesus, John the Baptist (I must decrease; he must increase)) and necessarily for daily Christian living (James 2 – I will do this and that today and tomorrow…if the Lord wills), but it’s very hard to do. Getting us to be humble requires significant motivation (Matt 6 – huge, sweeping promises of heavenly rewards). So in an age of vanity, when self-glory is the lay of the land, what is humility? What does a humble person look like?
Background to the Text
Israel was a nomadic people, and so their place or worship had to be portable. Imagine it like an oversized pop-up camper. Now, under David especially, Israel is settled firmly in Canaan. They are a regional, national powerhouse. And David’s got a capital city, Jerusalem, and a palace (of sorts). He looks around and thinks, “How can I be in this palace, while the place we commune with the Lord in a pop-up camper?” Let’s build a permanent, glorious Temple for our God. And that’s where our text picks up….(Read 1 Chronicles 17)
We’ve got to do communion today, so I’ll have to shorten a few things. But as Robert Smith says, I’ve been preaching for 50 years, and I’ve never once finished a sermon. And I doubt I’ll finish today… there’s always more of the Lord’s praises to declare, amen? Preachers have plenty of material to work with.
Ok, so What do the humble look like?
- The humble don’t mind when God Interrupts their Plans
David had a good plan. Even confirmed by the prophet Nathan. He believed it would honor the Lord. And he went to bed that night pleased in his conscience, convinced that the Lord wanted him to do it. You might say, that he “had a peace about it.” But God sent Nathan at night to (knock) interrupt that plan. And David could choose: respond with humility, or pride. He could say to ol’ Nathan: “You’re wrong! Get behind me, Satan.” Or he could clothe himself in humility, and defer to the voice of God.
I want to ask you: Has God ever interrupted Your plans?
I bet you’ve made some good plans. Some noble plans. Even plans you thought would honor the Lord. Get this job. Marry this person. Build this house. Start this ministry. And (knock), in comes the Lord in the middle of your sleep, your plan-making, your life, and says, “Excuse me, but I have something else in mind.” Whether you are humble in your heart is revealed by your response to the interruption. In other words, Your Response to God’s interruptions authenticates or denies the reality of your humility.
Look how David responds. You really know who you are and what you’re made of when life puts a curve on you. What does David do: “Who am I? You do what you want…1 Chronicles 29.10-13. Who am I? “Yours is the greatness and the power and glory and splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to you.” That’s a humble response, a response that welcomes heavenly interruptions.
The other night I was trying to lead my family in a devotional time. Gathered around the lazyboy chair. And then my youngest, 4 month old starts making a strange, constant noise…“uhh…uhh..uhh.” Another one is squirming around. Won’t sit still. The other one is talking about Joseph and his brothers. “Well, how many sisters did he have? Did a wolf get him? Can we watch a movie? Can we read something else?” My response was not humility and patience. It was…”Sit down! I’m trying to teach you about Jesus!!” But the truth is: God doesn’t need me to save my daughters…and if my night doesn’t go according to my sanctimonious plans, he’ll take care of things. It’s not my ingenuity that’s going to save my family, anyway.
On another level, a friend of mine had a wife of 15 years, diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder. She was doing fine one minute, and then in just a couple of hours, her body shuts down. And she dies in 1 day. You know how a man of pride would respond: “You’d take that from me? What gives you the right? Don’t you know we’d made plans? How could You do such a thing? This isn’t good.” But he, however, responded to that divine interruption with Job’s humility, the “Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” And God, in those moments, simply puts it to us: “Do you trust me…or do you think your ways are higher than mine?” Even Jesus, the God-Man would look for another way in the garden, but would pray, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
The Humble don’t mind being Reminded that they Are on God’s Agenda, and that He’s not on Ours.
Look at the language of 17:4-14. Did you notice all the “I’s.” Scan that and circle all the I’s. This is powerful. I took you from the pasture to the palace. I got rid of your enemies. I will take care of your descendants. And I will handle this nation. There’s no building you could design that would be a fit for my glory…you’ve got great ambition, but you need to remember who captains your life.
Joel Gregory- The River and the Barnyard Tragedy
A good exercise to remind yourself of God’s agenda is to go down to the river. You go down to the Tombigbee. Get on your boat. Watch and think. See the barges. Egrits. Cranes. Big cats roll on top of the water, chasing minnows. We’ll live and die. But that Ol River, just keeps rolling. It was here before me, and it’s going to go on after and without me. I don’t make the river go. But it’ll make my boat go. And it’ll keep going long after I get off. You need to know friend, just like that river when you’re on it, you’re on the Lord’s agenda; He’s not on yours. It’s bigger and better and more powerful than you, and it doesn’t need you and it will go on perfectly fine without you.
And I’m so glad! Aren’t you glad for that? Aren’t you glad that so much of our lives and our world is under the supervision of an invisible hand, infinitely more powerful and loving than yours or mine? I’m not saying the Lord hasn’t called you to work. He has. But you’re a deckhand on the Lord’s ship; and as Captain, He’s steering the ship’s rudder perfectly well. Humble people love that truth. And relax in it. Prideful brother/sister/friend: When we forget that truth, and fill ourselves with pride, in the end, don’t we just go way off-track?
Start to look like the rooster in the Barnyard Tragedy
Let me tell you the story of the Barnyard Tragedy. On that farm There was a rooster. And he lived among the goats, and the hens, and the cattle. And every morning, that sun come up, and the rooster crowed. Woke up the hens and the goats and the cattle, even the farmer and his wife. But along the way, the rooster came to some Fowl logic. And he Reversed cause and effect. He forgot that he crowed because the sun came up, and started to believe that the sun came up because he crowed. After a while, the rooster became an insomniac rooster. “If I don’t wake up, the sun won’t come up.” He became an anxious rooster, a nervous rooster, a guilty rooster because sometimes he’d fall asleep, he became a stressed out rooster with the weight of the world on his wings. The world and his farm would fall to pieces if he didn’t crow. Until finally, they had to carry him off to the Home for Disturbed Roosters. “Let your hands hang down.” And be sweetly reminded of the fact that you’re on the Lord’s agenda. And He’s not on yours.
Humble people know they’re alright, because they know who they are and more importantly who God is. They’ll work, but they know that when their work is the hand of the Man from Galilee. And if you forget, God’ll remind you. Don’t forget, he tells David: you were a shepherd from the sticks. Saul could have killed you. Goliath should’ve killed you. All you are, is because of what I brought you from and through. That’s what this cross behind me is about. A fixed reminder of how broken and lost we are without the miracle working grace of our Lord. That’s what communion is about. Look at that cross, the bread and the juice. That tells you where you came from. No high society in the KG. You all come to be heirs to the Kingdom of God by the way of Jesus, by the way of the cross. I say “I’m a criminal, I’m a sinner in the sight of a holy God, worthy of his condemnation, broken and wretched. But in his mercy and grace and kindness and blessing, he gives me his forgiveness and life, to make be blessed and righteous.”
The humble relax because they know God’s Plans are Always Better than Ours.
God didn’t just interrupt David’s plans. He improved upon em. Notice the text says, that David’s lineage would be “Blessed forever.” That’s a lot better than a Temple. The humble person welcomes God’s interruptions because he knows what God will do will be better than what we can imagine. Nobody thought on the other side of that cross would be a crown. You can’t imagine that on the other side of that marriage, is a miracle. On the other side of that sickness, is a reward. On the other side of trial is triumph. When God interrupts, he always improves. The prideful person can’t handle it because he can’t imagine a world in which his plan isn’t the best. But the humble person knows, “I might make my plans to build a Temple, but the Lord’s going to secure my eternity.”
How can you Get Humility? (vs 16-27).
No 1-2-3 easy process. This is heart-work. It takes a work of the Spirit of God to change people from the inside out. It’s a change wrought in the heart. But I think David gives us a good model. When the Lord interrupts…
Get in the Lord’s presence (16). Sit down (16). Realize how small you are (17). Realize how sweet God is (18-27).
Dr. Ben Stubblefield is the Pastor of of FBC Jackson in Jackson, AL, and graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Auburn University.