“He guides the humble in what is right, and teaches them his way.” – Psalm 25:9
The group ‘Jews for Jesus’ have provided an excellent word study to help us understand how different words for ‘humble’ are to be interpreted in the Bible. Deuteronomy 8:2 says “You shalt remember that the LORD thy God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to HUMBLE you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” This is the Hebrew word “‘ani”, which describes the humility of circumstance, which God uses in peoples’ lives to get their attention. The focus here is on us, to wake us up, to make us realize we are not as strong as we think.
The next Hebrew word is “shaphel”, which denotes a person’s ‘lowliness of mind’ to stoop low, get involved and interact with others. This Hebrew word is only used when the focus is on others. We see this verse in full flight in 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 has a contrite and HUMBLE spirit, to revive the spirit of the HUMBLE, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
A third Hebrew word for humble is “kana’”, which is used to describe submission to the will of another. It is the word used in conjunction with Jesus Christ’s submission to His Father. It is also the Hebrew word in this very famous verse that folks love to recite: “If my people who are called by my name will HUMBLE themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2Chronicles 7:14). This word focuses 100% on God alone.
How can one move from being humbled by circumstance (“‘ani”), to stooping low to help others (“shaphel”), to being lost in the very presence of Jesus Christ (“kana”)? The answer is found in our verse this week from Psalm 25. It is the fourth word “‘anav”. This is the Hebrew word for humility of character. Like our first word, the focus is on us. This is what C.S Lewis meant when contrasting the greatest sin, pride, versus it’s opposing virtue, humility: “The essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride… It is the complete anti-God state of mind. In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that – and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison – you cannot know God. Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’. He will not be thinking about being humble – he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
What would really bring this article home for us is if we had a real-life example of someone who actually lived a life of these four elements of true humility. And luckily, one such person comes immediately to mind, since not only did he just pass but his incredible life of humility and service was honored on national TV. On the morning of Friday, November 30, at 94 years old, the 41st President of the United States asked his life-long best friend and former Secretary of State James Baker a simple question:
“Where are we going?” Baker answered him, “We’re going to heaven, Jefe.”
“Jefe” was George Herbert Walker Bush’s nickname. It is Spanish for “chief.” George H.W. Bush replied with a simple answer: “That’s where I want to go.”
George H.W. Bush became our nation’s 41st president in 1988. He had previously served 8 years as Ronald Reagan’s vice president. He also was President Gerald Ford’s CIA Director and President Richard Nixon’s Ambassador to the United Nations. His son, George W. Bush, was elected the 43rd president in 2000, only the second time in US history that a father and son had been elected as presidents (John Adams was America’s 2nd President and his son, John Quincy Adams, became the 6th President of the United States).
Our 41st President was a strong follower of Jesus Christ. In his biography on Bush, entitled, ‘Destiny and Power’, author Doug Meacham said that he remembers Bush being asked publicly if he was “born again.” Bush’s response?
“If by ‘born again’ one is asking, ‘Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?’ then I could answer a clean-cut ‘Yes.’”
There was absolutely no hesitancy in his answer.
Our 41st President went further to explain his Christian beliefs. He believed the only way to heaven was to trust your life to the God-man Jesus and what He accomplished for you on the Cross. Bush also believed in the necessity of repentance for personal sin, the absolute nature of God, the inerrancy of the Bible, and the objective reality of evil. All of these things he learned from an early age from his mother, who taught him that the most important character trait in growing close to Jesus Christ, as well as others around you, is “‘anav”, humility of character. George H.W. Bush is an excellent role model of humility for us all.
Ed Croteau, “The Evidence of Faith’s Substance” – Article #324