Humility; Service. How to Humble Yourself–Part 2
1 Peter 5:5–7
1 Peter Lesson #154
November 29, 2018
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we’re just so grateful that we can enjoy an intimate relationship with You because You have done everything necessary to cleanse us from sin. That we are cleansed positionally by faith alone in Christ alone because of His death, His payment for our sin on the Cross. And that when we sin, as we do day by day and hour by hour, we know that if we admit or acknowledge those sins to You, You instantly forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
“Father, we are so thankful we can have a walk with You that is close and that Your Spirit indwells us and God the Son indwells us and strengthens us. Father, it is Your Word that abides in us, and through Your Word, God the Holy Spirit increases our spiritual growth.
“Father, we pray, as we study a topic that’s difficult for every one of us—the doctrine of humility, that You will help us to understand how important and central it is to our spiritual life. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We started this two weeks ago. I would bet that if I gave a pop quiz on what I taught two weeks ago, most of you would go, “What did we study?” That’s the way we are. As we get a little older, it gets worse! So, we’ll have a little review before we get going.
We’re studying about humility in 1 Peter 5:5–7, and this is about the role of humility and one of the ways in which we can be humble—that we can humble ourselves because it’s a product of our volition. It is our decision—and our decision alone—as to whether we are going to have genuine humility and not a pseudo-humility.
It’s interesting that the word that is used in this passage for “humility” is a word that is also used by Paul in Colossians 3 talking about a pseudo-compassion or a pseudo-humility that manifests itself in cults and false religions. You often have people do that. So it’s important to distinguish the difference between false and genuine humility. Genuine humility is produced by God the Holy Spirit and is not a manifestation of the sin nature.
As we saw in the 1 Peter 5:1–4, Peter is addressing the leaders. The context here is important because the context is a church that is approaching a time of persecution. They’re already experiencing it to some degree—hostility from a culture around them that has rejected Jesus. If they are Jewish-background believers, then they are dealing with being ostracized from the synagogue, ostracized from family and friends, and maybe losing business contacts and opportunities.
The letter is addressed to Jewish-background believers, but if they were Gentiles, then they might run afoul of the Greco-Roman culture because they worshiped one God and not a plethora of deities. They were not polytheists. So, it is addressed to the leadership because it’s the role of the leadership to train and prepare a congregation for facing opposition, for facing persecution.
This is one of the things that’s coming on our horizon as we see an element of our culture becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity. Even among evangelicals, we’re seeing an increasing hostility to biblical Christianity. And I use the term “evangelical” loosely there.
The next generation coming up has had a lot of its values shaped by the pagan thinking of our culture and the postmodernism and relativism that is there and views on sex and gender that have permeated our culture. And it is so present in the workplace and in the schools and universities; the atmosphere at these places drips with these pagan views of maleness, femaleness, roles, and all of these things. If you counter it, you run the risk of incredible hostility and animosity from your peers.
We know that those who are in that age range from about 13 to 30 are incredibly susceptible to peer pressure. They don’t want to be viewed as being on the outside. Yet, so many Christians who aren’t grounded in the Word have a problem because they don’t know how to think differently from their culture. Every generation has this problem of getting rid of the human viewpoint cultural influence in their brain. That’s what Romans 12:2 is all about—not being pressured or pushed or formed into the mold of the world around you, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind by the Word.
I read a distressing headline the other day. I’ve read articles about this, but every now and then somebody else discovers it. You see the headline that 100 churches a week in America are closing. I don’t know if you realize that! Some of them are closing because they no longer offer the truth. I think a lot of those are that way. People have quit going there because there’s nothing for them there. They don’t teach the Word. And it’s not that they’re looking for the Word, but when you’re teaching the same thing you can get from Dr. Phil or any other talk show on television or whatever, then why go to church to get it? It’s the same human viewpoint, feel-good psychology.
But it’s impacting Bible-teaching churches as well. We’re part of the culture. Think about the demographics in our nation. We have a top-heavy culture, a top-heavy society and population, where we have older people, 50 and over, that are the product of the baby boomers. The World War II generation has been dying off for a number of years now, but the baby boomers are coming along.
Many of the baby boomers have rejected Christ. And many of them have bought into the idea that, “Well, I’ve raised my family. Everything is good. I’m going to retire and go to XYZ location.” There’s no church there or anything, but they think they can just survive without it. They no longer have a church-oriented, church-centered way of thinking, and they just leave an urban area and they go somewhere where there might not be any Bible teaching because that wasn’t in their priorities. They just wanted to go be somewhere near grandchildren or some other value that’s not biblical. They’re not looking for a place to serve the Lord and continue to grow spiritually. And the result is that these the churches begin to diminish.
Then, as we look at the demographics, there is such a smaller number in the subsequent generations—the post-baby-boomer generations—generation XYZ and the millennials. There are fewer and fewer to take the place of those who are in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. So, with a smaller population coming up, you’re going to have a difference.
Now, the only thing that keeps our population growing is this influx of immigrants. But they are not being assimilated into the Evangelical Judeo-Christian heritage of the United States; they are staying within their various ethnic and nationalistic enclaves. So, we’re seeing a diminishing of the impact of the Bible and the number of people who are going to churches.
This trend of church closings has been going on for quite a few years and is only going to increase. We who are here, who are taking the time to learn the Word, need to be fortified in our souls because there are dark clouds on the horizon, and we need to be prepared for that.
So that’s what the first four verses of 1 Peter 5:1–4 are talking about: the faithfulness of the spiritual leaders of the church, the pastors, to teach so that they will be rewarded for faithful service when the Chief Shepherd appears.
As we go into the next section, Peter shifts gears from talking to the elders—the spiritual leaders—to talking about the younger people in the congregation. He says, “You need to submit yourselves to your elders.” Here he’s talking about elders as leadership but young people, as we saw last time, as the younger folks in the congregation. He reminds them that they are to be not just submissive to the leadership, but submissive to one another.
We saw that this is standard. This is what Paul said in Ephesians 5:21—we’re to submit ourselves to one another—before he began to talk about wives being submissive to husbands, husbands loving wives, and children being submissive to parents. First, he says— just like Peter does—“Submit to one another.” There needs to be an attitude of humility, a mentality of humility, that governs all relationships.
Too often people have gotten bent out of shape over the role distinctions among men and women in the body of Christ and in the home. If it’s understood correctly, where there is mutual submission and mutual humility and then working together within the home—recognizing there is the husband with the responsibility of leadership and the wife is to help, an ezer, as Eve was created to help Adam—then it begins to make sense. It shouldn’t be a power struggle; that’s the result of carnality.
Then, in verses 6–7, Peter says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
We saw servant leadership—the leadership that is emphasized in Scripture—that the Lord Jesus Christ told Peter and James and John about when they’re asking the question, “Who is going to be greatest in the Kingdom?” Jesus, in Matthew 18:1–4, takes a little child as an object lesson and says that, “You have to humble yourselves like a little child.”
A little child had no standing. He had no rights. He had no privileges in the Greco-Roman culture at that time or in Israel. So what Peter is saying is, “You’ve got to quit trying to seek your own glory and realize that you are a servant of God and submit yourself in humility.” So, this is going to be important if you’re going to survive the coming persecution. And the leadership needs to serve in exhibiting this humility; so they need to be mature, solid, and dependable.
As we broke it down last time, I pointed out that the main command is stated as a priority, as an aorist passive imperative, to “submit yourselves.” Then he says, “All of you be submissive to one another.” The second command was, “Be clothed with humility.” We talked about that as wearing an apron; it was a distinctive garb that identified a slave as a slave and distinguished him from being a freeman.
Then the reason is given. He gives the reason in 1 Peter 5:5, quoting Proverbs 3:34, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” We need to talk about that. It’s fascinating to dig through the original context of Proverbs 3.
Then he gives a challenge: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God …” That’s what is necessary to be submissive to one another. We all, individually, have to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt us in due time. And we do that by casting our care upon Him. (I’m going to skip ahead on the slides.)
Last time we talked about the first part—talking to younger people—to submit to the leadership in the congregation, using the same word, HUPOTASSO.
We’ve seen HUPOTASSO again and again in Peter—also in Paul—relating to servants being submissive to masters—to owners—even if they treat them harshly. Our behavior is not conditioned on somebody else’s wrong behavior. We don’t get a new obligation just because the person under whose authority we are is abusing that authority.
We are to exhibit humility, and the classic example that Peter uses, all through chapters 2, 3, and 4 is always to go to the Cross and how Christ was so severely abused and arrested illegally, tortured illegally, tried illegally. Everything that was done was wrong. If He had asserted His legal rights, He could have changed things, but then we would not have salvation.
So, we have to understand something that is very difficult as Americans. Sometimes, by submitting to a wrong situation, God can be glorified, and we can have an opportunity to minister that may not be something we’re aware of at the time. We don’t know. We are to obey the Lord and let Him work out the details.
We saw that this word is used in being clothed with humility, EGKOMBOOMAI, which has to do with putting on an apron, the sign of a slave. This is the image that is being described here by Peter, that we are to be clothed with humility.
Being humble in the Greco-Roman world was not a good thing. We come to humility from a strong Christian history that has changed the meaning of these words. In fact, one of the words we look at that talks about the quality of humility is TAPEINOPHROSUNE. The SUNE at the end tells you it’s a quality, this characteristic. Like DIKAIOSUNE for righteousness; it’s the quality of righteousness. So TAPEINOPHROSUNE is talking about the quality of humility.
It’s interesting. Before the Bible there is no hint of that ever being used at all. These other related terms, TAPEINOO—which is the noun for being humble— were not used in positive ways. They were the term used to describe the lowest levels of socioeconomic strata in the Greco-Roman world. It was not something that was honorable.
What was honorable was to go out and assert yourself, assert your rights, and to make yourself known. That was what made you a good person. But the Bible contrasts this with arrogance, because that’s what the other is. So, we are to be clothed with humility.
TAPEINOPHROSUNE means to submit to someone who is in authority over you. We see it used here as humility—being clothed with humility. Then the noun form, that God gives grace to the humble. We’ll talk about that a little more.
We come to the quote that Peter gives here. He gives the command that we’re to submit to one another and be clothed with humility. Why? There’s a reason. “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” The word there translated “proud” is HUPEREPHANOS, which means someone who’s proud, someone who’s arrogant, somebody who is self-sufficient in the sense that they are not dependent upon God. They do not trust in God. They are the end purpose of their life.
This is the result of the sin nature. This is something that we lose sight of. I find this such a great tool to use when I think about politics and politicians, when I think about the motivations that are going on in business, in the tug-of-war for power in the halls of government; we see that people operate more on their sin nature than they do on the virtues of the spiritual life.
The Bible refers to this by the term “the flesh,” and I believe that’s because every cell in our body is corrupted by sin as a result of Adam’s fall. At the very core of the sin nature are lust patterns. Those lust patterns give us desires; we want certain things. We attach our thinking to certain things as being necessary in life to be happy and to have meaning and to have significance. So that’s at the very core of motivation—some category of lust.
It can be power lust. It can be lust for attention or approval. It can be sexual lust, pleasure lust, gratification of some sort, a lust for drugs or for alcohol. Often, that is to mask pain and sorrow in the soul where there has not been any sense of happiness. There’s no meaning. And there’s some problem in the past that they’re seeking to be anesthetized to. That’s not true for every case, but in many cases.
Then, at the top and the bottom, the sin nature produces two things. It produces that which we think of normally as sin, which is the area of weakness. These are mental attitude sins such as pride and arrogance and envy and jealousy and hatred, and all of these mental attitude sins that drive things. We don’t see those things happening on the surface, necessarily.
It can lead to sins of the tongue: gossip, slander, maligning, and making bitter statements and hateful statements about people. That comes from the sin nature. It can be overt sins like murder, drunkenness, or carousing. These are some of the works of the flesh that are mentioned in Galatians 5:20 and following on the works of the sin nature.
In the area of strength at the top [of the diagram] we produce human good. Everybody can do moral good—unbelievers, those who are Satan worshipers, those who are Muslims, those who are Buddhists. They are unsaved, they are spiritually dead, but they can do relatively good things. They can even be very nice people. But that doesn’t have any spiritual value. It’s just relative good. It’s not the kind of righteousness the Bible talks about.
The Bible says that our righteousness is as filthy rags. We can’t help having human good. We can’t help people having human good. There’s nothing wrong with human good per se, other than it can’t get you anywhere spiritually. I’ve heard some Christians say, “I don’t want to contribute to that charity, or that cause, or this thing or that thing because that’s just human good.” Really? You have really superficial thinking.
There’s so much that is helpful in a culture that is part of our common grace and goodness in terms of loving our neighbor as ourselves. We can contribute to scientific research for cancer. We can contribute to various causes for helping destitute children, abused children.
But if you’re thinking it’s going to get you to Heaven, then that’s wrong! But if you’re doing it because as a believer walking by the Spirit, you know how to do good things to other people and to love your neighbor as yourself, then there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s just that human good is that which is processed by the sin nature, and so it has no value towards salvation or towards eternal life.
We trend in two directions. We trend towards asceticism and legalism. Those who are self-righteous tend to major in doing good—in the human good part. They’re very, very moral, and so they tend towards asceticism and legalism. But this is the kind of degeneracy that you had among the Pharisees. They were righteous. They were good. They prayed all the time. They went to the Temple all the time. They memorized Scripture. They talked about how to best apply Scripture in their lives. But they were spiritually dead, and so they were morally degenerate.
Then, you have those who are immorally degenerate who reject the absolutes of Scripture. They’re licentious and lascivious. They’re antinomian, which means they’re against the law or the absolutes of Scripture, and that leads to immoral degeneracy. The fertility cults of the ancient world were classic examples of that.
But what drives all of this is just pure arrogance—the self-absorption of the sin nature. “It’s all about me! I have to take care of myself, and I have to protect myself. And if I don’t do it, nobody else will. God certainly won’t. It’s all about me!”
So, when we talk about arrogance, we have this cycle of characteristics. It initiates with self-absorption. That’s our orientation, “It’s all about me.” It’s all about us. That leads to self-indulgence. When it’s all about me, we spoil ourselves, we indulge ourselves, and we justify it. We have a rationale to justify that behavior, why it’s good, and why we’re right. This leads to blinding ourselves in self-deception. But then it’s all good because we’re the ultimate god, and we deify ourselves. This cycle goes on and on and gets more and more entrenched in our thinking.
I don’t need to name names. I can tell you to think of the top five people that are serving in Congress, and they are the poster child for this operation. And you don’t need me to tell you who they are.
In 1 Peter 5:5, God resists the arrogant because they are operating on the flesh. They are operating on the sin nature, and the sin nature is attracted to the thinking of Satan. That’s the cosmic system—the thinking of Satan. So that it’s about asserting our authority over God’s authority.
Have you ever wondered why the Bible takes so much time to talk about authority and humility and to illustrate what happens when there’s rebellion? It’s because this is the original sin in Heaven when Satan said, “I want to be God.” He rebelled against God. Then, when God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden, what happens? Satan entices them to rebel. The whole angelic conflict. All of human history is screwed up and corrupted all because of rebellion against legitimate authority. So, God resists the proud.
We see various passages in the New Testament that illustrate this, like Romans 1:30, talking about the description of those who have rejected God. They are worshiping the creature rather than the Creator. Among their characteristics are backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud—there’s our term—boasters, inventors of evil things. They are constantly coming up with new things they can do to feed their lust patterns. They are disobedient to parents, so that this is fundamental to a flawed generation. They don’t have authority orientation, and it begins in the home, as I pointed out last time.
2 Timothy 3:2 brings this out as well, talking about during the last days. That’s not talking about the end times. In biblical terminology, there are the last days of the age of Israel—that’s the Tribulation—and there are the last days of the church, which is the whole Church Age. Because Paul says, “in these last days.” So, we’ve been in the last days of the church since the first century; it’s a long period of time. So, we see these trends that have gone on throughout the last 19, 20 centuries.
“For men will be lovers of themselves [self-absorption], lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy …” James 4:6, a parallel passage to the one we’re studying, states: “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ ”
In both James 4:6 and in 1 Peter 5:5 we have this quote from the Old Testament, and it comes from Proverbs 3:34. This is interesting because I’ve heard this translated a couple of different ways. So, I wanted to take a little time to study this.
Proverbs 3:34 says, “Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.”
Let me backup. How does that relate to “God resists the proud”? Did you hear what it says in Proverbs 3:34? It says, “Surely He scorns the scornful ...” Do you hear the difference between “scorning the scornful” and “resisting the proud”?
In the second clause, God gives grace to the humble. What we have in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 is the same thing: He gives grace to the humble. It’s that first line that’s different. Well, Peter is quoting from the Septuagint.
The Septuagint was the Greek translation of the Old Testament by the rabbis in Alexandria, Egypt. By the second to third century BC, most Jews had lost their facility in Hebrew so they couldn’t read the Torah anymore. So, they were translating it into the language they could read—translating into Greek—and in a lot of places it’s different.
But though the Septuagint wasn’t inspired, the apostles frequently quoted from it when they wrote the New Testament Scripture. Even though it might not have been an accurate translation of the original, it was still stating something that was true. Therefore, it becomes inspired Scripture when it is quoted through God the Holy Spirit by the apostles in the New Testament. So, it picks up this.
But it’s interesting to go back to Proverbs and to see what is going on there because that helps us to unpack the concept. This is part of wisdom. Remember, when we studied in Proverbs, the Hebrew word for wisdom is the word chokmah. It means “skill.” It doesn’t mean wisdom in the sense of abstract philosophy, such as we might think in a Judeo-Christian background, that the Greek philosophers or other philosophers have come up with these wise sayings.
In Hebrew thought, it was very practical. The person who is foolish has rejected God—and we’re going to study a little bit more about this in a minute. But because he’s rejected God, he’s living in a made-up world; he’s living in his own fantasy world. Therefore, he will make bad decisions because his thinking has been bent—it’s been corrupted—it’s been perverted. So, he can’t make good decisions because he’s operating from a position of weakness. So, this is going to cause problems.
But if you’re going to fear the Lord … What’s the beginning of wisdom in Proverbs [9:10]? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” So, if you’re going to submit yourself to the authority of God, then you will learn wisdom—that is, the teaching of Scripture—and you’ll be able to live life skillfully. That’s the idea in chokmah, to do something with skill.
In the Old Testament when God gave the Holy Spirit to Bezalel and Aholiab, the craftsmen who designed the furniture and the jewelry —they did the metalwork and everything for the tabernacle—God gave them, it says, chokmah, skill to work the metal and to work the wood to make something of beauty. So, when that’s applied to Scripture and to the truth of God’s Word, then we’re able to live a life that produces something of beauty, something of glory, that brings glory to God and that shows His importance and His significance.
One of the categories of being a fool is the scorn category. It’s the worst of the four categories of fools. Proverbs 3:34, in the New King James says, “Surely He scorns the scornful …” The NASB says, “Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted.” In the NET Bible they translate it, “Although he is scornful to arrogant scoffers, yet he shows favor to the humble.”
This is written in poetic language, so there’s a certain amount of hyperbole that is here and there are figures of speech to represent God. This is something of an anthropopathism, showing that God does not respect evil. God does not respect the unbeliever who is hostile to Him. That comes across to us as a lack of respect, or scorn. He despises those who are rebels against Him.
Turn with me to Proverbs chapter 3. You see a series of contrasts stated in the last five verses. “Do not envy the oppressor, And choose none of his ways …” And then we get into the contrasts. “For the perverse person is an abomination to the Lord, But His secret counsel is with the upright.”
So, God abominates—He hates—the perverse person. That’s one category. The “perverse person” is the same word that is used here; the Hebrew word is the same one that is used here for the scornful.
You see another contrast in verse 33. “The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked.” In contrast, “But He blesses the home of the just.” He enriches their life because they are living according to a just standard.
The third contrast. “Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.” The contrast between the scornful and the humble is the passage we’re looking at.
The fourth contrast is in verse 35, “The wise shall inherit glory, But shame shall be the legacy of fools.” The contrast is between wisdom and glory and the shame of fools. “Shame of fools,” not “chain of fools.” Just seeing if anybody is still awake out there.
So here are the contrasts. In that first contrast, which is stated in Proverbs 3:32, the perverse versus the upright, the word for upright is yashar. It’s the one who is applying righteousness, the upright one. He does things right according to Scripture, according to the Law or the proper things. And the word for “perverse” has the idea of something that’s being twisted. It’s crooked; sometimes it’s translated that way. So, they are twisting the meaning of the Law, or they are departing from the straight path of the Law. He is an abomination to the Lord.
It’s this word. This is the same word that we have translated with scornful. It’s the word luz. It has the idea of being morally crooked, of lacking sense. He can’t make right decisions because he has a lack of morality.
There’s a line of thinking out there that suggests that you can do right things and make right decisions even if you’re not morally right. That flies against the face of Scripture. Scripture says if you’re perverted in your soul—if your values are perverted—then even if you may do some things that appear right, it’s going to lead you down a crooked path. So, there is a connection between moral correctness and righteousness, right action and morality and law.
The values of the upright person are stated in passages like Proverbs 3:21 and Proverbs 4:21. Proverbs 3:21: “My son, let them not depart from your eyes—Keep sound wisdom and discretion …” In other words, your priorities—the Word of God and wisdom—keep that before you.
The eyes are a figure of speech for the gate into your mind, and so it often represents knowledge. We have the idiom related to God: “The eyes of the Lord go to and fro,” His knowledge. So, it’s focus here is on knowledge of the Word. “Keep sound wisdom and discretion” is the application of the Word wisely, skillfully.
“Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart …” Again and again, Proverbs has these kinds of exhortations on how we should be focused. In the psalms we’re told to hide the Word in our heart; that’s how we can keep it constantly before us. We need to be memorizing Scripture, focusing on that.
But the values of the perverse person change things. The good becomes bad; light becomes dark. Isaiah says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
How many times in recent years have we seen, in popular culture, people coming out and saying that something that is horrible is right—and that something that is right is horrible? They condemn Christians, and they condemn traditional heterosexual marriage. They say that homosexual marriage is right, and that heterosexual marriage is wrong! See, they’re calling light, darkness and darkness, light. So they are perverse. Their values have been perverted and twisted.
Proverbs 2:15 says, “Whose ways are crooked, and who are devious in their paths …” That’s that word luz—devious in their paths.
Proverbs 14:2, “He who walks in his uprightness fears the LORD …” Well, fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so you can connect the dots that he who walks in uprightness is wise! He’s applying the Word skillfully; he fears the Lord.
“… but he who is [luz] perverse in his ways despises Him.” This is the scorner. This is one of the four categories of fools we’ll look at in just a minute.
Isaiah 30:12: “Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel: ‘Because you despise this word, and trust in oppression and perversity, and rely on them …’ ” These passages indicate that those who despise the Word rely on intimidation and bullying and abusive language, behavior, and actions. We certainly see a lot of that going on in our culture today towards Christians.
The word here that is said to “rely on them” is the Hebrew word shaan, which means “to trust or to depend upon something.” So, they trust, they depend upon, oppression and perversity and bullying and intimidation in order to get their way. That’s the first contrast that we have in verse 32 between the perverse person and the upright person.
Then, the second contrast comes in verse 33. “The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the home of the just.” “Curse” refers to God’s divine discipline or judgment.
This is interesting. In the Old Testament, how does a person become just? Abraham. Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” That’s the same word for justice. You become just positionally first by trusting in God’s promise. When you believe the promise of salvation in the Old Testament—just like today—you receive imputed righteousness.
So, the term “wicked” refers to the unbeliever. The term “just” refers to those who are positionally righteous, and the term “wicked” refers to the opposite. But there is a second layer of meaning here: that the person can be positionally just but living like the wicked. The person who is an unbeliever just lives like an unbeliever because that’s what he is.
There is a contrast here first of all between believer and unbeliever. That the unbeliever is under divine judgment. It’s the Hebrew word rasha, which is a standard word for wicked or ungodly. They’re not viewed as those who have a relationship with God. And those who do—because they are just—God blesses them. If they walked justly there’s more blessing.
How do we know that? What’s our classic example? Think about this. Classic example of blessing by association to a believer who is called righteous? Go back to the story of Abraham. Who is his nephew? He is called “righteous Lot” by Peter! He’s righteous; he’s a believer!
What’s the whole issue when Lot is living in Sodom? He’s not necessarily living like a believer. I’m not saying he was part of the homosexual crowd or that, but he’s not really living like a believer. But he’s just; he’s righteous. He’s “righteous Lot.”
When Abraham is questioning God, he says, “Would You refrain from judging Sodom if there were 50 righteous people there?” And the Lord says, “Yes.” So, He would refrain because of blessing by association. Even a believer like Lot, who’s not really a strong believer but he is just—he’s righteous—there is going to be blessing by association.
As Abraham goes through and says, “If there are 50 people ... or 30 people … or 20 … or 10,” God says, “Well, there’s only Lot and his family. So get them out of there.” Then there’s no one just left to be the basis for blessing by association. That’s what’s going on here.
This is the second contrast between those who are believers and those who are unbelievers. The wicked are the unbelievers and the righteous are the believers.
Then you come to the third contrast, which is the verse we’re looking at. This contrasts the scornful—or the scoffers—versus those who are humble. This word kesil is not the word that is used here. There are four examples of fools in Proverbs. There are different levels or different types of being fools—or foolish—in Proverbs.
The one that is used in Proverbs 3:34 is the third one, luz, the one we looked at a minute ago. This is a strong word—he’s insolent. But we’ll get there.
The first one is the kesil. He’s a fool. He’s just dull and dense. He makes bad decisions, and those who worship idols are said to be kesil-type fools by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 10:8. “But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish; A wooden idol is a worthless doctrine.”
Then, the second category is ewil. It looks like “evil” in English when you transliterate it, but it’s a waw, which is pronounced like a “v,” evil. He also is rebellious. He’s dull and he’s obstinate. He doesn’t listen to God, and he makes wrong decisions. We see that contrast in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools [that’s the ewil fool] despise wisdom and instruction.”
The third level is the nabal. Remember the story of Nabal and the vineyard? He’s a fool; he married Abigail back in the story of 1 Samuel. This had become his nickname because he’s this kind of a fool. He’s senseless. This is same word that used in Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ”
This isn’t necessarily the overt atheist. It’s the person who in his heart—in the core of his thinking—lives and acts and thinks as if no God exists. “There’s no accountability. There’s no One I’m answerable to. There’s no God.” There are a lot of Christians who are functional Nabals. In their carnality, they live as if there really isn’t a God. They are just in a complete, backslidden state and rebellious towards God. Psalm 53:1 also says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ” That’s the nabal fool.
Then the worst of the four cases is the word that is used in our passage in Proverbs 3:34 for scorning. It’s the luz. It’s translated several times as “scoffer”; he’s insolent and he ridicules God. Used in Proverbs 14:9, “Fools mock at sin …” This is the luz fool: he mocks at sin; he scoffs.
Proverbs 19:28, “A disreputable witness scorns justice, And the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.” This is the word luz that is used here—scorning justice.
In Proverbs 3:34, God scorns, or mocks, the scornful. This is an anthropopathism where you’re using a human emotion or action to be able to illustrate or depict what God is doing. “But He gives grace to the humble.” It’s not just humble economically. Some people, for the last hundred years, have had a problem with Marxists and social justice people—liberals—coming along and wanting to translate all of this in terms of the economically poor. (And it can mean that.)
But here it has to do with your mentality: you’re not haughty; you’re not lifting yourself up in arrogance; you are humbling yourself. You’re not self-absorbed; you’re subordinate to authority. This is what we see in the humility of Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!”
When did they say this? When Jesus is entering Jerusalem. “Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly (there’s our word “humble”) and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.” He’s not riding on some mighty horse like a conqueror. He’s coming in a very humble position—not asserting His authority.
Then the fourth contrast which is the one we mentioned earlier in verse 35, that the wise are contrasted to the fool. “The wise shall inherit glory (God will reward them), But shame shall be the legacy of fools.” “Legacy” and “inherit” are comparable terms that talk about a future possession in terms of God’s reward for Old Testament saints, and later the Church Age believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The “proud” are the fools that are arrogantly insolent toward God by rejecting His authority and pursuing their own path in life. But the humble are those who submit to God’s authority, even when that may cost them something as it did Jesus. He submitted to God’s authority and went to the Cross.
This is the main idea of humility. It’s not somebody who’s just being rolled over and taken advantage of all of the time, because there were times when Jesus asserted Himself. And there were times when Moses asserted himself.
In Numbers 12:3 we’re told, “(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)” And yet he took 2-1/2 to 3 million Jews through the wilderness for 40 years. He was a very strong, assertive leader, but he submitted himself to the authority of God. That’s what humility is: following the leadership of God as opposed to the leadership of your sin nature or the leadership of the crowd or the world around us.
In Micah 6:8 we read, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” We could perhaps paraphrase that last line, “to walk in obedience to your God … to submit to the authority of God.” That is the idea there.
In 2 Samuel 22:28 we read, “You will save the humble people (God will save the humble); But Your eyes (You are aware of; You know about; and You are watching) are on the haughty (the arrogant), that You may bring them down.”
We look around, we see a lot of arrogant people, and sometimes we think they’re getting away with it. But God will eventually bring home the justice. He is allowing them enough rope—as we say—to hang themselves and to trip themselves up.
Now we come to the New Testament. In Philippians 2 we have the ultimate example laid out again. Just as Peter goes to the Cross, so does Paul in Philippians.
He tells us, as Church Age believers, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit …” In other words, “Don’t be ruled by the self-absorbed arrogance skills in your sin nature. Don’t be controlled by self-absorption and self-indulgence and self-deception. Don’t let all those arrogance skills dominate.”
“… but in lowliness of mind …” Here’s that word again. I commented on this earlier. It was not found before Paul uses it. He takes the noun for humility and he adds SUNE to it to talk about this quality. Because this wasn’t a virtue in Greco-Roman thought—not until after the first century. That’s the way in which a culture is transformed by the Word of God. The presence of Christians changed the way the Greco-Roman culture eventually thought about humility.
“… but in lowliness of mind (in humility; in submission to authority) let each esteem others better than himself.” Let me suggest that if you’re paying attention to what Paul says in Ephesians 5:20, “Submit yourselves to one another,” if you’re paying attention to what Peter says in 1 Peter 5:5, “All of you submit to one another,” and if you pay attention to this verse, that we are to “esteem each other as better than ourselves,” role differences in marriage and in other relationships is not going to be an issue.
You can just blow off the feminists and their whole agenda. What they don’t understand is that they’re substituting another form of human viewpoint for one form of human viewpoint—and both are equally bad and equally destructive to relationships. The solution is the divine solution, which is humility and submitting ourselves to one another and submitting ourselves within the proper roles—wives to husbands, slaves to masters, children to parents. But that is still wrapped up in humility. It’s not based on arrogance.
This is what we see exhibited in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Philippians 2:5, which comes right out of the initial challenges or exhortations in Philippians 2:1–4, Paul says, “Let this mentality—let this mental attitude—let this mindset be in you which was also in Christ Jesus ...” Jesus showed genuine humility, and you need to have that mindset. There won’t be these divisions and these disagreements and all this upset if you really understand what it means to submit to one another.
He describes Jesus: He’s in the form of God. And that means He’s equal to God; in His essence He is fully God. He did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. That’s always a difficult translation here. It’s the kenosis problem. The idea here is, He didn’t think that His rights as God should be held onto.
See, that’s the issue in Greco-Roman thinking with humility, “Humility is a person who is not going to assert his rights.” Now, Paul did that; in certain situations he asserted his legal rights. There’s nothing wrong with that, but he’s not asserting them in an arrogant, bullying, conceited kind of way where he is going to lord it over somebody, which is how the Gentiles did it.
>Jesus is not going to make an issue out of His authority as God. Whereas, in contrast, in the Garden of Eden, Satan holds out the apple to Eve and says, “See how good it looks.” What does Eve do in response to Satan telling her that if she eats this, she will be like God? She is grasping after deity. What this is showing is that unlike Eve, Jesus doesn’t think it’s worth grasping after. He is already equal with God. He is in the essence of God.
“… but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant …” He added the essence of true humanity to His essence of deity so that He became the God-Man. In Philippians 2:8, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself …” The next phrase is really a participle of means in the Greek. “He humbled Himself by being obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
And Who exalts Him? God ultimately exalts Him because in Philippians 2:10–11 we read that a time will come when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. But He is submitting Himself to God to let God exalt Him, and He’s not going to exalt Himself.
This is why the next verse goes on to say, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God …” This is what Jesus did; He humbled himself under the omnipotence of God. “Mighty hand.” A hand is where you exert your power, and so the “hand of God” is often an anthropomorphism for the power of God. What he is saying here is, “Humble yourself under the power of God. Submit yourself to His authority, so that God will exalt you in the right time.” He knows the right time, so allow God to do that. And that’s the conclusion.
Now, what we see coming up in the next verse is going to tell us how we humble ourselves—or one of the features of it—and that is a great promise that we often quote in isolation. The participle begins it, “Casting all your care upon Him.” The phrase is, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God by casting your care upon Him.” That’s how you humble yourself.
It’s not simple obedience. It is taking your cares, your concerns … You have problems with somebody in authority. If you were a slave at that time and have a harsh master. If you’re a wife with an unsaved husband. Then take it to the Lord. “Cast your care upon the Lord because He cares for you.” Don’t just suck it up and bear it! That’s not what 1 Peter 5:7 says. It says to cast your care upon the Lord. Put it in the Lord’s hands and let Him deal with it.
We’ll come back to that verse and the next three verses after that, which focus on and complete what Peter is saying about humility.
“Father, thank You for helping us understand humility. It is so foreign to our sin nature—foreign to our flesh. It is not our natural propensity. We want to assert ourselves. We want to assert our rights. We want to avoid someone taking advantage of us. And we have difficulty working our way through the difficulties here. We have to remember examples of Paul saying in humility to the Romans in Philippi that he was a Roman citizen and they had unjustly beaten him and thrown him in jail.
“We have other times when Moses stood in his place as the leader of Israel and was strong and assertive. And Jesus certainly was. But there were other times when they were also the objects of injustice. They recognized that was God’s will for them at that time, and so they cast their care upon You and You and exalted them in due time. Help us to understand this. We need to apply this in our lives and learn to walk truly humbly with You. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”