THE GREATER THE HUMBLING, THE GREATER THE UPLIFTING
Preacher: Felix Ngunjiri
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.” (James 4:10 [KJV])
David wrote Psalm 23 as a worship song to God after reflecting on how God had repeatedly and favourably delivered him from the jaws of death. Greater danger was always lurking in the shadows as he passed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death as he looked for greener grass for his sheep. The Valley of the Shadow of Death is an actual location on the narrow, winding, difficult and dangerous mountainous road from Jerusalem to Jericho that King David wrote about when he said that “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). David noted that his life followed an up and down pattern like that of a bouncing ball. In one of his downward moments, he would come face to face with a ferocious bear or lion ready for the kill. Then God would immediately deliver him by giving him strength to kill the beast and save him and his sheep. “And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before King Saul: and he sent for him. And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine called Goliath. And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.” (1Sam 17:31-37 [KJV])
Psalm 23 was written by David the shepherd boy-turned King to encourage those who have failed or lost hope, the despised, the desperate, the rejected, the disappointed, the dismissed, those written off and the disengaged so that they would start living again after almost giving up on their lives. David had learnt that the difference between winners and losers is how they respond to failure. Sometimes God stretches us to breaking point, but, as Jeremiah tells us, we are still in His hands: “as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah18:2-6) [KJV]. The wet clay is pinched, pressed, slapped by the potter’s hands and later fired in the kiln to turn it from clay to stone to produce shiny glazed bathroom tiles, china cups and jugs/mugs and roofing tiles, so that it is ready to be decorated with beautiful glaze finishes. Due to the clay’s obedience to potter’s his touch, it takes on the shape that the potter is manipulating it to become. How beautiful and glorious is a pot that has been shaped by the potter and is applied the finishing touches and then displayed for sale to prospective buyers? Some people respond to God’s stretching by giving up, sulking, cursing or self-pity. Sometimes we resist God’s touch on our lives and find it uncomfortable because we do not know that God has good plans for us, plans of welfare and not of evil, to give us a future and a hope. God knows our end from the beginning.
When faced with such strains, do we try to find our own solutions or do we wait on the Lord? God tells us to “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14) “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). David’s life was marked by low moments followed by upward moments like those of a bouncing ball. David’s lowest moments were those of following sheep even after being anointed to succeed King Saul. His other low moments were those of being rejected by his family members, the king and Goliath his enemy. David experienced a lot of rejection but how did he respond? He was rejected by his father. “Then Jesse made his son Shammah to pass by. And Samuel said, neither has the LORD chosen this. Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, the LORD has not chosen these. And Samuel said to Jesse, Are these all your children? And he said, There is still the youngest, and, but he is tending the sheep. And Samuel said to Jesse, Send for him: for we will not sit down until he comes here. And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and with a fine appearance and handsome features. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah” (1 Samuel 16:9-13). Jesse, the father of David did not parade his eighth and youngest son to prophet Samuel because he thought David was too young to be anointed king. “…But the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7)[KJV]. David was rejected by his wife. “And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal, King David’s wife, who was Saul’s daughter, looked through a window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart” (2 Samuel 6:16). How painful it is to be despised by your loved one? One of David’s lowest moments in his life was when he was rejected by King Saul, his father-in-law. “But Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim”(1 Samuel 25:44). You can almost feel the pain he felt when his father-in-law snatched his wife from him and gave her to a neighbour. David used to be accepted and rejected by King Saul. “And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand. And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice” (1 Samuel 18:10-11). One minute David was soothing Saul by playing him the harp, the next minute David was dodging a spear thrown to him by Saul. But David remained positive, focused and highly esteemed for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him. David was then despised by his enemy Goliath. “And when Goliath the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he despised him: for he was but a boy, and ruddy, and handsome. And the Philistine said to David, am I a dog that you come to me with sticks? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air, and to the beasts of the field” (1 Samuel 17:42-44). David was even rejected by his own son Absalom. Absalom conspired against his father’s rule and overthrew his government and King David had to flee to the desert; “And King David said to all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; or else we shall not escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtakes us suddenly, and brings evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword” (2 Samuel 15:14). When faced by all those rejections, David had steadfastly remained focused on the promise that he was to be king of Israel. Samuel the prophet of God had actually anointed him for it. Rejection, especially by your loved ones, inflicts emotional wounds which cut deep into someone’s heart. But David remained positive and instead of seeing those scars, he saw stars instead. David knew how to encourage himself. When he was down, he would sing that “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:1-2). David knew that the Lord was the one who made him lie down in green pastures. When you are down, look up. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). When you can go down no farther, look down at what you are lying on; green pastures. Valley bottoms are known to be very fertile. When somebody pushes you to the lowest point, look around and you will see all the fertility surrounding you that was not visible to those who are up there – who pushed you down. Every end is a new beginning. God always takes over when we reach our end of the road. There is so much good in the worst of places and so much bad in the best of places. There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us. All that glitters is not good and do not judge a book by its cover. God had delivered David out of danger on very many occasions such that he could count on God’s deliverance. “David told Saul, Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock and I went out after him and struck it, I rescued the sheep out of its mouth. When it turned against me, I caught it by its beard, and smote it, and slew it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover: the LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with you” (1 Samuel 17:34-37). David used to sing that “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). David had no fear of any kind because he had a God who protected him from any danger using His mighty rod. The shepherd uses the rod to kill the animals which might try to snatch away his sheep. The shepherd also uses the rod to prod the sheep to move to the right direction. When David was faced by death, God was there for him to pull him out of danger with His staff. The staff is a long straight thin and strong stick with a crook at the end. The shepherd uses the staff to rescue the sheep that might have fallen into a pit by hooking and pulling it to safety.
The Empty Throne
David’s up and down moments were those incidences when he would be entertaining the King with his harp hoping that the King was enjoying it only for the King to rise up from his throne unexpectedly and leave the throne empty. Saul would then turn his spear to David to pin him to the wall in a series of attempts at killing David. “And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice” (1 Samuel 18:11). On another day “the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand. And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night” (1 Samuel 19:9-10). But David would dodge the spear thrown at him as glimpses of the empty throne flashed across his eyes and he would remember that he was anointed to be King of Israel by a man of God called Samuel in the early years of his childhood. As David dodged the javelin thrown to kill him, he used to wonder when God would allow him to sit on the empty throne that he had been anointed for. People say that if you want to be promoted, help your boss to be promoted so that you step in his place. If you want to be King, help your King to stay comfortably seated on the throne because the God who promoted you to be attending to the King wanted you to sit on that throne one day. In case he throws spears at you, elude them with a good heart because God will help you to dodge them. Dodge also his tantrums. Do not hear all the details of his tirades but write down on paper all his instructions so that you follow them faithfully. Whenever David was dodging Saul’s spear, he used to remember some of God’s promises passed on from generation to generation by his ancestors which say that “Every place that the soles of your foot shall step on, that have I given to you, as I said to Moses” (Joshua 1:3). If you have never stepped in the office of your manager, do not be excited while applying for such a post in your company because the position might be taken by those who frequent there. Probably those who will get the post are those who have set their feet in his office frequently. Or maybe they are his advisors or he consults them a lot in his office. David’s upward and happiest moments were very vivid in his mind, especially the day he was anointed to be King of Israel, the times when he was entertaining the king and the day he killed Goliath. The life of David illustrates the pattern of up and down movements of mankind throughout life. The life of man follows the bouncing ball movement, with lowest points being those when it hits the ground or is punctured while the highest moments are those when the ball is at the top of the world, enjoying life at the top.
From the Bush to State House
David propelled himself from the bush to state house because he knew the power of his God. He was always amazed by the power and the faithfulness of the Almighty God of Israel. David could remember very clearly the stories that had been narrated to him by his father Jesse of how God delivered the children of Israel out of the land of bondage. “And when we cried unto the LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression: And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders: And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 26:7-9). David knew that the journey to the top starts from the bottom. The more he was humbled, the more he knew in his heart that he was headed for greatness. The more the humbling, the greater the uplifting. Walking down the valley is always followed by walking up the valley. There is none who was humbled more than our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He came down from heaven to earth, humbled Himself to fit inside His mother’s womb, lived amongst the people experiencing their pains and frustrations and tempted by the devil only for Him to triumph over the devil because the Spirit of God was in Him. He dwelt amongst us working miracles and casting out demons and then He died for us after being nailed on the cross at Calvary. He went down to hell for three days. From there He rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. None has ever been humbled like our Lord Jesus, from the joy of being with the Father in heaven down the pit of hell and bouncing back to heaven. Jesus never forgot the joy that was set before Him if He endured the cross, and “despising the shame, He is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). He bounced triumphantly back to heaven. The greater the humbling, the greater the uplifting. When you “humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, He may exalt you in due time:” (1Pet 5:6 [KJV]) When you “humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.” (James 4:10 [KJV]) His promises are Yea and Amen. When He says that all you need to be uplifted is to humble yourself unto the Lord, He will definitely exalt you above all the nations of the earth.
“And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.” (Deut 28:1-2 [KJV])