Uncommon Humility


Genesis 22:9-10 “He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.”

Someone once said, “You can tell how much of a servant you are becoming by how you react when people treat you like one.”  Jesus reflected a similar sentiment when he said to his disciples in Luke 17, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

That sort of thinking goes against the grain of a world obsessed with self-promotion. We attach great importance to being number one. We aspire to fame and glory. Athletes like LeBron James or Peyton Manning make more money off their fame than they do from working at the “jobs” which gave them that fame in the first place.

That’s not to say that all fame or profit from fame is evil. But our desire to stand in the limelight and receive the praise of the world often discourages us from carrying out the more humble tasks the Lord asks us to fulfill.

Look at the humble role which very nearly became Isaac’s last. In Genesis 22 we read that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac as a test of faith. We generally focus the great faith that made Abraham willing to obey the Lord in this account. At no point do we read of any hesitation or complaint from Abraham. He faithfully obeys God’s command and take the steps to end the life of his only son.

But what about Isaac himself? Early in the episode he had realized something was unusual about this little “retreat” he and his father were taking for worship and sacrifice. “’Father…The fire and the wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’” (Gen. 22:7).

Yet even when the altar had been built, the wood arranged, and the time had come for Abraham to place Isaac on the altar, we hear of no struggle or complaint from young Isaac.

What humble obedience on Isaac’s part! In humility he accepted that his role in life might be simply to die so that the faith of another man might be tested and found true! In humility this young man was ready to pass up not just fame, fortune, and glory, but life’s simpler rewards of adulthood, family, and career.

With his humble submission to God’s plan, Isaac also experienced God’s deliverance. The ram the Lord substituted for the boy’s life at the end was a powerful picture of God’s grace. He is the God who spares the lives of his people by providing a substitute. The whole incident anticipates the Substitute God offered on the cross to spare the world.

Isaac’s humility demonstrates the attitude we need if we are going to follow Paul’s encouragement, “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). The self-sacrificing roles the Lord gives us to perform lack the kind of prestige and respect which attract worldly fame. Pride and self-concern are our enemies in completing our humble tasks.

Our Savior was himself a man of humility and self-sacrifice. We find forgiveness for our pride, and the faith which makes us humble, in knowing that he did not consider equality with God something he had to hold on to, but “he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!”  (Philippians 2:8).

Now let our attitude be the same.

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