For why what is to me in heaven; and what would I of thee on earth? (For what is there for me in heaven, but thee? and what else do I desire here on earth, but thee?) My flesh and mine heart failed; God of mine heart, and my part is God [into] without end. (Though my flesh and my heart fail; but God is my strength, and my portion forever.)
David could be the weary and suffering Job in this passage. Here David speaks perhaps after the shame of murdering Uriah so as to have Bathsheba; perhaps after the death of his son. At any rate, David sings that even if his flesh and heart fail, God is his strength and his portion forever. David rhetorically asks, What else in heaven and earth do I desire? And his answer is, Nothing but You, God.
This truth is what Job discovers in his ordeal. At the end of his rope, so to speak, Job realizes that only God matters, that everything else is a pale shadow compared to Him. Job’s devotion to God does not, however, diminish his love of others or his view of himself. Rather, as Job falls in humility before God, God lifts him up and places him above where he was in the first place.
What do we desire?
That is why God has raised him to such a height, given him that name which is greater than any other name; so that everything in heaven and on earth and under the earth must bend the knee before the name of Jesus, and every tongue must confess Jesus Christ as the Lord, dwelling in the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9-11KNOX
For which thing God enhanced him, and gave to him a name that is above all name; [For which thing and God enhanced him, and gave to him a name that is above all names;] that in the name of Jesus each knee be bowed, of heavenly things, [and] of earthly things, and of hell’s; and each tongue acknowledge, that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9-11WYC
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9-11AKJV
“That is why,” “For which thing” and “Wherefore” indicate the reason God exalted Jesus Christ above all others. The reason is that Jesus “6 who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (AKJV)
Jesus’ willingness to humble Himself, to “make Himself of no reputation” is also the reason Paul calls upon Christians to likewise humble ourselves. If we walk about with our noses stuck in the air, who will benefit? Certainly not those who are lost. Neither will our spiritual pride bring glory to God. Note that Jesus’ humility brought glory to God the Father. His willingness to step out of His power and accept human weaknesses – including death – is why He is now exalted above all names.
In a world promoting the ‘get what you want and get it now’ attitude, Christ’s attitude is mind-numbing and shocking. Christ “took the nature of a slave” despite being “in the rank of Godhead.” He dispossessed Himself of His rightful station and fashioned Himself as a human being. He allowed Himself to die. Paul calls upon Christians to do the same:
Yours is to be the same mind which Christ Jesus shewed. His nature is, from the first, divine, and yet he did not see, in the rank of Godhead, a prize to be coveted; he dispossessed himself, and took the nature of a slave, fashioned in the likeness of men, and presenting himself to us in human form; and then he lowered his own dignity, accepted an obedience which brought him to death, death on a cross.
What prize do we covet?
Look at the following translations of the same verse written by James. In several versions, we humble ourselves before or in the sight of the Lord while in several other versions, we find ourselves humbled (or meeked) by an outside force, perhaps by God Himself or by other human beings. At any rate, whether we cast ourselves down or are cast down by others, as we allow ourselves to remain humble, the Lord will exalt or lift us.
The haughty spirit – the proud – this is the one the Lord must discipline. Jesus’ harshest words are for those who hold themselves in high esteem. The Lord lifts the ones who feel the most unworthy and often those we view as the least in the kingdom of God.
Be ye meeked in the sight of the Lord, and he shall enhance you.
humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:10KNOX
Cast down yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10GNV
Be humbled in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:10DRA
Perhaps Paul is not being facetious when he tells the church at Corinth, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” But in his letter, he writes, “In the following directives I have no praise for you.” (1 Corinthians 11:17) Therefore, it is conceivable Paul is pointing out that these men are divisive when they “come together as a church” in order to show themselves as better than one another. The awful, sometimes gut-wrenching and always anxiety producing desire to be recognized as the best of many or at least the better of two is often destructive of all — of the whole body of Christ.
I think of the two disciples, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who ask Jesus for the privilege of sitting at places of honor when He comes into His kingdom. Rather than being satisfied with their current walk with Him and the promise of being with Him in eternity, they each struggle for more — for that which they are not qualified. For Jesus tells them they know not what they are asking.
The disciples — not only James and John — argue on the road to Capernaum “about who is the greatest.” (Mark 9:34) And Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
Seeking recognition from others rather than serving others is self-defeating and ultimately destructive. Be at peace with who you are, what God has given to you, and what He asks of you and where He has placed you. Start there at “the very last.”
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” No person sets out to do what seems wrong; instead, a person performs those acts which seem right. [Before you argue that persons like Osama bin Ladin do only evil things which can not possibly “seem right,” remember that Osama truly believed that his actions against “infidels” were sanctioned by his god. The way in which bin Ladin worshiped his god seemed right to him.] Along this line, my actions seem right to me, though they are wrong “and in the end lead to death” according to the Lord. Why? Because my ways are not His ways; my thoughts are not His thoughts. In and of myself, I am incapable of pleasing the Lord God.
God “shows us what is good. And what does the Lord require of [us]? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [our] God.” (Micah 6:8) God says, “A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.” (Proverbs 29:23) Our pride — our trust in ourselves — can cause us to doubt that “every Word of God is flawless” and that “[God] is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Proverbs 30:5)
“[God] is a shield around [us]; He bestows glory on [us] and lifts up [our] heads. To the Lord [we] cry aloud, and He answers [us] from His holy hill.” (Psalm 3:3-4) “Because the Lord sustains [us], [we] will not fear.” (Psalm 3:5,6) “From the Lord comes deliverance. May [HIs] blessing be on [us.]” (Psalm 3:8)
Are you able to remain green when “the heat comes” “in a year of drought?” Are your roots stretched “along the stream” “like a tree planted by the waterside?” When the sky dries up and rain does not fall, are you able to “bear fruit?” Are you able to see “when good comes” because “your heart is [not] far from the Lord?” (Jeremiah 17:6)
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and rests his confidence upon Him. He is like a tree.” He is like a tree with a healthy root system and full foliage that “stays green.” This man “has nothing to fear.” He “feels no care, and does not cease to bear fruit” for the Lord.
Yet, Jesus asks: “But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” And here is another parable that [Jesus] tells. It is aimed at those who are sure of their own goodness and look down on everyone else. ‘Two men go up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stands up and prays thus: ‘I thank Thee, O God, that I am not like the rest of men, greedy, dishonest, adulterous; or, for that matter, like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all that I get.’ But the other keeps his distance and does not even raise his eyes to heaven, but beat upon his breast, saying, ‘O God, have mercy on me, sinner that I am.’ It is this man, I tell you, and not the other, who goes home acquitted of his sins. For everyone who exalts himself is humbled; and whoever humbles himself is exalted.’ ” (Luke 18:8-14)
The man who is exalted is the one who puts his trust in the Lord; the one who recognizes that “the heart is the most deceitful of all things, desperately sick; who can fathom it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The man who prays, “Heal me, O Lord, and I am healed, save me and I am saved;” (Jeremiah 17:14) this is the one who is exalted. This man is “like a tree planted by the waterside, that stretches its roots along the stream, When the heat comes, it has nothing to fear.”
“Be careful,” says Jesus, “not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them.” (Matthew 6:1) “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:18)
Be private, says Jesus, in prayer. “Don’t babble like the idolaters.” (Matthew 6:7) Be private, says Jesus, in giving to the poor. “Don’t sound a trumpet before you, like the hypocrites.” (Matthew 6:2) “Put oil on your head, and wash your face”, says Jesus, when you fast. (Matthew 6:17)
“Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” (Matthew 6:3)
Yet, Jesus also says, “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
Jesus is telling you that your light shines naturally; it cannot be hidden as you go about “your good works” which you know were designed — by God Himself in advance — for you to complete. As you complete these good works, the glory must be directed back to God. All that is good in you is a direct result of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Let His light shine before others; to God be the glory! And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“Fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal,” writes Paul. That goal is to “make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) Christ Jesus “emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7) Once in the likeness of mankind, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even to death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8)
We are to “consider others as more important than [ourselves],” looking out ‘not only for [our] own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3,4)
Look at Jesus — He did just that. He considered us as more important than Himself. He, “existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.” (Philippians 2:6) For us, He was willing to die a most shameful death, “death on a cross.” He was willing to be “crushed severely,” “oppressed and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:7,10) He was willing to be “despised and rejected by men,” to become “a man of suffering,” to “bear our sicknesses and carry our pains.” (Isaiah 53:3,4) “He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.” (Isaiah 53:5)
“Who among you is wise or clever? Let his right conduct give practical proof of it, with the modesty that comes of wisdom.” If you are wise, says James, you will be modest as you prove your cleverness by your right conduct. You will not be puffed up, but will remain humble. You will not do your good deeds before men in order to be thought of more highly than others. You will not “harbor bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart,” but will show the “wisdom from above” which “is in the first place pure; and then peace-loving, considerate, and open to reason; it is straightforward and sincere, rich in mercy and in the kindly deeds that are its fruit.” (James 3: 17 – 18)
The fruit of wisdom is “kindly deeds” which are its “practical proof.” Wisdom is “open to reason.” Wisdom loves peace, understands mercy. Wisdom is considerate and sincere. Wisdom is pure.
James reminds, “If any of you falls short in wisdom, [you] should ask God for it and it will be given [you], for God is a generous giver who neither refuses nor reproaches anyone.” (James 1: 5)