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1 Peter 5:5-7; God’s Mighty Hand and Humility

07/12 1 Peter 5:5-7 God’s Mighty Hand and Humility

5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Peter has addressed the elder/shepherd/overseers of the churches and given them instruction on how to shepherd and lead in the way that God would have them. Now he turns to the youth of the church and gives instruction, then he broadens his directives to the whole church. And his instruction centers around humility. He tells the youth to be subject to the elders, a command that requires humility. He instructs all of us to be clothed with humility toward one another, he quotes a proverb to show that God’s grace is toward the humble, he commands us to humble ourselves before an omnipotent God, he gives us the future result of humility, and he tells us practically how we are to humble ourselves under God. Humility is a central grace in the Christian life; humility toward authority, humility toward one another; humility toward God. What is the big deal with humility? What does it mean to be humble? What does it look like?

I thought we’d start with a definition, but this proved more difficult than I expected. I looked up ‘humility’ in an online dictionary, and found this:

Main Entry: []

hu·mil·i·ty Pronunciation: \hyü-ˈmi-lə-tē, yü-\

Function: noun

the quality or state of being humble

That’s it! Many words have yards of definitions. Not humility. So I looked up ‘humble’

Main Entry:

hum·ble; Pronunciation: \ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm-\

Function: adjective


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin humilis low, humble, from humus earth; akin to Greek chthōn earth, chamai on the ground

1: not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive 2: reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission ‘a humble apology’ 3 a: ranking low in a hierarchy or scale: insignificant, unpretentious b: not costly or luxurious ‘a humble contraption’

I thought I might find some interesting stories about humility in ‘The Book of Virtues: a treasury of great moral stories’ compiled by William J. Bennett. As I scanned the table of contents, I was surprised to see that humility is missing. He has sections on self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, friendship, work, courage, perseverance, honesty, loyalty, and faith, but nothing on humility. It seems humility is not a virtue we value today. Even the dictionary definitions are weak. So I stepped back a few centuries and looked at Webster’s 1828 dictionary [] and among other things I found this:

HUMIL’ITY, n. [L. humilitas.]

1. In ethics, freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth. In theology, humility consists in lowliness of mind; a deep sense of one’s own unworthiness in the sight of God, self-abasement, penitence for sin, and submission to the divine will.

Under humble, we find this:

HUM’BLE, a. [L. humilis.]

1. Low; opposed to high or lofty.

HUM’BLE, v.t. To abase; to reduce to a low state.

1. To crush; to break; to subdue.

2. To mortify.

3. To make humble or lowly in mind; to abase the pride of; to reduce arrogance and self-dependence; to give a low opinion of one’s moral worth; to make meek and submissive to the divine will; the evangelical sense.

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you.” 1 Pet.5.

At its root it means low – not rising far from the ground. Webster hits it when he says humility is “a deep sense of one’s own unworthiness in the sight of God”. Our culture tells us that what we need to do is build up our self-esteem. What God’s word tells us here seems to fly in the face of that. Let’s examine at the text:

5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

He has addressed the elders in the churches, and now he turns to those who are younger. With youth often comes the desire for more independence, even rebelliousness, and less respect for authority. Some experts feel that this category of ‘younger’ could include those up to 40 years old (Schreiner, p.237 fn.85). The younger are told to place themselves under the authority of the leadership in the church. So an aspect of humility is being under proper authority. The author of Hebrews puts it this way

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Then Peter broadens his scope. He moves from the younger, who are often inclined to think quite highly of themselves, to everyone. Everyone needs to hear this. No exceptions. All of you toward one another clothe yourselves with humility. ‘Clothe yourselves’ is an interesting word. It means to tie it on like an apron. Something a slave would tie over his clothing to keep clean during menial tasks. Tie on humility like an apron. This ought to remind us of Jesus:

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

We are to be wrapped up in a deep sense of our own unworthiness in the sight of God as we deal with one another. We are to take the low place with one another. Paul states it radically:

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Peter draws his reason for humility from Proverbs

Proverbs 3:34 Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.

God opposes the proud” That should make us stop in our tracks. If I asked each of you as you came in this morning what is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you, I doubt any would give this answer. I would expect to hear catastrophe, cancer, financial ruin, family strife, war, disease, disaster, murder, rape. But if we really understand who God is, the thought of having him against us should be a terrifying prospect. If God is opposed to me, peace and health and prosperity matter not at all. But if God is with me, then by his help I can get through whatever comes my way. The opposite of humility is pride. If we do not take the low place, if we do not have a deep sense of our own unworthiness in the sight of God then we are lifted up – we are proud. And if we are proud, then God is against us.

We could argue that the worst sin in the world is pride. Abortion and incest and child abuse and rape and racism and murder would top our lists, but God goes deeper than the outward act to the heart issue at the core. Pride. God hates pride. God is not passively displeased with pride. God is actively and aggressively engaged against pride. God opposes the proud. God is arrayed in battle against pride.

But what’s so bad about pride? Pride is the lifting up of self. It is a compound word that literally means ‘to shine above’. Pride is robbing God of the glory that belongs to him alone. Pride is lifting ourselves up from a status of humble dependence on God to an arrogant independence from God. Pride is contending for supremacy with God. This was the first sin in the angelic realms; when Lucifer said:

Isaiah 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.

And it was at the core of the temptation in the garden:

Genesis 3:5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

All sin stems from the arrogance of thinking that we know better than God; that our ways are higher than his ways. When we lift ourselves up and get glory for ourselves, we attempt to obscure his glory. This is idolatry of the worst kind – self idolatry

Proverbs 16:5 Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD;be assured, he will not go unpunished.

That is the warning – God opposes the proud. The opposite of this is what Peter is holding out to us. God gives grace to the humble. If God is actively and aggressively engaged against those who lift themselves up, then God is actively and aggressively engaged to bless those who have a deep sense of their own unworthiness in his sight. God gives grace to those who are humble. If grace by definition is undeserved unearned favor and kindness then grace can only be received as grace by those who have a deep sense of their own unworthiness. If we have a puffed up sense of our own value, then we will receive God’s grace as if it were payment for a job well done. God loves to pour out undeserved kindness on the humble because they receive it as it really is – a free gift from a benevolent God to an undeserving sinner. Now if I were to ask ‘what is the best conceivable thing that could happen to you?’ I could imagine answers of fame or power or wealth, but this is the answer I would hope to hear: ‘the greatest thing I could imagine has happened to me. I have been made a recipient of God’s grace!’ Because of Jesus, through the cross, God now looks on me with favor. That is a gift that demands humility to receive. God gives grace to the humble. Look at Isaiah 57:

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

God who is holy dwells with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit!

Isaiah 66:2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

God made all things, but his eyes are on you if you are humble and contrite in spirit. The choice is clear. You either raise yourself up and rob God of his glory and he is against you, or you humbly acknowledge your helplessness and dependence on him and become a recipient of his free and sovereign grace.

Peter’s instruction is clear. Because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.

The imagery of God’s mighty hand comes from the exodus from Egypt. God says to Pharaoh:

Exodus 9:16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. 17 You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go.

God’s people celebrated God’s strength demonstrated over Egypt:

Deuteronomy 26:8 And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders.

You are under God’s mighty hand. God is all-powerful and you are under his hand. There are two responses when you realize that you are under God’s mighty hand. Terror and dread, or comfort and peace. When God’s mighty hand moved over the proud Egyptians, there was terror. When God’s mighty hand moved over his people, there was holy joy, songs of praise and dancing. To the one, God’s hand was a crushing hand. To the other, God’s hand was a protecting rescuing hand. What is your response to God’s mighty hand? Do you rise up against him or seek to escape from him? Or do you rest secure knowing that he is over you? Your response gives evidence of the pride or humility in your heart. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. This is what Jesus taught repeatedly in the gospels:

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (c.f. Lk.1:52; 14:11; Mt.18:4; 23:12)

The Pharisee lifted himself up before God and listed his accomplishments. His prayer was a self-centered boast. The tax collector had a deep sense of his own unworthiness before God and he uttered a desperate cry for mercy. And he did receive mercy. God gives grace to the humble. The one who raises himself up will be leveled, but the one who makes himself low will be lifted up. The proper time is coming. The time when humble recipients of his grace receive “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1Pet.1:4).

Peter has given us the instruction to tie on humility like an apron in our attitudes toward one another. He has given us the textual basis for humility in God’s differing attitudes to the proud and the humble, he has instructed us to humble ourselves under the sovereignty of God, and held out the promise of reward that will count for eternity. Now he goes on to describe practically how we go about humbling ourselves. He says in verse 7:

7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Now if you have a New International Version, you will miss the connection. They start a new sentence here as if it could stand alone: ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.’ But verse 7 is a subordinate clause to verse 6 that describes how to humble yourselves. How do we humble ourselves? We humble ourselves by casting all our anxieties on him. So, an anxiety free life is an expression of humility before a sovereign God. And alternately, worry is an expression of pride in the heart. Here Peter nails us. I thought I was pretty humble. But I worry. You’re saying that worry is evidence of pride in my heart. How can that be?

In Jesus’ parable of the sower and the soils, where the seed was choked out by thorns and prevented from bearing fruit, the cares of the world is one thing that chokes the word and causes it to become unfruitful. Jesus taught his disciples:

Luke 12:22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Notice the connection between human inability and freedom from anxiety? Since you are incapable of controlling anything in your life, you should not worry as if you could control it. Anxiety is a form of pride because it indicates that I think I can do something to fix the problems in my life. I am depending on me to put food on the table and clothes on my back. And notice, Jesus connects worry directly with a lack of faith. Worry indicates that you are trusting in yourself and not in God. Freedom from fear comes from knowing the character of the Father – our father loves to give good gifts to his children. Freedom from anxiety comes when I can let go of the arrogance of my own self-dependence and humbly trust in the all-sufficiency of Christ.

Anxieties will come. Cares will seek to choke out the word of God and destroy our fruitfulness. Peter is addressing the persecuted church, and there was plenty to worry about. But we are invited to hurl these worries on God. We are not to shoulder them in pride as if we have the strength to carry them. We are to throw them upon him because his mighty hand is strong enough to handle all our cares. He is sovereign over all things, including our suffering, and when we humble ourselves under his mighty hand, he will lift us up in due time.

1 Peter 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

What a beautiful verse! Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand by casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you! God’s almighty hand is a personal, tenderhearted caring hand.

5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Whatever burden you are carrying right now today, lay it down at his feet. Believe him that he is infinite in strength and absolutely in control of all things. Believe that he is good and faithful and that he cares individually, personally for you. Admit that you are helpless to carry the load yourself. Ask God to awaken in you a deep sense of your own unworthiness in his sight and an acute awareness of your absolute inability. Throw yourself completely upon his mercy toward sinners displayed at the cross

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Today, trust in him and go home justified.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

July 12, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment