Thursday, July 23, 2009

God's Humility

by H.H. Pope Shenouda III

The greatest example of humility, the truest form of humility, is the humility of God, blessed be His Name. How can the Almighty God manifest humility?

God is the only One who can really humble himself:


Because He is the Only Highest, who condescends down from his uppermost position. As for man, who is dust and ashes (Gen. 18:27), and who was dust before he existed, man who is all sin and iniquity, what is the meaning of humility as regards him? He is not in a high position from which he can descend, and he has no perfection which he would hide. But humility as regards him, is that he would know his beginning and his weakness, that he would know his sin, just as a father said: "Humility of man is that he would know himself."

As for God, He is the perfect one in His greatness, the perfect one in His holiness and His infinite power, in His perfection. He is the only one to whom the quality of humility is convenient. How then, as much as we can understand His humility, was God's humility manifested? We mean God's humility in a general manner, and the humility of each of the three persons of the Holy Trinity apart.

God has been humble in His creation of creatures. He would not be alone with the quality of existence, and so He granted the existence to others than Him.

He was from eternity. But in His humility, He would not remain alone, and so He associated with Him in existence, that which did not exist.

Many people, if one of them is in a position or in a some great situation, would assemble all the powers in his hands, and would not associate anybody with him in any action or any decision! As for God, He did not do like that, and would not be alone, and granted existence to nought, and granted life to some of it, and rather granted him (man) force and invested him with power!!

He granted a very elevated nature to some of His creatures.

An example of that are: "the angels, who excel in strength", such as the psalmist has depicted them in his psalm (103:20). The Lord said about one of them, "Satanaiel", who became Satan later, in the book of the prophet Ezechiel: "You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were the anointed cherub who covers. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you" (Ez. 28: 12-15).

Because of God's humility, He keeps the creatures which rebelled against Him, until now, and He permits that they possess power and strength!!

Take that Satan. He rebelled against God. He wanted to become "like the Most High" (Is. 14:14). He caused a great number of the celestial forces, of which it was said that they are his angels, (Apoc. 12:7), to fall down with him. God was able to destroy him. But because of God's humility, God did not exterminate this contesting enemy, but kept him and gave him power; as it was said about evil men: "this is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53). More than that, Satan became powerful to work miracles and wonders, as it has been said of the Antichrist in the days of the last falling away, "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all powers, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish" (2 Thess. 2: 9-10).

Each time I contemplate how there are in the world, people who insult God, and blaspheme day and night, and people who deny the existence of God, and who do not acknowledge Him, and people who disobey God, and who incite others to disobedience and in spite of that, God tolerates all these insults, blasphemies, and disobedience, without exterminating His opponents. I understand in my depths the amount of astonishing humility which qualifies God.

Because of His humility, He keeps away from the manifestation of greatness that brings praise and makes people dazzle.

An example is the rarity of His use of miracles:

God has the power to amaze men every day, every hour, and every moment, with miracles, wonders, prodigies, visions, revelations, and sacred apparitions so that they would become always praising His glory, and fall down before His power, or at least acknowledge His existence. But nevertheless He does not do that! The miracles are confined to rare necessity! He wants to draw people near Him, with love and conviction, and not with with miracles and wonders and greatness.

God in His humility, also permits to the least of people to address Him!

It is astonishing that "the dust and ashes" finds an opportunity to converse with God in front of whom the angels, archangels, cherubims and seraphims, and all the innumerable multitude of the celestial powers, stand in all reverence and fear.

Man often finds difficulty in conversing with individuals who are mere dust like himself, if that dust possesses a high position or a great situation! But, when he speaks to God a few minutes or a few moments after having disobeyed His commandments, without giving much thought to it, imagine that!

Because of the humility of God, He has permitted to converse even with the most malicious sinners!

He condescended to talk to Cain, the first murderer on the face of the earth; and when Cain said to him: "Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me." God answered him justly and compassionately: "Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold" (Gen. 4: 14-15).

God condescendend and sent an angel to speak to Balaam, that wandering man who scandalized the people and put a stumbling block before them and made them commit sin (Apoc. 2:14). God in His humility permitted that the Holy Spirit wouldspeak through Balaam's mouth, prophecies which are counted among the most reknown prophecies about the Incarnation (Num. 24:17) so that this deceptive man said about himself: "The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened, the utterance of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down, with eyes wide open" (Num. 24: 3-4); and he said that he "has the knowledge ot the Most High" (Num. 24:16).

God in His humility takes the position of him who consults his prophets:

When He saw that "the out-cry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave" (Gen. 18:20), and He wanted to destroy them, He said: "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing" (Num. 18:17). Who is that Abraham, O Lord, whom You want to inform before executing Your will? Is he not a handful of dust and ashes? No, says the Lord, but "Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him" (Gen.18:18).

The Lord explains to Abraham, and gives him the opportunity and the freedom to discuss with Him, and to say to him: "Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18: 24-25). The discussion continues, and the Lord accepts the conversation. Rather, in His humility, He accepts boldness in the conversation!

The same thing was repeated with the prophet Moses, when the Lord wanted to annihilate that people who had made a molded gold calf and adored it (Ex. 32).

The Lord had decreed the extermination of that treacherous people. But He first called Moses and said to him: "Your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, "This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt! "Now therefore, let Me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them." (Ex. 32: 7-10).

The humility of the Lord is astonishing in saying to Moses: "Let Me alone."

Who is that Moses, O Lord, whom You ask permission to let You alone to execute Your will? Nevertheless, Moses did not let Him become angry and destroy, but he said to God: "Yet now, if You will forgive their sin, but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written" (Ex. 32:32). The Lord heard Moses, and did not exterminate them. This situation reminds me of the story of the Lord with Jacob while he was wrestling with the Lord: "And He said: 'Let me go, for the day breaks.' But he said, 'I will not let You go unless You bless me!'" (Ex. 32:26).

We note an important point in the humility of the Lord with Abraham and Moses, that is:

God permitted them to use expressions which seem aggressive, in their conversations with Him.

Abraham says to the Lord: "Far it be from You to do such a thing as this. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25). And Moses says to the Lord: "Why should the Egyptians speak, and say: "He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth"? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to your people" (Ex. 32:12).

The Lord in His humility permits us to discuss with Him, rather He demands this from us saying: "Come now, let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18).

There are some people who never accept anybody to argue with them regarding their orders and the decrees which they issue. They consider this to be pride from the part of those who argue with them, and excess out of their limits. They consider this to be a lessening of their dignity and their reverence. But God in His humility, accepts conversation and discussion.

The just Job said to the Lord: "Do not condemn me; show me why You contend with me. Does it seem good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your hands"! (Job 10: 2-3).

The prophet Jeremiah says: "Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You. Yet let me talk with You about Your judgements. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?" (Jer. 12:1).

The prophet David reproaches Him saying: "Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?" (Ps. 10:1).

And the Lord hears with humility all of this, and does not become angry.

Because of the humility of the Lord, He raises up their situation, and possibly grants them His surnames.

He says to His servant Moses: "See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, (or as a master to him), and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet" (Ex. 7:1). And when Moses apologized (tried to get out of) his mission, arguing that he is "of uncircumscised lips", God gave him his brother Aaron, and said to him: "Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do. So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God (that is, you will take care of him." (Ex. 4: 15:17)

And when God wanted that Moses should have seventy elders to help him, he said to him: "Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them" (Num. 11: 16-17) and God did so (Num. 11:25). He could have directly given them the Spirit. But he took from the Spirit that is upon Moses and put on the seventy; "and it happened when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied" (Num. 11:25). Because of the humility of God, He wanted to make these elders feel that they are the adepts of Moses, that they have taken from the Spirit that is upon him.

In the same manner, the Lord raised up the situation of the just Joseph, and made him "a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house" (Exodus 45:8).

The Law, which is the Law of God, is called the Law of Moses. So king David, said before his death to his son Solomon: "keep the charge of the Lord your God...as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn" (1 Kings: 2:3). It was also called "the Law of Moses" in the book of Nehemiah (Neh.8:1) and in the book of the prophet Daniel (Dan. 9-11). It is the Law of God, but because of His humility, it was called "the Law of Moses".

The books of the prophets also were called by their names, although they are the books of God.

But God, because of His humility, permitted them to be called by their names; and so it is said the book of the prophet Samuel, the book of Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezechiel, and Daniel, and Malachi.

Our Lord Jesus-Christ says to the scribes and the pharisees: "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives" (Matt. 19:8) although the permission was issued from God. But there is no impediment that it should be attributed to Moses, because of the humility of God, and His desire to raise up the situation of His sons.

In the next installment of this article, we will speak about the humility of the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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