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Humbling Ourselves – First Step To Revival

By Paul E. Billheimer

    "If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people; if My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chr. 7:14).

God's Shortcut to Revival

    The formula is given in our text, "If My people shall humble themselves." Here is the shortcut to spiritual victory and revival. We are prone to take the hard way, the long way around because it spares self. We would much rather multiply methods and activities and great campaigns and great projects than merely to humble ourselves.

    But humbling ourselves is God's shortcut to revival. We could dispense with a great many other things if we would humble ourselves. I know that it is easier to say than it is to do but it is a relief to know if we humble ourselves God will do the rest.

The Best People First

    And that humbling must begin in God's people, His best people, in the spiritual leaders. All of us are wont to look the world over for the cause of the difficulty before we are willing to hear the Lord saying, "It is nigh thee, even in thy heart." All of us want to blame someone else and no one wants to take the blame. But someone will have to take the blame and that has to be the spiritual leader. For it is forever true that when God gets just one man where He wants him, no one else can hinder God's working through that man.

    Taking of the blame must begin in one man but when God comes upon us no one will be blaming anyone else but himself. As long as we are blaming other people for lack of revival we are out of fellowship with God, for God has said, "Who art thou to judge another man's servant." When anyone is truly in fellowship with God, he never blames anyone else. I do not say that the party we blame may not be blameworthy. It may be that in the sight of God he is very much to blame. But we always lose the sweetness out of our lives when we do the blaming. Let God do that.

    The only person we are free to blame is ourselves. When we do that God's blessing comes upon us. When we blame the other fellow, even if he is to blame we lose God's blessing. Let me tell you how to decide whether you are right in your course of action or judgment. Settle it on this ground: Do you have more or less fellowship with God? If less, then you may be sure that no matter how right you think you are, God's withdrawing from you in fellowship is His way of telling you that He does not approve your course.

Pioneering the Way

    Self-humbling usually begins in the best people first because it requires more grace to humble oneself than it does to go on justifying oneself. Self-justification requires no grace at all but self-humbling requires great grace. Those who have little or no grace will seek to justify themselves but they will not humble themselves until someone else leads the way and releases God upon them. Thus self-humbling must begin in those who are nearest God.

Accepting Our Share of Responsibility

    A notable example of a good man humbling himself is recorded in Daniel 9:3-6. Daniel said, "We have sinned." He could have said "they" but he humbled himself and said "we." Jesus, the perfect spotless Son of God was made sin. He who knew no sin was made sin that we might be the righteousness of God in Him.

    If this spirit of humbling, of accepting at least a share of the responsibility like Daniel did, were to replace the spirit of self-justification and the blaming of others, we would soon be in a real revival. And I think that I might go far enough to say that those who sincerely wish a revival, when God shows them this point, will be the first to humble themselves and acknowledge their own fault.

    Perhaps you do not understand how this humbling can begin in the best people first. Perhaps you think that those who profess to be sanctified could have nothing to confess, no part in this humbling. But, "the closer a man gets to God, the more conscious he becomes of those things that are not yet like God."

    And the peculiar danger of those who have been long in the way is the danger of self-righteousness, lack of brokenness and tenderness. I have often acknowledged these traits in my own life and have asked forgiveness both of man and God. And no matter how long we have been in the way there is the danger of resting upon the past, of growing static in one's experience.

    But if those who have been guilty of self-righteousness, lack of brokenness and tenderness, those who have grown static in their experiences need to humble themselves and confess, what of those of us who have resentment and bitterness in our hearts, those of us who have said sharp and biting words of criticism? A sanctified soul may fail in something, he may sometimes fall below his best, he may develop an unconscious self-righteousness as Job and he may stop short of the tenderness and brokenness that he should have, but no soul can remain sanctified who cherishes bitterness and resentment, a vindictive and revengeful spirit.

    And the only way out of all of this is to humble ourselves by acknowledgment and confession. If God's sweetness has fled out of your life, if there is in your heart any bitterness or resentment against anyone, I fear that you have not only lost tenderness and brokenness, I fear that you have not only grown static in your experience, but I fear that you are definitely on the decline.

God Prizes Self-Abasement

    But whatever our condition is, whether it is merely the loss of the first love or worse – the way out is to humble ourselves. If we have been on the wrong course, acknowledge it. It is wonderful how God prizes self-abasement. See what He did in the case of Ahab (1 Kgs. 21:29). When Elijah met him and made that terrible prophecy of evil to come upon Ahab and Jezebel because of all their sins, Ahab humbled himself and God suspended the sentence.

    And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words that he immediately called a meeting of the official board and voted Elijah out as pastor? When he heard those words he immediately started a whispering campaign against Elijah on the ground that he was dictatorial and harsh in his ministry? No! When Ahab heard those words, he rent his clothes and put on sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went softly.

    And the word of the Lord came unto Elijah the Tishbite, saying, "Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before Me? Because he humbleth himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days." If Ahab, a wicked king, knew enough to do that – what about some of us today?

    When the book of the law was found in the reign of Josiah the king, and was read in his presence, the king rent his clothes because the law had been violated. He sent to inquire of the prophetess Huldah concerning their sin, and she said, "Thus saith the Lord…because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord when thou heardest what I spake against this place…and hast rent thy clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard thee…I will gather thee unto thy fathers…and thine eyes shalt not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place" (2 Kgs. 22:18-19).

Humbling and Deliverance

    In the days of Rehoboam, king of Israel, because he and Israel had forsaken God, Shemaiah the prophet came to him and said, "Thus saith the Lord, Ye have forsaken Me, therefore have I left you in the hand of Shishak. Whereupon the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves…and when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying, They have humbled themselves, therefore I will not destroy them but I will grant them some deliverance" (2 Chr. 12:5-7).

    Second Chronicles 32:25-26 says that after the healing of Hezekiah, "But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up; therefore there was wrath upon him and upon Judah and Jerusalem. Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah."

    We read in Second Chronicles that when Manasseh, the wicked king, was taken into captivity in Babylon – "when he was in affliction, he besought the God of his fathers, and prayed unto Him – and He was entreated of him…and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom."

    The same chapter tells of his son Amon who was also a wicked king but who humbled not himself before the Lord as his father, Manasseh, did, and his servants conspired and slew him.

Path of Self-Humbling

    To humble oneself is the most difficult thing in the world for one to do. It is an act of the will. When God humbles us our will is not involved. God takes the initiative then. But when we humble ourselves we take the initiative. We begin to seek for ways of self-humbling, for things to acknowledge and confess. We get our eyes off the other fellow and get concerned with ourselves. In the Old Testament this was symbolized by putting on sackcloth and sprinkling ashes on the head. That was not very pleasant. Sackcloth and ashes were symbols of mourning, of confession and repentance.

    We humble ourselves by meekly accepting slights, criticisms, oppositions, misunderstanding, misconstructions, misrepresentations, harsh judgments. We must humble ourselves by accepting humiliating circumstances, by accepting lowly tasks as Jesus did, by giving others the best and the easiest places, by considering others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), by taking guilt and blame.

    And when we are willing to take this route, we fulfill one of the principal conditions for revival. Who of us is willing to take this way and open up the channel for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival power?