September 15, 2019
Pastor John Hering
Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men; it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.Proverbs 25:6-7
Equality is a right given to all the citizens of the United States of America. It is a famous quote and central idea from the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal.” Equality is everyone having the same fundamental rights, no matter the circumstance. Equality is everyone having the same worth. Although equality is a key principle dating back to the founding of our country, it is not fully honored, even to this day. There are various reasons for this. Some people could have equality in income and lifestyle, but they choose to be lazy. Others break the law and then claim equality to justify their unlawful behavior. Equality can stand across the street from rank and sounds like this, “Don’t tell me someone is ranked higher than I am! This is the land of equal opportunity and equal rights. Don’t tell me someone has more power or more authority than I do!”
But, truth be told “rank” does exist, and the Bible even promotes rank in order to maintain authority and peace. For instance, Romans 13 speaks about the authority God gives to the governing authorities. So, we have senators, congressmen, governors, state senators, city councils and school boards. In the military there are generals, colonels, majors, sergeants and privates. In schools there are principals, teachers, and students. In businesses there are CEOs, VPs, managers, supervisors and the employees. In families there are parents and children. The problem for many happens when they are trying to figure out where they fit in? King Solomon answers this question for us in Proverbs 25. We will have a much easier time figuring out how we fit in with others when we figure out….
How We Fit In With God.
Be Humble Before the King
It grinds our gears when we learn of people who are being mistreated because those with authority are abusing it. If the government is misusing its power by misguiding or deliberating mishandling social affairs, people get upset and might cause a “Boston Tea Party” event. If the military is misusing it’s power and threatening the lives of innocent people, we would expect a fight. If businesses are not fair in treating their employees or selling a product that harms people, we would expect OSHA or the BBB to get involved. If parents are doing a poor job of raising their children, we raise our eyebrows and say a prayer for the kids. In some extreme cases elderly people are killed, women are abused, and even young children might stand by and watch as a police officer tries to communicate with their drunk mother. These are cases of abuse of authority. And they are hard to talk about.
The context of Proverbs 25 isn’t talking to victims of abuse. Listen. “Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men; it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.” These verses are a general principle Solomon is laying out so people can look at themselves and figure out if they are in one of two categories—those who cover up and those puff up. There are those people with low self esteem and personal insecurities who feel a need to cover up their imagined or real inadequacies and weaknesses. They might have a problem being honest with themselves and don’t want anyone to know their secret lives. On the other hand, there are those who are puffed up with pride and believe they are actually better than others, which can lead to the sins of bigotry and prejudice.
Jesus had to deal with all sorts of people who were trying to figure out how they fit in with God. Remember this? “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and …. he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). At first you might think he was full of himself with a sort of arrogant tone. But, I left something out, listen again, “a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Maybe he approached Jesus with a cover up—a false humility that Jesus exposed. Like this, “I know you’re so busy Jesus, but could you give me a little pat on the back, please?” In the words of Solomon, this man was “sitting” as close to Jesus as he could hoping Jesus would say, “You’re just fine the way you are!” There were others who weren’t so sly in their approach to Jesus. The religious leaders were so full of themselves, with their heads held so high it’s a wonder bird didn’t fly up their noses!
These are the people Solomon addresses. “Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men;” To the rich young man who tried to cover up his pride with false humility Jesus used a mirror and the account of the Good Samaritan. This story served to expose the rich young man’s heart when he realized his weakness and sin and had to admit that while he had tried to keep some of God’s laws, he had failed miserably to be loving to others as God expected. And to the religious leaders—who were all puffed up with pride and trying to be close to God, Jesus used a needle. Jesus spoke of them, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” (Mark 12:38-40). Pop! Their ego was exposed.
Our loving Savior does the same for our good. He uses the mirror of God’s law to show our weaknesses, failures and sin. He uses the needle of God’s law to pop the balloon of our ego, all for our good. This is truly love for us. Think about it. What would you think of a building inspector who discovered a crack in the foundation, but didn’t tell you about it? How about a doctor who found cancer, but said nothing to you? Or a king who knew the enemy was coming, but didn’t warn anyone to get into the castle? Dear friends, Jesus is our Savior who proclaims his Word to us so we can inspect our lives and get rid of the cracks and crumbles that cause our faith to stumble. Jesus is our Savior who proclaims his Word so we can learn about the disease of sin and receive his cure. Jesus is the King who rules our hearts and lives and put the armor of God’s Word on our hearts so we can fight against Satan’s attacks. Jesus is the one who redeemed our lives and restores our souls so we now have a perfect relationship with God through faith in Jesus. Jesus causes us to “Fit in” with God. We know our place. Let your hearts be filled with thankful humility before God. Then we’ll be able to better observe our relationships with all those around us. We understand all people are equally sinners, and are equally forgiven in Christ Jesus. Know how you fit in with our gracious, big, awesome and good God and rejoice as he lifts you up as sons and daughter of the King!
Be Raised Up By the King
Does it strike your ears that I said, “You are raised by the King?” Listen again to Solomon, “Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men; it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.” You see, God’s people who have experience the mirror and needle of God, and then have experience his Gospel, that Jesus has paid the penalty of all our sins and established our relationship with God so that we fit in with him, …. When speaking of this work, only the passive tense will do. Think of it like this. When you go to have surgery there is no way you could perform that surgery on yourself. You simple don’t have the knowledge of skill. Or you would pass out from the pain if you tried it while awake. God uses his law and his needle of his Word to perform spiritual surgery on our hearts! There we are, lying face down in the dust before God, the great Physician of Body and Soul. We are by nature deformed, deflated and spiritually dead. Then he does his work and we receive the benefit. He brings us to faith in Jesus, makes us his own dear children—yes sons and daughter of the King who get to hear, “Come up here!” What a miracle!
Oh, yes, we love to hear all about Jesus’ miracles. If you went to the house of Jairus and asked his daughter what happened, she wouldn’t say, “I raised myself back to life.” Or the young man from Nain would never say, “I raised myself back to life.” Or Lazarus would never say, “I raised myself back to life.” No, these were all raised by Jesus. It was all done to them. It was passive because the Lord God did it all. Likewise, we could not raise our spiritually dead hearts to be right with God. God did it to us. That’s why Solomon wrote, “it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.” Yes, you have been raised by the King to Fit Right in!
Dear Christian Friends, there is equality for us living in our great country. But, along with equality is authority. God has given authority to government, military, business and family. He has also given authority to his Church. Here we are all equal in God’s eyes. We all have been declared not guilty of our sins. We all through faith in Jesus have God’s gracious gift of forgiveness and salvation. We know our place in God’s heart. We are his treasured possession. Let us live as God has made us.
Manipulating and maneuvering, whining and weaseling, sly and shifty positioning to get yourself closer to God will leave you trying to climb up a greased flagpole. However, because God has made you alive in Christ and dead to sin you get to come into God’s presence with humble and thankful hearts. Go ahead, try it through your eyes of faith and watch his face turn toward you with a smile! He has raised you up to fit right in with God. Thank you, Jesus! Amen!