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11 September 2006 @ 09:19 am
Humility and Service found in Nehemiah  
I started reading Nehemiah, beginning with chapters 1 and 2. I thought it was good how Nehemiah pleads the case of his nation before God. It's interesting how Nehemiah's concern and identification with his nation and people is even revealed through his face and sadness of heart. I felt convicted of my individualism, which prompts me to quickly flee the case of my nation, my church, and my family - focusing more on God's supposed justice than pleading for his mercy. The Faith in Action Bible commentary says, "How easy it would have been for Nehemiah, serving in the Persian court at Susa, to separate himself from the guilt of the returnees in his intercessory prayer. Yet he made it a point not to exclude himself or his family members (whether in Judah or Persia) in his confession of national sins."

This, coupled with having a responsive heart but not necessarily a self-made agenda, demonstrates Nehemiah's humility. He doesn't view himself better than his people. And though he grieves over their present condition, he does not try to take matters into his own hands but waits for how God might ask him to respond. He actually waits 4 months until the king asks him what is saddening him. And even when asked, Nehemiah prays to God before answering the king.

In Thoughts of Solitude, Thomas Merton describes humility:

"Humility is a virtue, not a neurosis.

"It sets us free to act virtuously, to serve God and to know Him. Therefore true humility can never inhibit any really virtuous action, nor can it prevent us from fulfilling ourselves by doing the will of God.

"Humility sets us free to do what is really good, by showing us our illusions and withdrawing our will from what was only an apparent good.

"A humility that freezes our being and frustrates all healthy activity is not humility at all, but a disguised form of pride. It dries up the roots of the spiritual life and makes it impossible for us to give ourselves to God."

For some humility is really apathy. Rather than taking decisive action or even following faith, the "humble" do not pursue justice and righteousness, because they are content with their lowly position. In reality, they do not care enough to risk humiliation and in doing so they lay in pride. Similarly, without faith and submission before God, any service of our own will only result in pride and a following of our own zealous agendas.

But true humility will result in identifying with others, interceding for AND with others, and submitting to God's plans and purposes.