Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
I started thinking of this verse as one that really did not need context. I mean, it is pretty self-explanatory. Then I looked again and realized that it sits as the final thought in a passage that deals with not having because I have not asked or not receiving because I asked, but with the wrong motives. The passage also speaks about friendship with the world being hostility toward God and instructs me to resist the devil and cleanse myself. The thought that immediately precedes this verse reminds me of Jesus giving the Beatitudes as it speaks of mourning over my sinful condition. Pair that verse with this one and I have an echo of Jesus’ statement that those who mourn will be comforted.
How am I to humble myself? The first four verses tell me that my desires need to be humbled. The next few verses tell me that a specific desire, the desire to belong, needs to be humbled. Then I am told that I need to be humbled generally. And I am told to stop doing bad things (cleanse my hands) and stop doubting God double-minded).
That is not the end. Once humbled, there is a promise that is made. God will exalt me. My desires will either be replaced or sanctified. It is possible to desire the right thing in the wrong way, and God wants to fix that so that I want the right thing in the right way. He also wants to replace my selfish and sinful desires with desires that please Him. And He will, once I put my desires at His feet. My ache to belong will be fulfilled, not by belonging to the world, but by being adopted into the family of God. The world might hate me — it often has hated God’s children — but my Father in Heaven will still call me His own. And I, humble little man that I am with much to be humble about, will be exalted and made glorious. I do not understand it completely, but I have seen this principle at work in my life.
Father God, thank You for caring enough for me to remind me to humble myself. This world regularly teaches me to be proud and to aggrandize myself, but You want to be the One Who makes me great or not as Your will determines. And the greatness You offer is eternal. I do not ask for greatness, but I do ask that You would help me learn humbleness. Once You have taught me humility, then do as You see fit. But please bend my knees when they are stubborn.