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How to be humble when we are successful

This is a study of Job 23-24 where we learn how to be humble when we are successful. The Bible tells us Job was an exceptionally upright man. Job 23-24 tells us Job knew he was upright and he defended his integrity when he was falsely accused of sinning. For us, this raises the question of how we stay humble when we know we have achieved excellence, but we’re in a situation where we need to defend or promote ourselves. In this video we’re going to learn the key to staying humble is being filled with love, regarding others as more important than ourselves, and keeping worldly possessions in proper perspective.

Click on the video player to watch the video version of this post or scroll down the page to read the text version of this post.

Text Version

Most of the books of the Bible are a continuous story of the nation of Israel. The Old Testament begins around 4000 BC with creation and ends around 400 BC. The New Testament tells about the beginning of the church in the first century AD. The book of Job is unique in that it is not part of that story. You can understand Job without understanding the overall story of the Bible.

We don’t know exactly when Job lived, but he probably lived around 2000 BC. If so, then his story is very early in the overall Biblical narrative, meaning he lived before any scripture had been written.

Job’s Story

At the beginning of Job’s story, Job was healthy, wealthy, wise, blameless, and upright. There was a dialogue in heaven between Yahweh and Satan and Yahweh touted Job’s uprightness. Satan insisted if Job lost his possessions, then he would curse God. Yahweh gave Satan permission to test Job so Satan destroyed all Job’s possessions, killed his children, and afflicted Job with boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. Job did not curse God, he remained faithful and loyal to God.

Amidst Job’s suffering, three friends named Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar went to visit Job. Job and his friends did not know about the dialogue in heaven between Yahweh and Satan so they didn’t know the real reason for Job’s suffering. There was a long dialogue between Job and his friends in which his friends tried to convince Job he was suffering because he had sinned. Job insisted he was innocent and that Yahweh was against him for some reason. Job 23-24 is part of that long dialogue.

Job 23-24

Job 23:1 Then Job replied,

Job 23:2 “Even today my[Job’s] complaint is rebellion;

His[God’s] hand is heavy despite my groaning.

One of the keys to understanding the Bible is understanding who the pronouns refer to. Throughout this passage I have brackets after the pronouns indicating who the pronoun refers to. In verse 2 the pronoun “His” refers to God. Job was assuming God was the one making Job suffer. That was not correct. Job 1&2 make it clear Satan caused Job’s suffering.

Job 23:3 “Oh that I[Job] knew where I might find Him[God],

That I might come to His seat!

Job 23:4 “I[Job] would present my case before Him[God]

And fill my mouth with arguments.

Job was assuming God did not know he was suffering. Job 1&2 make it clear God did know what was happening to Job.

Most, if not all, of us have wished we could talk to God face to face, ask Him why things are the way they are, and ask Him to make our life better. Even though we can pray anytime we want, we ask this because we don’t get an audible, clear, specific response back from God when we pray. Job was like us. He wanted to see God face to face and have an audible dialogue with God about his problems.

Job 23:5 “I[Job] would learn the words which He[God] would answer,

And perceive what He would say to me.

Job 23:6 “Would He[God] contend with me[Job] by the greatness of His power?

No, surely He would pay attention to me.

Notice the word “greatness” in verse 6. On the one hand Job was acknowledging God’s superior greatness, and yet he still thought God had to pay attention to him. This shows us Job was getting either arrogant or desperate. Job thought he had a right to plead his case before God. Psalm 8:3-4 reminds us we are utterly insignificant compared to the universe, which means we are utterly insignificant compared to God. If we are insignificant, then God does not need to pay attention to us. Also, keep in mind in our world each human is only one out of 7 billion people on earth. We are very insignificant compared to all of humanity.

Job 23:7 “There[before God] the upright would reason with Him[God];

And I[Job] would be delivered forever from my Judge.

Notice the word “Judge”. Job was assuming God was judging him. Job 1&2 tell us Job was not suffering because of God’s judgment. Since Job assumed he would be delivered, Job was also assuming God would make things fair. Job 1&2 tell us God does not necessarily make things fair. It was not fair that God allowed Job to lose all his possessions, all his children, and his health, especially since God recognized Job as being blameless and upright.

Job 23:8 “Behold, I[Job] go forward but He[God] is not there,

And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;

Job 23:9 When He[God] acts on the left, I[Job] cannot behold Him;

He turns on the right, I cannot see Him.

Job could not see God, just as we cannot see God. If we want to talk to our boss, a parent, a police officer, or a government representative, we can go to those people and talk to them face to face. As we talked we would have visual evidence they are hearing what we are saying. We cannot do that with God. We can pray and talk to God, but we don’t have the face to face, visual evidence He is listening. Job had the same problem. He did not have visual evidence God was hearing him.

Job 23:10 “But He[God] knows the way I[Job] take;

When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Job 23:11 “My[Job’s] foot has held fast to His[God’s] path;

I have kept His way and not turned aside.

Job 23:12 “I[Job] have not departed from the command of His[God’s] lips;

I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.

Job was very confident in his innocence. Job believed God knew Job was innocent. Job 1&2 tell us Job was the greatest man in the east, and they tell us God knew Job was blameless. However, was Job justified in declaring his own uprightness? Job’s statements in these verses seem to be the opposite of humility. At what point are we justified in proclaiming our obedience? When do our self proclamations cross the line into bragging?

Job 23:13 “But He[God] is unique and who can turn Him?

And what His soul desires, that He does.

Job was correct. Yahweh is unique and He will do what He wants. There isn’t a specific verse that teaches this so much as that is the conclusion we should draw after studying the entire Old Testament.

Job 23:14 “For He[God] performs what is appointed for me[Job],

And many such decrees are with Him.

Job 23:15 “Therefore, I[Job] would be dismayed at His[God’s] presence;

When I consider, I am terrified of Him.

Job 23:16 “It is God who has made my[Job’s] heart faint,

And the Almighty who has dismayed me,

Notice the words “dismayed, terrified, faint”. Job feared God. That was good. Proverbs teaches us the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom.

Job 23:17 But I[Job] am not silenced by the darkness,

Nor deep gloom which covers me.

Job 24:1 “Why are times not stored up by the Almighty,

And why do those who know Him not see His days?

These are good questions. Why does the Almighty not bring justice? Why do good people not see God? Job spent the rest of his speech listing evidence and examples of how the Almighty does not bring justice, and how the poor and oppressed do not get relief. Perhaps Job bragged about himself because he believed God was not standing up for good people; therefore, he had to do it himself. Do we sometimes think we need to brag about ourselves because God isn’t doing enough for us?

Verses 2-11 are general statements about life. The pronoun “they” is used throughout these verses, but it does not always refer to the same group of people. Sometimes it refers to people who do bad things, other times to people who are oppressed or poor.

Job 24:2 “Some remove the landmarks;

They seize and devour flocks.

Job 24:3 “They[Oppressors] drive away the donkeys of the orphans;

They take the widow’s ox for a pledge.

Job 24:4 “They[Oppressors] push the needy aside from the road;

The poor of the land are made to hide themselves altogether.

Notice the assumption it was wrong to oppress the poor, the widows, and the orphans. Similar language is found elsewhere in the Bible.

Job 24:5 “Behold, as wild donkeys in the wilderness

They[The poor] go forth seeking food in their activity,

As bread for their children in the desert.

Job 24:6 “They[The poor] harvest their fodder in the field

And glean the vineyard of the wicked.

Job 24:7 “They[The poor] spend the night naked, without clothing,

And have no covering against the cold.

Job 24:8 “They[The poor] are wet with the mountain rains

And hug the rock for want of a shelter.

Job 24:9 “Others[Oppressors] snatch the orphan from the breast,

And against the poor they take a pledge.

Job 24:10 “They[Oppressors] cause the poor to go about naked without clothing,

And they take away the sheaves from the hungry.

Job 24:11 “Within the walls they[the hungry] produce oil;

They tread wine presses but thirst.

Notice the people in verse 11 do the work of producing wine, but they are not able to drink it themselves.

Job 24:12 “From the city men groan,

And the souls of the wounded cry out;

Yet God does not pay attention to folly.

Notice the last line of verse 12. Job said victims were crying out for help, but God was not paying attention. Job’s statement might be based on his perception that God wasn’t paying attention to his problems, but we know from Job 1&2 that God did know about Job’s suffering. Again, this might be why Job was bragging about himself. Do we fall into this thought pattern? Do we believe God isn’t paying attention to evil; thus, it is up to us to differentiate ourselves from evil people.

Job 24:13 “Others have been with those who rebel against the light;

They do not want to know its[the light’s] ways

Nor abide in its paths.

Notice the concept of rebelling against the light. In Job’s day they did not have electric lights, so when the sun went down, activity ceased because it was too dark to do anything. However, criminals used the darkness to hide their activities. Criminals are the ones who rebel against the light. The following verses illustrate the misuse of darkness.

Job 24:14 “The murderer arises at dawn;

He kills the poor and the needy,

And at night he is as a thief.

Job 24:15 “The eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight,

Saying, ‘No eye will see me.’

And he disguises his face.

Job 24:16 “In the dark they[murderers and adulterers] dig into houses,

They shut themselves up by day;

They do not know the light.

Job 24:17 “For the morning is the same to him[an adulterer] as thick darkness,

For he is familiar with the terrors of thick darkness.

Bad people are so used to operating at night that nighttime seems like daytime to them.

Job 24:18 “They[murderers and adulterers] are insignificant on the surface of the water;

Their portion is cursed on the earth.

They do not turn toward the vineyards.

Job 24:19 “Drought and heat consume the snow waters,

So does Sheol those who have sinned.

Job 24:20 “A mother will forget him[a son who sinned?];

The worm feeds sweetly till he is no longer remembered.

And wickedness will be broken like a tree.

Notice this statement “a mother will forget him”. I’m not sure who Job was referring to. I think he meant a mother will forget a son who is a sinner, but I doubt a mother forgets her son. Remember, Job was not inspired when he said this so he was not correct in everything he said. The second line in verse 20 means a worm will feed on the corpse of a dead sinner and eventually the sinner will be forgotten.

One of the keys to understanding the Bible is understanding who the pronouns refer to. The following verses are a great example. These pronouns are hard to follow; thus, these verses are hard to understand. Does the pronoun “He” in the following verses refer to a sinner or to God? Does the pronoun “them” and “they” refer to innocent victims or the sinners?

Job 24:21 “He wrongs the barren woman

And does no good for the widow.

Job 24:22 “But He drags off the valiant by His power;

He rises, but no one has assurance of life.

Job 24:23 “He provides them with security, and they are supported;

And His eyes are on their ways.

Job 24:24 “They are exalted a little while, then they are gone;

Moreover, they are brought low and like everything gathered up;

Even like the heads of grain they are cut off.

Job 24:25 “Now if it is not so, who can prove me a liar,

And make my speech worthless?”

I think Job meant God is the One who wrongs the widow because God supports the widow for a time, but then the widow is brought low and cut off. Job ended by asking who can prove him wrong. Job probably said this about God because Job felt God was wronging him by afflicting him.

Summary

Overall, Job’s point was he was suffering even though he had always followed God’s commandments; others were oppressing the poor and needy and getting away with it; meanwhile, God wasn’t doing anything to correct these injustices. This is why Job had started out saying the following:

Job 23:3 “Oh that I[Job] knew where I might find Him[God],

That I might come to His seat!

Job 23:4 “I[Job] would present my case before Him[God]

And fill my mouth with arguments.

Job 23:5 “I[Job] would learn the words which He[God] would answer,

And perceive what He would say to me.

Job 23:6 “Would He[God] contend with me[Job] by the greatness of His power?

No, surely He would pay attention to me.

Notice the last phrase, “surely He would pay attention to me.” Job was either getting desperate or arrogant. Job made that bold statement because he truly believed he was innocent as we see in the following verses.

Job 23:10 “But He[God] knows the way I[Job] take;

When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Job 23:11 “My[Job’s] foot has held fast to His[God’s] path;

I have kept His way and not turned aside.

Job 23:12 “I[Job] have not departed from the command of His[God’s] lips;

I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.

According to Job 1, Job was blameless and upright; therefore, Job was correct when he made the claims he made in verses 11-12. However, it doesn’t seem Job was being very humble when he said this. At what point was Job justified in proclaiming his own goodness? At what point are we justified in proclaiming our own goodness? Is it okay for us to talk about ourselves? Is it okay for us to point out our own strengths and accomplishments?

How to be humble

Consider the following verse:

Rom. 12:3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

Notice the phrase “more highly” in Romans 12:3. It is okay to think highly of ourselves, but we must not think higher than we should. Notice the phrase “sound judgment”. We should think accurately about ourselves. Obviously, this is easier said than done. There are three verses in the New Testament that help us to be humble even when we are exceptional.

1Cor. 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

Notice the word “brag”. Notice the importance of love. If we love others, we will not brag about ourselves. If we are talking about ourselves to people we don’t love, chances are we are bragging and being arrogant.

Phil. 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

If we are talking about ourselves, we should ask why we are talking about ourselves. Are we talking about ourselves for selfish reasons? Are we talking about ourselves to exalt ourselves? If so, then we are probably conceited. If we regard others as more important than ourselves, then we will not be conceited and we will not say things intended to exalt ourselves over other people.

1Tim. 6:17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

A third key is to keep possessions in proper perspective. Worldly possessions are uncertain. Worldly possessions cause conceit. If we rely on our worldly possessions for security, hope, or status, then we are probably conceited.

The way to keep ourselves humble even when we are successful is to be filled with love, consider others more important than ourselves, and avoid fixing our hope on worldly possessions.

 

“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”

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