For the week of January 28, 2012 / 4 Shevat 5772
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 10:1 - 13:16
Haftarah: Jeremiah 46:13-28



So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, "Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, 'How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me.'" (Shemot / Exodus 10:3)

The Torah paints a stark contrast between Pharaoh and Moses. This is more than simply a retelling of an historical event. It is an historical event like so many of the Bible's stories, but through the inspiration of God the desired impact upon the reader is clearly intentional. Elsewhere in the Torah Moses is said to be the most humble man of his day (see Bemidbar / Numbers 12:3). Pharaoh is confronted by Moses for his lack of humility. It is the humble whom God regards (see Isaiah 66:2). He gives his grace (his power for living) to the humble, while opposing the proud (see James 4:6).

The issue of humility has to do with human will. Our wills may be defined as that which drives how we live or, in others words, our wants. Our wills or wants are not the same as our decisions. We may want to do something, but may be thwarted in our attempt to do it. I may want to go buy something, but the store may be closed. I may want to pursue an occupation, but not be accepted by the school that claims to provide the training I require. I find it interesting that most of us learn to navigate life in such a way that most of the time we fulfill our wants. We quickly learn to avoid those things that thwart our wills.

This is not to say that it is never inappropriate to assert ourselves. The existence of obstacles in our lives is not necessarily an indication that our wants are inappropriate. Far from it! Sometimes the obstacles we encounter are geared by God to strengthen our wills and to learn not to easily back down when facing difficulties.

Humility is a way to describe the ease of which we give into obstacles. When we assert our wills, but encounter an obstacle, humility is a heart mechanism enabling us to give in and allow that obstacle to change our course of direction.

Some people are more naturally given over to humility than others. Some of these people may be characterized as "wimps" - those who regularly allow others and circumstances to direct the course of their lives. The last thing we would call Moses is a wimp. He was a man that faced all sorts of obstacles and difficult circumstances. The clash of wills between him and Pharaoh was of epic proportions. Why would Moses be characterized as humble and Pharaoh not?

The issue of humility here is not an analysis of an isolated human trait. Humility in the Scriptures is not a general statement of character. Rather it is primarily an issue of relationship to God. The Bible doesn't calls us to humility by itself as if we must learn to easily give up our wills to the whims of others or to accept every difficulty as God's direction in our lives. Rather it calls us to humble ourselves before God, so that when our wills clash with his, we readily give in to his wants. This is the person he gives grace to. This is the person he regards. This is the person Moses was. This is the person Pharaoh was not.

That Pharaoh was a strong leader committed to the prosperity of Egypt was a good thing. No leader should be expected to immediately give in to the wishes of a former renegade and supposed liberator. As a leader of his people, Pharaoh must stand strong against every true threat to his people. What became problematic for him was when his will clashed with the will of a higher authority to whom he was answerable. We cannot fault Pharaoh for not quickly acknowledging Moses' claim to be representing the Master of the Universe. But it was not until after seven of the plagues that God makes this statement regarding Pharaoh's refusal to humble himself before him.

Moses on the other hand was able to assert himself against all sorts of obstacles because of his humility toward God. Almost every time after he finally accepted his call to liberate his people, whenever he faced a problem, he would seek God's will and do whatever God told him. The humility that God is looking for is not a general demeanor toward life, but humility unto him and his will for our lives.

Is your will being thwarted? It may be that God is trying to tell you something. How long will you refuse to humble yourself before the Master of the Universe? But perhaps you are being thwarted in your legitimate attempt to do God's will. Ask him. Learn to do God's will in God's way in God's timing. Perhaps your will isn't being thwarted, but that's because you're not really living. You may be more like Pharaoh than you think, except you are deaf to what God is saying to you. Have you asked him lately?

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