Humility Comes First

Yael Eckstein  |  July 16, 2023

Holocaust survivor Katerina 2021

He guides the humble in what is right
   and teaches them his way
. — Psalm 25:9

We start out every week with an inspirational lesson from the beloved Psalms. For centuries, these ancient poems of King David and others have been the foundation for Jewish and Christian worship. Enjoy!

We ask God for help with all types of concerns. We ask God to heal us, to rescue us from harm, and to help us with our finances. But we often forget to ask Him for help with spiritual matters. We don’t just need God’s assistance with our physical challenges; we also need to turn to Him when we are trying to overcome a bad habit, repent, or grow closer to Him.

According to the Jewish sages, this is what Psalm 25 is about. In this psalm, King David asked, “do not… let my enemies triumph over me” (v.2). However, the sages explain that David wasn’t asking for help in escaping from men, but rather, he was asking for help escaping from himself.

David was asking for divine help in overcoming his own sinful inclination. He asked God for help in mastering his own desires and resisting temptations. David’s request was that he would be able to rule over his desires and not allow them to rule over him. He prayed, “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (v.5).

Humility Comes First

In this psalm, David also provides us with a prerequisite for receiving such divine assistance. David wrote, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” When asking God for help in teaching and guiding us, we need to humble ourselves so that we may receive His assistance. Humility comes first.

In Judaism, there is an area of study called mussar, loosely defined as the Jewish perspective on personal development. There are different opinions as to what character traits we should work on developing and in which order, but the most prevailing opinion delineates 13 specific characteristics, including trust, generosity, and discipline. However, the first trait a person must master is humility. Until a person can become humble enough to admit that he or she has areas in which to grow, any study will be worthless.

Just as we could not add any water into a pail filled with dirt, we cannot add God’s wisdom into a person full of him or herself. We need to empty ourselves of prideful thoughts and humble ourselves before God. Then He can—and will—guide us, teach us, and lead us upon a path of righteousness and blessing.

Your Turn:

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