Exodus 10:3 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me.'”
The Bible uses various words that can be translated “humble,” or “to humble.” For some, an alternative translation is “poor,” but here, in the first use of “humble” in the English Bible, the meaning is “to bow down.” Bowing has been a sign of deference, respect, or worship from the origins of humanity, and can even be seen in some animal species. American culture is probably the most egalitarian in history, and bowing seems strange to many people. In contrast, Japan has made bowing into an art form, with the depth of the bow being dictated by specific circumstances. Here, God through Moses is requiring Pharaoh to acknowledge that He is supreme, or at least superior, and Pharaoh is refusing. From our standpoint the very idea that a human ruler would place themselves above the Creator seems absurd, but the Egyptians had no tradition of monotheism, and the Pharaoh was indeed worshiped as a god. Today we don’t use the same religious trappings, but plenty of people worship Man rather than the Creator. It’s called Humanism. The motivation for many high-profile atheists is to take God’s throne, which is why they attack those who acknowledge God. If they simply and honestly believed that there is nothing beyond the material, it wouldn’t bother them that others were so “foolish” as to believe in Deity. They have the same response as Pharaoh to God’s requirement that they acknowledge Him, and the results are just as disastrous.
Growing up as an American in Japan I am aware of both sides of the cultural bowing issue, but interpersonal bowing aside, I am very aware that humility before God is essential. I’ve exercised more than my share of foolish pride, and the results have never been good. It hasn’t been so many years since it finally got through to me that God’s smart and I’m not, for example. Thinking that I had a better idea than God has never worked out! Looking at it objectively, it’s downright amusing that I still have moments of being tempted to think that way, but thankfully they are brief. I have the strong feeling that God has some pretty remarkable plans for this year, but I’ve got to have the right posture to participate. I need to have full assurance of all that God has placed in me, and at the same time be totally aware that anything good is because of Him and not me. I am to expect Him to do wonderful things, but not for a moment take credit for them myself. Only when I humble myself before God will He lift me up as He desires to do. (1 Peter 5:6)
Father, thank You for Your incredible grace that reaches even me. Help me be an open channel of that grace to others, lifting them up and drawing them to You, so that all of Your plans for them may be fulfilled, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!