She looked at me! He smiled at me! They know my name!
Imagine there’s someone you deeply admire who either doesn’t know you exist, or you are currently not in his or her circle of friends.
Now imagine the thrill if you crossed this person on the street, and he or she looked at you, smiled at you, said hello, or even knew your name.
Admit it, we all know celebrities, entertainers, public personalities, maybe world leaders who would fit into this category—that is, if they noticed us, it would excite us to no end.
It’s human and healthy to hold a respect for individuals who achieve great things, and it should be exciting to us if they noticed us or, better yet, wanted to spend time with us.
There’s also a lot of vanity involved in wanting to be noticed by someone of that stature.
How to Get Noticed!
The book of Isaiah says there is a way to get noticed by the God of the universe! Isaiah 66:2 reads, “[B]ut to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”
God will look at those who are contrite (which means broken and smashed), those who are poor (which means meek), and those who tremble at His Word.
Though it’s mostly vanity to want to be noticed by a celebrity or superstar, the way to be noticed by this great super Being is actually through humility.
Puffed Up or Flat?
How humble are we?
This is a good question to ask, particularly at this time of year when we celebrate the Days of Unleavened Bread. For seven days, we are commanded to eat unleavened bread (as well as to have no leavened foods in our possession).
As you probably know, leaven represents sin, and unleavened bread represents God’s righteous character. But think more deeply about what leaven does to bread, and what unleavened bread looks like.
Unleavened bread’s most obvious physical feature is that it is flat; leavening in bread, on the other hand, makes the dough puff up.
The Apostle Paul taught what it means to be “puffed up” in his epistles. In one instance, he told a congregation they were “puffed up” because they were letting sin stay in their midst—a Church member was living openly with a sin (1 Corinthians 5:1-8). By allowing him to fellowship with them, they were getting puffed up—thinking they were so righteous and merciful for tolerating his actions. They were becoming filled with pride (verse 6).
Later in his letter, he wrote: “… Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
In Colossians 2:18, the apostle says a person can be “vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.”
So—just like bread—we can be puffed up. Or we can be unleavened—flat. Though unleavened bread, on the whole, represents the righteous character God is building in us, the specific trait of the bread’s flatness highlights how much humility is a part of that character-building process.
Being full of vanity is being “puffed up.” Even in our language, we talk about someone’s head “swelling up” when they get vain. Or we talk about “inflating” their ego.
This is exactly what leavening does to bread.
Think about the word vanity: It not only means full of pride, it can also mean futile or empty. Then look inside a nice big puff pastry and what do you find? Nothing! It’s just bubbles of air that’s made the dough expand.
So conversely, being humble is part of becoming “unleavened.”
Knowledge Puffs Up
As a teenager, humility can be a difficult trait to develop.
Consider Paul’s phrase: “Knowledge puffs up.” In the teen years, our minds start to devour all sorts of knowledge of the world around us. If used properly, the mind can house an impressive amount of facts. But what is all that knowledge? It can be just bubbles of air!
Here’s the deceptive part of learning so many things as a teen: We’re learning so much, we can confuse the amount that we’re learning as though it represents all we need to learn. And yet a certain bit of knowledge doesn’t come till later: that knowledge being that we don’t know what we don’t know, or how much we don’t know. As the saying goes: The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.
Add to this that our knowledge-explosion comes as we become more physically independent. As younger children, we need our parents more often than we think we do in our teen years.
The Bible emphasizes how important humility is for young people. “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you … be clothed with humility …” (1 Peter 5:5).
Humility isn’t just an accent or a small part of our wardrobe; it must be our entire outfit. As Peter wrote, it’s important for the “younger” to heed this especially.
The Secret to Humility
So you know a lot. So you’re good at some things. But you know you need to grow in humility. You know the Proverbs contain plenty of priceless truisms on the glorious benefits of humility versus the curses of pride and vanity. Maybe you even know the Dictionary.com definition of the word (modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.). But how do you grow in humility?
Let’s go back to the scripture in Isaiah 66 that shows the great God Himself noticing someone who is humble. We read a statement from verse 2, but notice the entire setup and context for this: “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (verses 1-2).
Do you get what that’s saying? It’s remarkable! The magnificent heavenly expanse is the throne of the God who made everything, Earth is where He props His feet, and His house—the real place of His rest—is within the humble!
The Prophet Isaiah was inspired to write a similar passage: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).
This is another blockbuster verse! God—who dwells on high, who lives outside of time and space—lives with those who are contrite and humble.
God wants to revive the spirit of the humble. Yes, that spirit needs reviving!
In both these passages in Isaiah, the concept of humility is paired with the greatness of God. See, that’s the secret to humility.
True, godly, “unleavened” humility is not just a low opinion of one’s self. It is seeing yourself in comparison to God’s greatness!
Consider these powerful statements on God’s magnificence from the book of Isaiah—all meant to give us the proper perspective on our lives and the humility we must be clothed in:
Isaiah 40 says God measures the oceans in His hand; He measures the distances between stars by a span (the distance between the end of the thumb to the end of the pinkie finger); He can weigh hills and mountains in His scales. The scripture asks us: Who has taught God, instructed Him, counseled Him? It asks what we could possibly compare to God. The nations to Him are nothing—a drop in a bucket. We look like grasshoppers to Him. He stretches out the heavens like a curtain; He numbers the stars and knows each of their names.
In Isaiah 43:10, God says: that “… before me there was no God formed.”
Isaiah 64:6-7 reminds us how insignificant our righteousness is, and then in verse 8 it reads: “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”
This puts our righteousness, our greatness, in perspective, doesn’t it? We’re just the artistic product of God’s creative hands. Isaiah 45:9 asks: “Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?”
God rebukes the Assyrian general whom He used to punish Israel because the Assyrian thought his exploits were of his own doing. So God asks him: “Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood” (Isaiah 10:15).
Then consider God’s statement in Isaiah 55:9: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
We must put whatever “knowledge” under this light: Our thoughts are naturally as far from God’s as the most distant star from our planet.
What a magnificent God we serve. He’s the one we should try to get to notice us. And we know how! Be clothed in humility.
Toward the end of Isaiah 40, which gives that majestic description of God, Isaiah writes: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall be faint and weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (verses 29-31).
As young people, we can feel invincible, independent and intellectually superior when young, yet we are still nothing compared to God. Even the youths can faint and “utterly fail.” But if we wait on this omnipotent God, our strength never goes away. If we humble ourselves—if we stay flat—we will soar as if on eagles’ wings!
This spring holy day season, put forth extra effort to get to know God better—particularly His incomparable splendor. Focus on the glory of His majesty, His power, His genius. This will help all of us attain a new level of modesty—a new level of being unleavened. Stay humble. Stay flat. Not only will this unbelievably awesome Being notice you, He will exalt you to unimaginable heights!