In your majesty ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds. Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies; let the nations fall beneath your feet. Psalm 45:4-5
This verse jars me. It seems to me that riding forth in victory for the cause of humility (the Hebrew word means gentleness, meekness, humility) is a curious oxymoron. But there is a clue to its meaning and significance in the only other place in the Old Testament where this form of the noun is used.
You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness (meekness, humility) made me great. Psalm 18:35 (ESV)
His gentleness or meekness made me great or exalted me. The NIV 1984 edition translates this “you stoop down to make me great.” Still, victory over enemies and being great or exalted are not things I usually associate with humility or meekness. In this world, and in these days – all days – the humble and meek get trampled over.
This made me wonder, what is the opposite of humility or meekness? Wouldn’t that be what rides forth victoriously? Here are some near antonyms and antonyms from Merriam-Webster:
Near Antonyms for humility: aggressiveness, assertiveness, attitude, audaciousness, boldness, brashness, brassiness, cheek, cheekiness, cockiness, cocksureness, forwardness, overconfidence, swagger, swash, temerity, impertinence, impudence, insolence, nerve, sauciness, boastfulness, chest-thumping, self-applause, self-assumption, self-centeredness, self-complacency, self-conceit, self-glorification, self-importance, self-opinion, self-partiality, self-satisfaction, vaingloriousness, vanity, disdain, scorn, flamboyance, ostentation, ostentatiousness, showiness
(Wow, did you see all those self-words?)
Antonyms for humility: arrogance, assumption, bumptiousness, conceit, egoism, egotism, haughtiness, hauteur, huffiness, imperiousness, loftiness, lordliness, peremptoriness, pomposity, pompousness, presumptuousness, pretense, pretension, pretentiousness, pride, pridefulness, superciliousness, superiority, toploftiness
You know what the opposite of humility sounds like to me? It sounds a lot like this:
How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ (Isaiah 14:12-14 ESV)
According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, the “Day Star” is a reference to Lucifer, “a fallen Once-bright Star.” It is “a title truly belonging to Christ (Re 22:16), ‘the bright and morning star,’ and therefore hereafter to be assumed by Antichrist.”
The one who comes, riding forth arrogantly, assuming victory, with all his self-stuff and antonyms of humility – himself an antonym for our Lord – comes only for his own sake, comes as our enemy with nothing good for anyone outside his Self.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
Jesus came that we may have life, and in doing so He came in just the opposite way as did the enemy of our souls.
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)
In Psalm 45 above, right after the psalmist declares that Messiah will ride forth victoriously, there is this plea:
Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies; let the nations fall beneath your feet. Psalm 45:4-5
Yes! Jesus’ sharp arrows of Truth and Love have and will pierce the hearts of all of us – His enemies and hostile combatants – and the nations have and will fall beneath His feet. Jesus made a way for the gentile nations to come to God. Their – our – hostile, enemy-hearts have been pierced and we who love and follow Him are being changed and made into new creatures, falling at His feet. And, but, yet (!) every knee shall bow, changed or not, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Yes, our Lord Jesus did ride to bring victory in the cause of truth, humility, and justice, but it wasn’t on a snorting, pawing, white battle-horse (at least, not yet!), but on a lowly donkey’s foal.
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9
In your majesty ride forth victoriously …
Image, Donkey by x70tjw https://flic.kr/p/re7XLj
2 thoughts on “On Behalf of Humility”
An interesting word study, Sheila! You’re right, few people would put “humble” and “meek” on their list of top qualifications for a leader. And yet when we read the antonyms you collected, we certainly don’t want a leader like THAT! I’ve read that meekness is strength under control. That IS an important leadership trait, and certainly describes our Savior. Thank you for sharing these insights with us!
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Thank you so much Nancy!