Significance of Stooping Low
by Jean Jantzen
Dr. Ben Franklin once received a very useful lesson from the excellent Dr. Cotton Mather, which he related in a letter to his son: —“The last time I saw your father was in 1724. On taking my leave, he showed me a shorter way out of the house, by a narrow passage, which was crossed by a beam over head. We were still talking, and as I withdrew, he accompanying me behind, and I turning towards him, he said hastily, “Stoop, stoop!” I did not understand him till I felt my head hit against the beam. He was a man who never missed an opportunity of giving instruction; and upon this he said to me: ‘You are young and have the world before you. Learn to stoop as you go through it, and you will miss many hard thumps.’ This advice, thus beat into my head, has frequently been of use to me. And I often think of it when I see pride mortified, and misfortune brought upon people by their carrying their heads too high.”
So what happens when we carry our heads too high? Just how important is it for us to remain small in our own eyes? Does God think it important?
In the dictionary the word small means minor in influence, power, or rank: operating on a limited scale: lacking in strength: of little consequence. The word humble means: not proud or haughty: not arrogant or assertive: reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission [a humble apology]: ranking low in a hierarchy or scale.
Remember when we first came into the Church when called by God. For many of us, that was a long time ago. The scales were ripped from our eyes—we glimpsed the pearl of great price. As we arose out of the baptismal tank, the Babylonian culture dripping from our skin, our bodies still smarting from the pummeling brought about by a loving God that had brought us to this time and this place; we were ripe and ready to change. (Romans 2:4) In other words, we were brought low, where we felt small in our own eyes. God knew we were ready to begin the long road of conversion. We were now babes in truth, young, inexperienced, fresh, eager and willing to listen. We didn’t feel like Bible scholars or spiritual giants. We were small in our own eyes, looking to God to carry us through.
We’re all familiar with the story of David, called by God, the youngest of seven brothers: a ruddy, handsome fellow, a keeper of sheep, small in his own eyes. “Pity me, O Lord, for I am weak, heal me…”(Living Bible Translation throughout. Psalm : 6:2). “Save me, O God, because I have come to you for refuge…I have no other help but yours …” Psalm 16:1,2). “In my distress I screamed to the Lord for His help. And He heard me from heaven…” (Psalm 18:6). “Lead me, teach me: for you are the God who gives me salvation…” (Psalm 25:5).
We, too, as babes in Christ knew we needed God. We, too, cried out to God to save us. We were still walking low. But what happens over time. We lose that freshness, that urgency. We, who have been in the Church for many years, may come to think we know the Scriptures pretty well, lead a “Christian” lifestyle; in fact we might think we’re all-around good persons; going about doing our good deeds, saying our prayers, serving the brethren, not quite so small in our own eyes.
Have we become complacent in our need to cry out to God? Maybe we have forgotten Satan’s devices. Oh, we may have convinced ourselves by rote that we know them. We may admit there is a devil: that he is doing evil in the world; that he is deceiving others, but we’ve got ourselves convinced we’re okay, we’re close to God. It can’t happen to me we might say! But maybe we’ve not had Satan right in our face where there’s no denying he’s out to destroy us personally. When we are deceived by Satan, we don’t know we are deceived.
Let’s see what happened to King David when in his middle age. He had been walking with God since a teenager—at least 35 or 40 years; just like some of us in the Church. I am sure David was well versed, knew the commandment, “Thou shall not commit adultery.” So what happened? He was now King over Israel; maybe he was feeling pretty good about himself, convinced he was a godly man. Let’s face it, he wasn’t as close, nor relying on God as he thought, otherwise he wouldn’t have fallen into that trap—committing adultery, then murder the moment he had a little spare time.
He did repent and had physical consequences for his actions, but apparently he hadn’t learned the lesson with Bathsheba and Uriah thoroughly. He wouldn’t have later numbered Israel if he had. But let’s see why he did. “Then Satan brought disaster upon Israel, for he made David decide to take a census. ‘Take a complete census throughout the land and bring me the totals,’ he told Joab and the other leaders. But Joab objected. ‘If the Lord were to multiply his people a hundred times, would they not all be yours? So why are you asking us to do this? Why must you cause Israel to sin?’ But the king won the argument, and Joab did as he was told…”(1 Chronicles 21:1). Was not David aware of Satan’s devices? He must have been. But there is more to it than that. Was he only performing part of what was required of him? In his own words David tells us he knows the need for humility: “The Lord is good and glad to teach the proper path to all who go astray; he will teach the ways that are right and best to those who humbly turn to him”(Psalms 25:8,9). David also knew what it was like when the spirit of Lord departs from a person. He had seen that with Saul (1 Samuel 16:14,23).
Why then was he such an easy target, that Satan could, in fact, deceive him. Hadn’t he been walking with God for most of his life by now? We have to address the question — Is there more danger when one has been walking with God over a long period of time? Had David forgotten to stoop low when walking this walk? Or had he held his head too high?
Where would we be today if Jesus had held his head too high; had refused to stoop, or hadn’t taken seriously the very real danger from the god of this world? We see from Jesus’ example that “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief… (Isaiah 53:3-5) What did Jesus have to do in order to endure His rendezvous with the devil? (Matthew 4:1-10) Now if our Saviour and Lord had to humble himself in order to overcome the devil and then to die upon the cross, what must we do? See (Philippians 2: 1-8) Not only did He have to cry out to God daily, and many times “with strong crying and tears”, He had to humble himself by fasting. (Hebrews 5:7-9). Also see (1 Peter 5: 5-8). Jesus knew he did not have the strength to overcome the devil on his own. Should we expect to do anything less?
We too, in our long walk with God, may have forgotten why humility is so very important to our eternal life. It was the one characteristic lacking in the great archangel, Lucifer and led to his downfall. It could be the one characteristic that we lack also. Maybe that is why God reminds us: “Yet I will look with pity on the man who is humble and of a contrite heart…” (Isaiah 66:2). For as long as we are small in our own eyes we will remain close to God. We will know we cannot get by a single day without crying out for His help against Satan [this master manipulator of our minds and hearts] to keep us from being puffed up in our own eyes, and sin against God. I bet Satan goes around looking for those who are not stooping low. So, let’s remember to stoop low and avoid getting our heads knocked off!