Humble yourselves [with an attitude of repentance and insignificance] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up, He will give you purpose].
Throughout the Bible, God requires His people to humble themselves before Him. But do we really know what that means, or how we are to accomplish this mandate? In the sense of this Scripture, "humble" is a verb; it is an action we are to take. But if you look in your online dictionary, you won't get a satisfactory answer to our question. You will get definitions like humiliate, abase, demean, lower, degrade, debase; mortify, shame. I think we can all agree that our God does not intend for us become defeated in the action of humbling ourselves.
Notice also, that our Scripture tells us we are to humble ourselves "in the presence of the Lord." How can we possibly do that? Well, with a little bit of digging, I have determined that one of the primary ways that God's people (throughout the Bible) humbled themselves was by fasting. King David is very specific when he says in Psalm 35, "I humbled my soul with fasting".
We Christians in the Western Church are not very familiar with the concept of fasting; and if we are it is usually not for spiritual purposes. After all, I have known many non-believers who fast; but they do it for weight loss or to detox their bodies from the Western diet of processed foods. So why would God request that we fast in order to humble ourselves and be obedient to Him?
Here is a basic understanding on my part: God asks us to voluntarily abstain from eating food for spiritual purposes; so that rather on relying on ourselves to feed our bodies when that inevitable hunger arises, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to oppose our fleshly desire to eat. In other words we must bring our carnal nature into submission to the Holy Spirit. When our body is in control, we eat whenever we desire... we live a life dictated by "I want", "I think", "I feel" ... or in this case, "I hunger".
When we fast, we deny the body (our flesh) what it wants, and we accept that we are not the master of our domain, so to speak. In this light, we must all ask ourselves this question: which is the master and which is the servant in each of us? Do we make our carnal nature the master and the Holy Spirit the slave to our desires? Or by submitting to the Holy Spirit during a fast, do we place the proper emphasis on the desire of God for our lives?
Do we bow down to our God during this testing of our flesh, or do we give in to the urge and do what would please our carnal flesh (like a cheeseburger and fries about 10 hours into a fast)? Can you see that the experience of fasting and hungering can bring us to a reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit to do something we cannot do in our own strength? Ultimately, isn't that the key to successful Christian living -- knowing that what makes us able to live the Christian life at all, is the power of the Holy Spirit? It is imperative that we understand that fulfilling God's purpose in our life can only be done through dependence on the Holy Spirit. We cannot do it by our own will or through our own strength. Fasting is a persuasive reminder and a powerful portrait of righteous living.
And fasting can change history! When we bring our fleshly nature into subjection, the Holy Spirit is free to to enable us to do what God desires us to accomplish for His kingdom. Look at what fasting did for the city of Ninevah -- because they listened to Jonah's warning about God's plan to destroy the city because of their sins, the king declared a fast, and the entire city turned to God in repentance, in fasting, and in mourning. And God tells us in Jonah 3:10: When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.
We also see the power of prayer and fasting in the Book of Esther, when the entire Jewish population was threatened with extinction at the evil hand of Haman of the Persian Empire. But because they sought the Lord through prayer and fasting, this action brought forth Divine intervention on behalf of the Jewish people, and their history was radically and permanently changed. Just think how we could change the future in our homes; our towns and cities; our nation if we would humble ourselves through fasting and praying, and like our Scripture says today, with an attitude of repentance and insignificance!
Remember that God has promised an outpouring of His Holy Spirit in the Last Days. It will be a supernatural, Divine ability to do things we are unable to do in our own strength; read Joel 2 and you will see what God has in store for us ... but it requires that a condition be met and it's right there in Joel 2:12: “Even now,” says the Lord, "Turn and come to Me with all your heart [in genuine repentance], With fasting and weeping and mourning [until every barrier is removed and the broken fellowship is restored];".
For the first time in my Christian life, I am following this Divine dictate, and fasting. And it is for all the right reasons. I want to dethrone my carnal self, and realize the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God's will for me. My stomach is telling me it's hungry, but my spirit is hungering to overcome my desires, and to become strong and effective in the power of the Holy Spirit. I am believing in the promise of today's Scripture ... by humbling myself, through prayer and fasting, I will be lifted up out of my selfish ambitions, and God's purpose for my life will be fulfilled.