Exaltation and Abasement
Matthew 23:12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
Some principles in God's Word apply specifically to a particular time period or administration in The Word. When God states a principle in His Word it is true and remains true and in effect until God changes it. Some principles are timeless and can be found stated and applied throughout God's Word. These can be thought of more as laws than principles. Like the Law of Gravity, they are part of the order and organization of things that God set up in the beginning and they are needed to make all things work according to the Will of God. Believing and Giving and Receiving are such principles.
Exaltation and Abasement as stated above in Matthew 23:12 is a principle found throughout God's Word.
Lucifer - exalted himself and was abased (brought low)
God created Lucifer as an angel of light; perfect and beautiful. Lucifer chose to exalt himself above God and therefore was brought low and will continue to be abased because he exalted himself rather than God.
Ezekiel 28:15, 17 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.
Isaiah 14:12-16 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I wll exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms...?
In the old testament this principle is stated in:
Ezekiel 21:26 Thus saith the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high.
Obadiah 1:3-4 The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground? Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord.
In the time of the gospels a great example of an individual who knew, understood, and applied this principle can be seen in the response of Mary when told that she was to be the mother of the promised Messiah.
Luke 1:38, 46-52 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid [branded slave] of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word...And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden [branded slave]: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
Mary exalted God and not herself. She viewed herself as a servant of God and recognized the greatness of the Word and power of God. She also stated the principle that those who are proud in the imagination of their own hearts are brought down and those who are low or humble and put God first are exalted.
Three times in the gospels Jesus Christ teaches this principle.
Matthew 23;1-12 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
The scribes and Pharisees wanted to be recognized by men. They would sit in the most important rooms and in seats "up on stage". They took pleasure in being recognized for their VIP positions as clergy and loved to be greeted in the market place and to be called by a title that exalted them in the eyes of the people. Jesus Christ stated that being a servant to men is what makes one great, not a title or self recognition. The believer who exalts God in his life and serves with humility is the believer that God will exalt.
Luke 14:7-11 And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
A parable is a figure of speech (an extended simile) in which one thing is likened to another. A parable focuses on the likeness of one major point, not all the details of the story. The principle of exaltation and abasement is the point of this parable. Humilty will result in exaltation and self exaltation will result in abasement.
Luke 18:9-14 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Jesus Christ taught this parable to people who trusted themselves rather than God and despised others. Again the one point of this parable is that he that exalts himself shall be abased and he that humbles himself shall be exalted. The details of the prayer of the publican have been pulled from this context and promoted by some as what to say when you pray. However, the point is not what you say but that you exalt God and not yourself: that in humility you serve one another and that you do not exalt yourself over others.
The example of Jesus Christ
Philippians 2:3-11 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus Christ always subjected his own will to God's will. He always exalted God and was obedient to the Word of God even when it meant that he had to die on the cross. His humility to the Word resulted in God exalting him. He is seated at God's right hand and has become our Lord and Saviour.
We also must apply the principle of exaltation and abasement.
James 4:6-8,10 ... God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you...Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
I Peter 5:5-6 ... Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
When we in humility submit ourselves to God's grace we resist the devil. When we exalt ourselves as did the devil in the beginning we will be brought down. The principle has not changed. Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
Proverbs 18:12 Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.
Proverbs 22:4 By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life.
Proverbs 29:23 A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.
Psalm 118:28 Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.