In an era where self-promotion and notoriety can easily be achieved with a webcam, smartphone, YouTube video, or infectious blog, it’s hard to believe that God is the one who truly exalts. When popularity can be judged by sheer numbers shown by “followers”, “subscribers”, and “likes”, one can easily mistake these mini-celebrity statuses as true success.
All through Scripture the Lord shows us that large numbers, swelling crowds, and popular opinion do not necessarily equal approval. In the book of Exodus when God called Moses to commune with Him up on Mt. Sinai, the Israelite children grew fidgety when he was gone for so long. We’re not talking about just a few dozen people, either. The twelve tribes of Israel rose to numbers at least in the hundreds of thousands. But under the leadership of Aaron, the Israelite children decided to entertain themselves in Moses’ absence and melt all their gold to form a golden calf to worship. While Moses stood in God’s presence for an extended period of days, the Israelites danced, partied, worshipped, and sacrificed to their new cow idol, rebelling against the Lord’s commands. Aaron had risen to rock star status and the party was jumpin’.
The Israelites’ behavior grieved God because He had just rescued them from slavery under Pharaoh and had given them clear commands on how to maintain proper relationship with Him. But the energy of the crowd had become their intoxicant.
A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor. – Proverbs 29:23
It’s natural to want popularity, recognition, and emotional fulfillment, but we have to be careful with our heart’s desires. Our natural instincts are not always the right instincts, because they can make us too “me” focused. In God’s moral economy, humility reigns supreme over pride and self-exaltation. While it may not look like it, Jesus is the one who grants the crowns, and the crowns He gives are not measured by any earthly standards.
But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who should be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve (disciples), and said to them, 'If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.' – Mark 9:34-35