Humility is the thing - therefore embrace humility! When you are not humble, you are headed for trouble - for afflication, for a fracture or a breach in some way. God says that He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble in the book of James. Here that truth is reiterated - just in a little more terrifying way.
When a man's heart is haughty - bad things are going to happen. The word "haughty" here is the Hebew word "gabah" which means to be high, exalted, or arrogant. This word is used of thing like a high tree or vine - but it is also used of Almighty God. Here it does not have the meaning of arrogant - but simply someone high and exalted - and rightly so. But when a man takes on this attitude and this demeanor, he is headed for trouble.
God says that right before destruction comes upon a man his heart is this way - haughty and lifted up - full of himself. Such a heart condition does not mean that he is right on the verge of destruction. That would be a misinterpretation of this proverb. What it is saying is that right before God brings destruction upon a man - he will be haughty. Consider the king, Belshazzar from Babylonian times. He was very arrogant - so arrogant that during a big party he had the cups and bowls brought in from God's Temple - and he and his party guests drank their wine out of them. As they did, they praised the God's of silver and gold. This was about as arrogant as someone could get. But Belshazzar did not know that this would be the last banquet he would ever hold. It would be the last party he would ever host. That night a hand from God came and wrote on the wall of the room where he was having his wicked shindig. The message on that wall told him that in the midst of his arrogance God had rendered final judgment upon him. He had been put in the balances of God's justice and righteousness - and had been found wanting. Because of his arrogance and pride he was going to have his kingdom handed over the Medes and the Persians. Suddenly Belshazzar's arrogance was confronted - but not with opportunity for repentance. He was confronted with destruction. That night his defenses were breached, his captiol city captured, and he himself was slain in the onslaught that ensued. He had nothing with which to defend himself. All he had was his last moments of arrogance and pride - oh, and terror as the breech came.
Reject haughtiness and thinking highly of yourself. It is a trap of monumental proportion. It was the sin for which the devil himself was judged when he was the annointed angerl that led the praises of heaven itself. This sin is deadly above all others - therefore utterly abandon it and embrace god-honoring humility instead. This proverb does tell us that before honor - there is humility. Since I am writing this a week before Christmas, I will use the ultimate example of humility to illustrate this truth. Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. He has ever been with the Father and the Spirit and is God of very God. As such He actually deserves the praise of all creation for all eternity. Yet He chose to obey His Father and be born as a baby in Bethlehem. He left the glories of heaven and took on the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. He became the God-man. As such He humbled Himself infinitely. He did not demand honor and glory and praise - which we all due Him. He chose instead a path of obedience, humility, and eventually humiliation as He bore the sin of the world on the cross of Calvary. Being found in form as a man he humbled Himself and became obedient unto death - even that awful death on the cross. Here is someone who deserves honor and respect - praise and adoration - yet He chooses humility. As a result we read in latter verses in Philippians 2 the following words - also a fulfillment of this very proverb.
"For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11, NASB)
There it is in what God did through and for His Son. Jesus chose to humble Himself - and before the honor God gave Him - was that marvellous attitude and practice of humility. God raised Jesus from the lowest place to the highest! God will honor those who embrace obedient humility to Him. Therefore wisdom is this . . . it is embracing humility and obedience to God in all that we do. That is the very best way of knowing that God will honor you in due time - as you continue to embrace a self-effacing, god-glorifying, Christlike humility and obedience to Him.