Wednesday, August 22, 2012
THE PROBLEM OF PRIDE
[This is a message I preached last Sunday. It is a truth important enough to be shared with a wider audience than those attending and worth repeating to those who were present. May God’s Spirit speak to you through these words.]
“The vision of Obadiah. This is what the Lord God has said about Edom:
We have heard a message from the Lord; a messenger has been sent among the nations: ‘Rise up, and let us go to war against her.’
Look, I will make you insignificant among the nations; you will be deeply despised. Your presumptuous heart has deceived you, you who live in clefts of the rock in your home on the heights, who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’
Though you seem to soar like an eagle and make your nest among the stars, even from there I will bring you down. [This is] the Lord's declaration.” (Obadiah 1-4 HCSB)
The letter “I” is at the heart of the word pride: p-r-I-d-e. The universal affliction of the human race is “I” trouble. “I” trouble is a problem of focus--our focus is on ourselves.
Obadiah has a lot to say about the problem of pride.
His name means, “Servant of Yahweh.” How fitting! We know almost nothing else about him—no movies have been made about him, no TV documentaries and no biographies.
A lot of kids have Bible names like James, John, Peter and Paul. I doubt you’ve met many Obadiahs!
Obadiah and obscurity both begin with the same letter and have the same number of syllables. Isn’t that appropriate?
He was content to be a servant, not trying to be a superstar. Obadiah felt no need to be in the spotlight—just part of the supporting cast. Jesus taught this as the path to genuine greatness.
“Jesus called them over and said to them, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.’” (Mark 10:42-45)
That is the message Jesus shared and the model Jesus showed. Obadiah was of the same humble spirit. We need to hear what he has to say about the problem of pride.
EDOM’S PRIDE (v.1-9)
“The vision of Obadiah. This is what the Lord God has said about Edom:
We have heard a message from the Lord; a messenger has been sent among the nations: ‘Rise up, and let us go to war against her.
Look, I will make you insignificant among the nations; you will be deeply despised.’” (v.1-2)
The Edomites were descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau. You may recall that Esau was a man brimming with self-importance and self-confidence. Pride marked him and his offspring—and God hates pride.
There are six things listed in Proverbs 6:17 that God hates and the first enumerated is, “arrogant eyes.” James 4:6b states, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Do you want God’s resistance or His grace?
Pride is so despised by God because it is the original sin, and is at the core of all sins. This matter of egotism, that puts self on the throne, usurping God’s authority—that seeks the glory that belongs to God and God alone—is the polluted fountain from which flows every vile philosophy, passion and practice. It is how an angel became the devil, and how Eve unleashed evil. The curse plaguing this planet came from eating that forbidden fruit—out of a desire to be as God: the arrogance of autonomy.
PRIDE IS DECEPTIVE.
“Your presumptuous heart has deceived you, you who live in clefts of the rock in your home on the heights, who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’” (v.3)
Because of the natural defenses of Edom, they deceived themselves and thought they were invincible. The capital city of Petra is still standing—a fortress carved from solid rock. The only entrance was through a ravine which at some points is only 12 feet wide, with sheer cliffs towering to 100 feet. The cliffs jut out over Petra, virtually creating a roof and making them impossible to climb. It would be extremely difficult for a modern army with all its advanced equipment to capture the city, much less an ancient army. But God brought them down. Petra today is a ghost town, only a tourist attraction. It haunts the region as the specter of the deception of pride.
PRIDE IS DESTRUCTIVE.
“Though you seem to soar like an eagle and make your nest among the stars, even from there I will bring you down. [This is] the Lord's declaration.
If thieves came to you, if marauders by night—how ravaged you would be!--wouldn't they steal only what they wanted? If grape pickers came to you, wouldn't they leave some grapes?” (v.4-5)
Scripture declares that, “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” (Prov.6:18). Edom is a testimony to that truth. The Edomites were destroyed, and so will all nations be that defy God. That demonic spirit permeates our world. Sadly, it has also penetrated the church.
The arrogance of the church at Laodecia sounds like a description of many modern churches:
“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I'm rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,' and you don't know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” (Rev.3:16-17)
God is serious about judging pride, wherever He finds it. It nauseates Him.
Not only do we see Edom’s pride, but Obadiah speaks of JUDAH’S PORTION.
“You will be covered with shame and destroyed forever because of violence done to your brother Jacob. On the day you stood aloof, on the day strangers captured his wealth, while foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were just like one of them. Do not gloat over your brother in the day of his calamity; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction; do not boastfully mock in the day of distress. Do not enter the gate of My people in the day of their disaster. Yes, you—do not gloat over their misery in the day of their disaster and do not appropriate their possessions in the day of their disaster.
Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off their fugitives, and do not hand over their survivors in the day of distress.” (v.10-14)
Don’t miss that Judah had a portion of God’s judgment to face, also.
These verses describe THE DISCIPLINE OF JUDAH. God deals with the sins of His children too. But, He deals with them differently than the sins of the lost. For His children it is the rod of correction, but for sinners it is the wrath of condemnation. He chastens us as a loving Heavenly Father. God may cast us down, but He will not cast us out. Straying sheep will be broken by the Shepherd’s staff to stop them from wandering—that is their portion. Goats, however, will be sentenced to perdition.
In these verses, we also observe THE DELIGHT OF EDOM. They rejoiced in the sufferings of their cousins and assisted with it. They plundered the Jews. God is just in His judgment.
One must be cautious, however, in finding pleasure in the punishment of others. Judah’s misery made Edom merry. Hear God’s warning in Proverbs 24:17-18:
“Don't gloat when your enemy falls, and don't let your heart rejoice when he stumbles, or the Lord will see, be displeased, and turn His wrath away from him.”
Obadiah speaks of Edom’s pride, Judah’s portion and of GOD’S PUNISHMENT (v.15-16).
“For the Day of the Lord is near, against all the nations. As you have done, so it will be done to you; what you deserve will return on your own head. As you have drunk on My holy mountain, so all the nations will drink continually. They will drink and gulp down
and be as though they had never been.”
Edom is a type of all the nations that rebel against God. Listen to the Psalmist:
“Why do the nations rebel and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and His Anointed One:
‘Let us tear off their chains and free ourselves from their restraints.’
The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them. Then He speaks to them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath:
‘I have consecrated My King on Zion, My holy mountain.’
I will declare the Lord's decree: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son; today I have become Your Father. Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance and the ends of the earth Your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron; You will shatter them like pottery.’
So now, kings, be wise; receive instruction, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with reverential awe and rejoice with trembling.
Pay homage to the Son or He will be angry and you will perish in your rebellion, for His anger may ignite at any moment. All those who take refuge in Him are happy.” (Psalm 2)
Perhaps very soon, a global alliance of nations, led by the Antichrist, will form. Things around our world are moving toward the consummation of the Psalm 2 spirit of rebellion.
“For the Day of the Lord is near…” (v.15a).
If it was near then, how much more is it now? Remember that God stands outside of time; His frame of reference is eternal. But, for us, time brings another perspective—and the sands of the hour glass of human history seem to be running out.
“against all the nations…. (v.15b)
This is a universal principle. They reap what they have sown—not just Edom, but “The wicked will return to Sheol—all the nations that forget God.” (Ps.9:17)
“As you have done, so it will be done to you; what you deserve will return on your own head. As you have drunk on My holy mountain, so all the nations will drink continually. They will drink and gulp down and be as though they had never been.” (v.15c-16)
They will drink the cup of God’s wrath. The nations may boast of their great name, but they will become as though they never existed. Churches can too! Where the light of the Gospel once blazed, the light can be extinguished. A church that arrogantly rests on the accomplishments of the past, boasting of their buildings and budget, may find the building becomes a mausoleum. All over Europe, now in the American Northeast and increasingly in the Bible Belt, church buildings are converted into barns, coffee shops and museum pieces. They sought a name and claimed a fame, and God stopped their boasting and brought them shame.
Obadiah presents Edom’s pride, Judah’s portion, God’s punishment, but on a brighter note, GOD’S PROMISE (v.17-21).
“But there will be a deliverance on Mount Zion, and it will be holy; the house of Jacob will dispossess those who dispossessed them.” (v.17)
Here was hope extended in the promise of God.
It is a promise of PROTECTION FROM LOSS.
“But there will be a deliverance on Mount Zion…” (v.17a)
The Antichrist’s reign of terror will reach its zenith at the end of the Great Tribulation Period. Jerusalem will be encircled by Gentile armies bent on the genocide of the Jews. But, Christ will return with His saints to deliver Israel.
It is a promise of PURITY OF LIFE.
“it will be holy…” (v.17b)
It won’t be just physical deliverance, but spiritual salvation. None enter the Millennial Reign of Christ unconverted. The biological seed of Abraham, will become the spiritual seed of Abraham—with the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ. Israel will be transformed into the holy people God called them to be.
It is a promise of POSSESSIONS OF LANDS.
“the house of Jacob will dispossess those who dispossessed them.
Then the house of Jacob will be a [blazing] fire, and the house of Joseph, a [burning] flame, but the house of Esau will be stubble; Jacob will set them on fire and consume Edom. Therefore no survivor will remain of the house of Esau, for the Lord has spoken.
People from] the Negev will possess the hill country of Esau; [those from] the Judean foothills will possess [the land of] the Philistines. They will possess the territories of Ephraim and Samaria, while Benjamin will possess Gilead. The exiles of the Israelites who are in Halah and who are [among the] Canaanites as far as Zarephath as well as the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad will possess the cities of the Negev. Saviors will ascend Mount Zion to rule over the hill country of Esau, but the kingdom will be the Lord's.” (v.17c-21)
The land is theirs! God’s promises are bound up with that sacred ground. It doesn’t matter what the United Nations may proclaim, God has given the Jews that land as their possession.
Obadiah has much to say about the significant sin of pride.
Pride can doom us—we must admit our sin and call out to the Savior. We must humbly acknowledge we are helpless to save ourselves.
Pride can defeat us—it is a weapon Satan uses. Many a church that has stood against liberalism has become, “holier-than-thou” types—proud Pharisees—and God turned the lights out.
Pride can disqualify us—God won’t share His glory. It is not likely that you can ever be too little to use, but you can be too large. If you are swollen with self-importance, God will burst your bubble. Just ask an Edomite—if you can find one. Don’t bother looking in Petra. Nobody’s home.