Intro: The story is told that as a well to-do lady boarded the Titanic on that fateful voyage, she turned to the deckhand and asked, “is it true that this ship in unsinkable?” To which the deckhand responded, “Lady, God Himself could not sink this ship”. Well, there you go, another expert human opinion.
- It is often noted that the common belief that the White Star shipbuilding company advertised their fancy new cruise ship, as “unsinkable” is not actually true. If one looks back to the actual wording of their ads, they contain words like “practically unsinkable”. Unfortunately, they “actually” (not practically hit the iceberg and the sink sunk.
- Human pride is fragile and hard to defend for any length of time. So it was with Edom. They were confident that they could stand any attack. Obadiah 3-4 – The pride of your heart has deceived you, You who dwell in the clefts of the rock, Whose habitation is high; You who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ 4 Though you ascend as high as the eagle, And though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down,” says the Lord.
- They thought they were invincible in the clefts of the rock. But God brought them down. One lesson of Obadiah to them and us is that God will bring down the proud and arrogant. Are we a proud people? How does our pride impact us spiritually?
I. Pride Defined: Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines pride as “inordinate self-esteem or conceit.” There are at least three Greek words translated pride in our English Bible. They are similarly defined as boastful, haughty, be puffed up, or high-minded. At the heart of pride is a very exaggerated confidence in one’s person, position or power.
A. The word “pride” appears 49 times in the KJV and the word “proud” appears 48 times. Neither word is ever used in a positive way. It always describes an attitude that is displeasing to God.
note: This may suggest that we should be careful how we use the word in our own language. We often say we are proud of something or someone. While we may only mean by that this thing or person pleases us (proud of our kids), we need to recognize that the Bible never uses the word “pride” in such a way. We dare not allow our positive use of the word diminish what the Bible teaches against pride.
B. God’s attitude toward the proud: What does God hate? Although hating is not what we usually associate with God, the Bible clearly indicates that some things are so despicable that God hates them. In Prov. 6 the wise man gives us a list. Notice what is listed first: Proverbs 6:16-19 – 16 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.
1. The expression “A proud look” is intriguing. It is not merely the “look” of a proud person, but the attitude of the mind. In the original Hebrew, it literally means “haughty or lofty eyes.” We might refer to this person as “on his high horse,” “stuck up”, “all wrapped up in himself.”
a. But is it all that bad? We often diagnose pride as healthy self-esteem or confidence. But Jesus does not ignore human pride or treat it as innocuous. Notice its company – Mark 7:21-23 – For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
II. Pride as the source of sin –What was the first sin? We most often answer, Eve eating the forbidden fruit. But pride may precede this event, as the sin that led Satan to be cast out of heaven as described in Revelation 12:9 – 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. The Apostle Paul, in giving the qualifications for a bishop, stated that a man is not to be “a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6)
A. Of course it is not difficult to see the ugly presence of human pride in the actual transgression of Gen. 3. Satan, full of arrogance Himself, told Eve in Genesis 3:5-6: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Later John enunciated Satan’s three pronged approach in 1 John 2:16 – 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.
B. Many other sins develop from the proud heart – Pride’s ugly legacy in scripture.
1. Do you recall the developing sin in the life of King Saul in the O.T.? Saul was plainly commanded by God to go and to utterly destroy Israel’s enemy, the Amalekites. Saul rebelled against this command and spared the Amalekite king and the best of the animals for sacrifice. When Samuel rebuked him he reminded Saul of what it was that qualified him for the crown to begin with: “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel?” (1 Sam. 15:17). While Saul was humble, things went well for him. But then power brought pride, and pride bred rebellion. How much of our own disobedience is traceable to the pride which fills our hearts?
2. Ironically, even the good king whom God chose to replace Saul had trouble with pride. David – (interestingly called a man after God’s own heart). How can a person live a lie and defend his obviously immoral conduct for a long period of time? (Pete Rose, Lance Armstrong). David must have believed that he could get away with it. [“He was king, who could bring him down or hold him accountable? He could arrange it so that no one would know.”] The words of a proud heart. The trail of misery and pain that David’s proud heart left behind. When David came to realize where his pride had led him, he repented and prayed the words of Psalm 51:
- Ps 51:6 – Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
- Ps 51:10 – Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
- Ps 51:16-17 – For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart — These, O God, You will not despise.
3. It was human pride that caused Naaman (2 Kings 5) to scoff at the instructions of the Prophet to wash in the river Jordan in order to be cleansed of his leprosy. He thought an important man should require a bigger and cleaner river to dip in. Pride can create rebellion and further disobedience. How many people reject the clear teaching about repentance and baptism, not because they do not see it in the scriptures, but they are too proud to admit they have been wrong? (could this be the most common reason?) What commandment are you ignoring because you are too proud to face the implications of repentance?
4. It was human pride that filled the hearts of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, when they replaced the teachings of God’s own word with their traditions. In Luke 18, the problem with the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector…”, was that he exalted himself and trusted in himself that he was righteous (Lk. 18:13).
5. Across the aisle, it was also pride that prompted the most dedicated disciples of Jesus to argue about who would be greatest in the kingdom. Jesus told them they had become as humble as a little child to enter the kingdom of God. (Matt. 18:1-4)
6. It was human pride that caused Peter to confidently (arrogantly) announce that he would never betray His Lord. Matthew 26:33 – I will never be made to stumble.” (we can express an arrogant attitude toward Satan, as well as God. He will never get me) Ironically it was also human pride that, when the time arrived, led him to defiantly denounce any association with Jesus and curse that he did not know him.
III. Pride as a Deceiver: Consider again the specific reference to the pride of Edom in Obadiah v. 3 – “The pride of your heart has deceived you.” As we mentioned this is a reference to the Edomites perception of invincibility. Their pride (inordinate estimation of their own position and power) led them to believe that no one could bring them down (“Who will bring me down to the ground?”)
A. But they were deceived. In vs. 4 God announces that even if they were to build a nest in the stars, He could and WOULD bring them down.
B. Pride is opposed by God because it is untrue (not just a distasteful attitude). Our pride is deceptive, as it portrays an untrue estimate of ourselves. We not as wise and invincible as we think we are. You recall the familiar words of Jer. 10:23 – O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. I like the New Living Translation of Jeremiah’s words: “I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course.”
C. This particular self-deception is not uncommon. There are many people who have acquired enough prosperity, power, and success in life that they readily reject the possibility of a coming judgment or accounting. (Ted Turner – “I do not need a Jewish carpenter to save me”) But they are deceived.
IV. Pride as a Prelude to Destruction: Prov 16:18 – Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. Where does pride lead?
A. God’s judgment against human pride is well accounted in Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the fall of Babylon. Isa 13:19-22 – 19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, The beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. 20 It will never be inhabited, Nor will it be settled from generation to generation; Nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, Nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there. 21 But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, And their houses will be full of owls; Ostriches will dwell there, And wild goats will caper there. 22 The hyenas will howl in their citadels, And jackals in their pleasant palaces. Her time is near to come, And her days will not be prolonged.”
1. Babylon was no ordinary city. (beauty of the Chaldean’s pride) She reached her greatest glory in the days of Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 BC). Nebuchadnezzar was a great military leader and builder. He expanded the city to a square 11 miles long, with walls 25 ft. wide. It is estimated that 500,000 people inhabited Babylon. The city included vast fortifications, famous streets such as the Processional Way, canals, temples, and palaces. The Ishtar Gate, which led into the city through the double wall fortifications, was decorated with rows of bulls and dragons on enameled brick. Likewise, the walls of Nebuchadnezzar’s throne room were covered with enameled brick. Nearby was the massive temple of Marduk, the patron god of Babylon. Not far distant were the hanging gardens of Babylon, which the Greeks considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
2. What did Isaiah say would happen to this grand city? – wild goats, ostriches, owls, hyenas and jackals would live there?! Who could believe that?
a. In 539 B.C., Babylon was conquered by Cyrus, leader of the Medo-Persians. Herodotus says that the army of Cyrus diverted the Euphrates River and then marched up the riverbed under the city walls. Babylon fell without a fight. The city of Babylon began to slowly decay. Alexander the Great thought to restore it, but the cost proved prohibitive. The city soon was re-taken by the desert. Babylon was never to be revived. Today, the ruins of this ancient city stand as a testimony to God’s judgment against pride and arrogance.
3. As a story within the story consider Daniel 4. In the height of his glory, King Nebuchadnezzar of the O.T. Babylon proclaimed “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30). He was a proud man. So proud of himself, and what he had accomplished that there was no room in his heart for the thanking and praising the God of heaven.
a. In response to his arrogance, just as Daniel predicted, Jehovah humbled Nebuchadnezzar and sent him into the field to live like a beast, eating the grass like oxen and growing feathers like a bird (Dan. 4:33). As a result of this humiliation, the king learned about arrogance and he came to understand his sin. He praised God and God gave him back his kingdom and greatness. Daniel 4:37 – 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down. While Nebuchadnezzar was not at totally rehabilitated from a spiritual standpoint, he now understood two things.
- First, the God of heaven deserves to be praised and
- second, this same God is able to humble those who are full of pride.
Conclusion: Pride is deceptive and destructive in every way. Proverbs 21:4 says, “A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin.” Humility is the key to true spirituality and the path to God’s blessing. We need to pray for many things, but we certainly need to pray for humility – as individuals, as a church, and as a nation. Prov 3:5-7 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
Do you need to confess sin to God or to a brother whom you have wronged? Do you need to obey God in repentance and baptism for the remission of your sins? Empty yourself of pride so that you may do the right thing.