God Deflates the Prideful
November 8, 2020
I. Recall with me the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Two swindlers arrive at the capital city of an emperor who is very prideful and vain. Posing as weavers, they offer to supply him with magnificent clothes that are invisible to those who are stupid or incompetent. The emperor hires them, and they set up looms and go to work. A succession of officials, and then the emperor himself, visit them to check their progress. Each sees that the looms are empty but pretends otherwise to avoid the thought of being a fool. Finally, the weavers report that the emperor’s suit is finished. They mime dressing him and he sets off in a procession before the whole city. The townsfolk uncomfortably go along with the pretense, not wanting to appear inept or stupid, until a child blurts out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all. The people then realize that everyone has been fooled. The version I’m familiar with ends with the emperor running back to his palace embarrassed and ordering the execution of these two weavers who are nowhere to be found. week]
II. What was the downfall of the emperor in this story? Pride. Pride blinded the emperor to the truth. Pride prodded the officials to fall in line with the emperor. Pride silenced the townsfolk watching the spectacle in front of them. Pride. A 5-letter word that can wreak havoc in our lives, our relationships, and our faith.
III. But what is pride? This word is so common in our vocabulary and culture that it is important that we define what it is and what it is not. When the Bible talks about pride, it is describing that sense of superiority we get about ourselves or those close to us. In the Bible, pride is never talked about in a good light. Never. It is very telling, then, that this word is attached to the LGBTQ+ movement. When I refer to pride, I am not talking about supporting or identifying with that movement at all.
IV. We often don’t view the sin of pride on the same level of other sins. What’s wrong with being prideful? To answer that question, let’s direct our attention to Obadiah.
V. Obadiah 1-2 says this, “The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom: We have heard a report from the Lord, and a messenger has been sent among the nations: “Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!” 2 Behold, I will make you small among the nations; you shall be utterly despised.”
VI. The book of Obadiah opens with a harsh condemnation of Edom communicated through a vision to the prophet Obadiah and originating from the Lord. In this weeks “From Pulpit and Paper,” I detail how this is a personal decree from God. Check it out. God is personally present here. While we will see judgement in this book, we need to understand that this book begins and ends with the love of a father protecting his children.
VII. This next phrase can be a little difficult to understand. It says, “We have heard a report from the Lord.” The word “We” is referring back to the Lord Yahweh and the report, in the Hebrew, is coming from Yahweh. God is issuing a decree based on something He has heard from Himself. Again, God is personally present in this situation and He is showing that this information cannot be contested—He Himself has gathered it. Its origin and interpretation are infallible.
VIII. Based on this information, God is issuing a call to all nations to rise against Edom for battle. Throughout history, God often works through other nations to bring about judgement. It’s a scary thing to be on the receiving end of God’s command of war. Why is it scary? Look at verse 2. It says, “Behold, I will make you small among the nations, you shall be utterly despised.” God is going to completely humble this nation. The word “utterly” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “strongly, and with force.” There will be no turning back for Edom after this judgement is executed. Edom will be utterly despised.
IX. So, what’s wrong with being prideful? It is obvious in these first two verses that God opposes the prideful. That’s our first point for today. What’s wrong with being prideful? God opposes the prideful. We fail to understand the true nature of pride. We are willing to say, “he is a good man but proud,” or “he is proud but accomplishes good things,” and not blink an eye. We have no problem admitting that goodness and pride may be companions within the same person. However, if I said, “she is a good woman but a thief,” we are immediately outraged. A person cannot be good and a thief at the same time. Or, “that’s a good man, but an adulterer.” We do not allow other sins to cloud our understanding of someone’s character. But pride? We give pride a pass.
X. God opposes the prideful. In the sight of God, pride is fully as bad as stealing and adultery, if not worse because pride is self-reliance instead of God-reliance. And God HATES self-reliance. It’s the sin of sins—the sin of Satan exulting himself above God. The sin of Adam and Eve deciding they did not need God. Nothing lies at the heart of humanities problems like the prideful desire to take over God’s place or pretending we can do without him—which amounts to the same thing. On a personal level, we think we can do without God in our family life, our business, our health, or in a dozen other areas. On the national level, pride often expresses itself in the characteristic boasts of Edom.
XI. But I find myself thinking, and I suppose you are too, that we’re not Edom. In fact, America supports Israel. What’s wrong with being a proud American? Or a proud employee? Or a proud farmer? Or a proud… fill-in-the-blank? Let’s look at Obadiah verses 3 & 4. It says this, “3The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?” 4 Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord.”
XII. “The pride of your heart has deceived you.” PRIDE IS DECEIVING. PRIDE COMES FROM BEING DECEIVED. The meaning of the word “deceived” from this verse in the original Hebrew is very interesting. The original word means to lend on interest or to be a creditor. This verb is being used to say that Edom’s pride has given them a credit or interest that has come due… and it’s been found wanting. Their pride has inflated their heart, and the inflation was built on nothing. They think they’re clothed, but are strutting around with nothing on.
XIII. Verse 3 shows that Edom was boasting in their defenses—dwelling in the clefts of the rocks. A little knowledge of where Edom was located will help us understand this verse. Edom was located in a naturally mountainous area. If you think of the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where they entered that temple built in the side of the mountains, you know where Edom was located. Experts say that because of the way this mountainous area is arranged, it would be possible for a dozen men to hold it against an army. Safe in their defenses, the people of Edom were free to wage war and force tribute payments on others while they were relatively free from outside interference.
XIV. They boast, “who will bring me down to the ground?” They placed pride in the strength of their dwelling—the rocks that surrounded them—and in the high places where they could see danger coming. Physically, and in their heart, they felt invulnerable. They were proud about their defenses. Unfortunately, we can do the same thing. Nationally, are we not proud of our defenses—of America’s military might? Do we not boast in having the best army, the best missiles, or that our technology is superior to that of the rest of the world? Do we not place pride in our security as a nation? We need to understand that pride—any pride—deceives us into challenging God. That’s our second point for today. Pride deceives us into challenging God. We become self-reliant and not God-reliant.
XV. Verse 4 reminds us that God opposes the prideful. “Though you soar aloft like the eagle.” In the Hebrew, this better translates to “though you exult yourself as an eagle.” These people are pridefully holding themselves up. They are setting their nests among the stars. They have inflated themselves. “Who will bring them me down to the ground?” they ask at the end of verse 3. God answers at the end of verse 4, “I will bring you down.” Pride is deceiving. Pride—any pride—deceives us into challenging God. But holding pride in our position or actions does not make us anything more that what we are—sinful, frail human beings.
XVI. Recently, I had COVID. And if there was one thing that I was reminded of while having it, it was that I am frail. I was very fatigued and had—and still have sometimes—difficulty breathing. A little virus took my wife and myself down. Hard. Pride deceives us to be self-reliant. It deceives us into puffing ourselves up. It inflates our ego to think that we aren’t frail, that we aren’t sinful. Pride deceives us into challenging God. Individually and nationally, we think we cannot be brought down. “Look at how great or strong we are,” we boast. But our boasting is no more than hot air. Friends, don’t be deceived. We are frail. We are sinful. Neither our position or actions change that reality. We cannot change that reality.
XVII. Now, many of us might agree with our frailty. We may be thinking, “I’m not going to outright challenge God. That would be ridiculous! But, I guess it would be safe to ask, are there ways I’m challenging God of which I am not aware? Am I deceiving myself?” To answer that question, let’s turn to verses 5-9.
XVIII. Verse 5 paints a picture of thieves coming to rob the Edomites. What normally happens when thieves and plunders steal? They leave things behind. Even the Grinch who tries to steal Christmas left behind the Who’s wires, hooks, and homes. Not even he took everything. The same with grape gatherers—there are gleanings that are left behind from their harvest. We trust in this belief that, after hardship, there will be things left behind that we can use to rebuild our lives. We think, “as long as we got each other,” or “as long as I have the clothes on my back,” or “as long as I have my work ethic,” we will be fine. Even that is self-reliance instead of God-reliance. That’s trusting the wrong things AND THAT is pride.
XIX. And verse 5 is referencing back to verse 2. Verse 2 says that Edom is going to be utterly destroyed! Look at the middle of verse 5—God reiterates, “how you have been destroyed!” So this trust in the ability to rebuild after hardship is misplaced. When God brings down the prideful, there will be nothing left to use to rebuild. No matter how vigilant and systematic the thieves were, something would be left. Not so with God’s judgment. God would lay total waste to Edom. Like the emperor, Edom is trusting in a piece of clothing that isn’t there.
XX. The things we trust in are what we put our security in AND what we put our security in becomes a source of pride. Look at verse 6, “How Esau has been pillaged, his treasures sought out!” Remember that because of the geographical location of Edom, they could make others pay tribute and still be relatively safe. Edom had wealth and was placing their trust in the money they accumulated. How many of us do the same thing? This is probably one of the most natural things to place trust and security in—our wealth. Individually, we believe we can weather economic hardship if we have a lot of money to fall back on. Nationally, it is a point of pride for how every other currency is compared to the American dollar. We place our trust in our national wealth and seek to assert our economic dominance. But wealth cannot be trusted. It can be taken entirely away. Like the emperor, wealth is just another piece of non-existent clothing in the eyes of God.
XXI. So far, God has been taking each security, each object of trust, and each object of pride away from the Edomites. Every security is doomed for destruction. This continues in verse 7. Because of her location, Edom had a vast network of alliances. But God said that the alliances Edom placed trust in were worth nothing. Their allies were deceiving them. Two phrases stand out in this verse. The first is found in the fourth line, “those who eat your bread have set a trap beneath you.” The word for “set” is the same word used in verse 4 for setting a nest in the stars. God is contrasting their perception of security for utter destruction. They have trusted in the wrong things. The nest they though they had is actually a trap. The second phrase occurs right after, “you have no understanding.” This could be better rendered from the Hebrew as “No one is aware of it.” In other words, this destruction that is all around them is completely hidden from them—they do not understand it or know that it is there. God was telling them that their trusted friends cannot be trusted in. As Edom has deceived itself, so too will her allies.
XXII. Edom placed trust, security, and pride in their allies. Do we not see the same in America? We trust in our thriving relationships with other countries. We are in what has been called the “age of diplomacy.” If weapons do not work, maybe diplomacy will—or vice versa. Now, it is better to have diplomatic relationships than none at all—but Obadiah’s point is that we cannot trust in these. Other nations will deceive. The only thing in which a nation is ever truly secure in is a humble and obedient relationship with God. Is it wise to have allies? Yes, but not to trust in them. Allies are another piece of invisible clothing in the eyes of God.
XXIII. God continues to strip Edom of its pride. In verse 8, God promises to “destroy the wise men out of Edom and understanding out of Mount Esau.” From the human perspective, this was not just empty arrogance. The Edomites really were noted for their wisdom. Edom is referred to as “the men of the east” in multiple locations throughout the Old Testament. King Solomon’s wisdom is compared to theirs in …1 Kings 4… to show how wise he was. Their wisdom was great enough to be compared to! …Jeremiah 49:7… speaks of Edom as if it were a known abode of human wisdom. Edom put pride in this—look how smart we are! But God will destroy the wisdom and understanding of Edom—they cannot trust their own intellect. Nor can they trust their strength. Verse 9, “Your mighty men shall be dismayed…every man…will be cut off by slaughter.” God will destroy the mighty men too—the strong cannot be trusted to save them. To God, their wisdom is foolishness, their strength is weakness. These first 9 verses of Obadiah show Edom to be an emperor proudly walking around…naked.
XXIV. Pride is born out of selfishly trusting the wrong things. That’s our third point. Pride is born out of selfishly trusting the wrong things. Point #1 is that God opposes the prideful. Point #2 is that pride deceives us into challenging God. And now, point #3 is that pride is born out of selfishly trusting the wrong things. The Edomites trusted in their ability to rebuild, trusted their wealth and allies, and put pride in their wisdom and strength. We do the exact same thing as America and as individuals. We trust in other things to provide our security. We take pride in these things. However, Obadiah is warning us away from this. He cries out saying, “do not follow the path of Edom!”
XXV. So, if we don’t find our security in these things, where do we find our security? We find it in God. But God is not content with coming after a plus sign. We can’t have security in our things plus God. We can’t have trust in our actions plus God. We can’t have pride in our defenses plus God, our ability to rebuild plus God, our allies plus God, our wisdom plus God, or our strength and might plus God. It must be God and God alone.
XXVI. This leads to our BIG IDEA for this whole passage. Verses 1-9 is summed up with this statement: God deflates the prideful. God deflates the prideful.
XXVII. Look at each of these verses we just went through. Every security that Edom had is a security that we think we have. Everything Edom had pride in is something we place pride in—something America places pride in. As American’s, we have become self-reliant. We puff ourselves up. As individuals, we have become self-reliant. We have become proud. But in God’s eyes, we are strutting around with nothing on. And Obadiah is the child pointing out our pride and vanity. Will we listen? Or will we try to rationalize this voice away? Worse, will we try to silence it?
XXVIII. Because God destroys every security that is not based in him. He destroys it all… and leaves nothing left. Why? Why does God do this? Because in trusting something else, taking pride in something else, placing our security in something else means we reject God. And God will not have that. Look at the last phrase of Obadiah. The very last phrase in verse 21. It says, “the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” That is the final word. The kingdom shall be the Lord’s. It will not be ours. It will not be in our image. It will not be made up of our things, our defenses, our wealth, or our wisdom. It will be God’s and God’s alone.
XXIX. How do we enter this kingdom? We take our cue from the kingdom’s leader: Jesus Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God as something to be grasped… but humbled himself… to the point of death, even death on a cross.” We must humble ourselves before God. And true humility before God can only happen when we surrender our all to him and accept his gift of grace—his gift of salvation. God is so compassionate and loving that He stands ready to give his grace and salvation to any who place their faith in him. It’s a simple faith—a faith that admits there is nothing we can do—no effort or thing we can put trust, security, or pride in—to earn his grace. He gives it because his Son lived a perfect life, humbled himself, and took our place. The only one who had cause for pride, trust, and security for himself humbly took the place for all of us who strut around wearing nothing at all. We must humbly accept that Christ did this for us and place our sole trust in his death and resurrection.