Monday, April 14, 2014

The Crossroads of Pride

Flickr - Laenulfean - crossroadsI've been sitting at the crossroads of Nebuchadnezzar, the Pharaoh and the Pharisee.

Pharaoh came to me from "Exodus," one of the books we're reviewing (coming up soon) from Pryor Convictions Media.  My 5 year old daughter and I are using it for homeschool Bible curriculum this term.  Nebuchadnezzar has been around for about a month as our little church is reading through Daniel together.  And we read the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in morning devos where we've been focused on prayer. 

So what do you get if distill these three personalities?


Pharaoh's pride forced him to challenge God again and again.  God determined to show  his ascendency over the gods of Egypt and Pharaoh does not want to see.  He begins by having his magicians, by their secret arts, recreate the miracles that God can do.  I am not sure what good it did.  When they created serpents from their rods, Aaron's snake ate theirs.  When they turned clean water into blood they just further sullied the water supply.  They could never turn back the tide of God's power, only at first mimic what he could do.

Even though he came up the loser time and again, Pharaoh just kept on coming like some kind of crazed chihuahua (my apologies to the owners of said breed).  I have long been confused by the mystery of his hardened heart.  The Pryors had a great explanation in the book.  Instead of having a heart that melted when exposed to the heat of God's power, like butter, he had a heart that hardened when exposed to the heat of God's power, like clay in a kiln.  With every expression of God's power, with each instance that he was forced to beg Moses to turn the plague away, his pride grew.

Nebuchadnezzar, on the other hand, had a forgetful kind of pride. Unlike Pharaoh it wasn't impossible for this king to be impressed by the power of God. He praised God after Daniel interprets his first disturbing dream. However by the time that Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego refuse to worship any other God, he seems to have forgotten what he learned.  Amazed by their rescue, he is moved again to acknowledge the power of God.  Yet once again his pride grows to such an extent that the angels chastise him through the dream of the stump. Though warned a year later, he stands in the royal palace and congratulates himself on the awesome empire he has built.  That act of overweening pride leaves him eating grass like an animal.  His heart isn't hard.  He can be touched by the power of God briefly, however any moment of inattention sends him back to his default: arrogance.

The Pharisee's story is different.  He doesn't position himself across from God in some kind of battle like Pharaoh, nor does he forget that there's a God in heaven to oppose him.  Rather he puts himself automatically on God's side and congratulates himself and God on him being there. Standing in the temple, eyes raised to heaven, he prays to himself (an interesting choice of words by Luke, no?) `God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.`I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' (Luke 18:11-12) His arrogance is a particularly insidious kind, a religious pride that is intrinsically blind to itself.

These 3 prideful men remind me how powerful a sin pride is.  It's not a sin we talk about much (say as opposed to the more easily identified sins of behavior: lying, theft, sexual sin etc.).  While a thief may comfort himself that his theft is justified, I doubt many pickpockets would argue that they are not in fact thieves.  How many deeply prideful people would wrinkle their brows in genuine confusion at the accusation?

What powerful man doesn't need confidence?  He must be decisive, self-assured, a real leader.  And certainly every one of these men, 2 kings and a teacher of the law, fit these categorically.  Yet rather than being God's man in their situations they were standing opposed to him.  All those characteristics that are so appealing in a man were twisted by Satan into pride. Pride is by definition thumbing one's nose at God.

Surely its not a sin we struggle with?  I mean we couldn't look into Pharaoh's life or Nebuchadnezzar's life and find parallels to our own could we?  As women, wives, workers and moms pride doesn't rear it's ugly head, does it?  Next week we'll see.


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

No comments:

Post a Comment