What did pride cost Arnold Palmer on the final hole of the 1961 Masters tournament? “I had a one-stroke lead and had just hit a very satisfying tee shot” he recalls, “I felt I was in pretty good shape. As I approached my ball, I saw an old friend standing at the edge of the gallery. He motioned me over, stuck out his hand and said, ‘Congratulations.’ I took his hand and shook it, but as soon as I did, I knew I had lost my focus. On my next two shots, I hit the ball into a sand trap, then put it over the edge of the green. I missed a putt and lost the Masters. You don’t forget a mistake like that…”
Pride will bring you low, pride goes before a fall, God stands against the proud. Pride is the dandelions of our soul and requires constant awareness and attention and rooting out. The first fourteen verses of the book of Obadiah deal with the problems of pride, our sin of pride, and how God deals with it. Obadiah reveals our own hearts, where we are at with the Lord, and is a warning to us. Take the spiritual temperature of your heart today: how do you deal with pride?
Obadiah wrote about 586 BC, after the time of David and Solomon, the highest kings of Israel. The glory years were past as the kingdom was split in two, the northern kingdom was defeated by Assyria and the southern kingdom Judah was overrun and exiled in Babylon. It was now time for the Israelites to “come home” to their land, but their neighbors, the Edomites, did not help Israel return and rebuild. Edom held a position of strength and arrogance, the “king of the hill” who looked down on all those around them. Their pride had deceived them as they maintained company with strong allies and were prideful of their friends, hob-knobbing with socialites, “thumbing their noses” at passers-by and “lesser people”. They stood aloof, boasting and gloating over Israel’s demise. God was bringing judgment on the Edomites because of their sin. He will uphold His justice and glory and holiness for all the world to see. He will strike down His enemies for the sake of His name. Pride will be punished.
The attitudes of the Edomites are no different than our own hearts, at times. We can have pride and arrogance of our own hearts over others; it is sin that is rooted in the greatest sin of Satan, that he could be as great as God. We all struggle with pride at one time or another, in one form or another.
God judged the Edomites because of their sin and He will do the same to us. What is the best way to deal with pride? Get your eyes off yourself and onto Christ. We look to Christ’s examples of humility, as he washed the disciples’ feet, as he ministered “not coming to be served but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many,” as he prayed on the cross “Father forgive them.” Jesus taught His followers, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Humble yourself like a child,” and He Himself, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
With Christ as our model and His power at work in us, we strive to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than ourselves, looking not
only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. Jesus bore our sins on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He has freed us from our sins of pride by His blood; now we walk in a manner worthy of the gospel to which He called us.
JC Ryle, an English pastor of the 1800’s, wrote to His church, “Let me counsel every true servant of Christ to examine his own heart frequently and carefully as to his state before God. This is a practice which is useful at all times: it is specially desirable at the present day. We ought to watch our hearts with double watchfulness. We ought to give more time to meditation, self- examination, and reflection. It is a hurrying, bustling age; if we would be kept from falling, we must make time for being frequently alone with God.” Examine your heart for the sin of pride and let the Lord perform some “heart surgery” this season.