by Steven Chan
17 October 2010
In Prov 16:18, the Bible warns that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Many have fallen because of their pride. We must watch out for ourselves lest we fall into the same condition unbeknownst to ourselves.
Dan 4:29-31 records the account of the fall of the mighty King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon: “At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; the kingdom is departed from thee.”
It matters not whether one is a Jew or a non-Jew, a member of God’s chosen people or not, a believer in God or not, the warning of the Scriptures are equally applicable and all men are amenable to God’s law. It matters not that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was not a Jew and an unbeliever; he was still subject to God’s law and teachings. God is sovereign over all men regardless of whether they acknowledge Him or otherwise. Indeed the Scriptures record thus of the king in Dan 4:33: “The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.”
In 2 Chron 26, the Bible provides us with another account – this time concerning King Uzziah of Judah of whom it was said that he “did what was right in the sight of the LORD”, “he sought God” (2 Chron 26:5) and “as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper” (2 Chron 26:4-5). He became “exceedingly strong” (2 Chron 26:8-15) both militarily and economically – and “so his fame spread far and wide, for he was marvellously helped till he became strong” (2 Chron 26:15). King Uzziah was a God-fearing man and was blessed abundantly by God in all his undertakings.
Then tragedy struck! “But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.” (2 Chron 26:16)
Concerned brethren of his “withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God.” (2 Chron 26:18)
We are much encouraged by the concern and courage of the priests (Azariah and eighty brave priests) to withstand the powerful king so that he would not sin against the Lord. Would we today have the same concern and courage to do the same for any one who acts in a manner that contravenes the law of God because of his pride? Unfortunately, as is shown in this account, the nature of pride is such that it resides deep in the heart of a man and is difficult to correct or be rebuked by others unless it is the case that the man is willing to humble himself.
The Bible observed thus: “Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests…” (2 Chron 26:19). In response to those who would seek to correct the man of pride, oftentimes, the man becomes angry or furious with those who seek to help them out of their sinful action. Such was the case with King Uzziah as was also the case with Cain when his sacrifice was rejected by God (Gen 4:5-7). Is this the case with some of those we know of? Their response at being corrected resulting in outburst of anger and oftentimes seeking to be excused as “righteous anger’ (Eph 4:26, 31; Mark 3:5).
In 2 Chron 26:19-21, we read of the severe consequence that befell the man who had started well but perhaps unwittingly permitted his pride to gain control over him so that he could not or would not be corrected by others: “And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him. King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death.”
The Bible says in 2 Chron 26:16 that “when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God”. No wonder Paul warned in I Cor 10:12: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
The Bible warns us to be ever vigilant against the sin of pride which may result from our outstanding achievements, accomplishments or even from our so-called knowledge: “Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth. If any man thinketh that he knoweth anything, he knoweth not yet as he ought to know” (I Cor 8:1, 2); “that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other. For who maketh thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? But if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor 4:6, 7). Some are filled with pride that they have discovered certain insights or enlightenment of God’s word and act as if they have not received such from others – they claim that it was all due to their own smartness and intelligence; the Bible asks rhetorically: “For who maketh thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? But if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?”
Oh, the folly of pride! We all learn from one another; there’s nothing wrong with learning from American missionaries or British Bible teachers or Australian teachers or Asian teachers – so long as they teach in accordance with God’s revealed word – indeed 2 Tim 2:2 lays out the process by which the truth will be passed on – “from faithful men who shall be able to teach others also”. However, we ought to be careful when we learn from those whom we know are unfaithful to the truth as regards many basic teachings of the Bible such as the necessity of baptism for salvation, the inspiration of the Bible and how the Bible authorizes – the latter is pertinent because many claim to have the Bible as their authority but in reality they reject the Bible in favor of their own ideas and preferences (Matt 15:3, 8, 9). That’s why we need to be extra careful when we are reading the writings of those from the denominations because we ought to know that their basic premises as regards how God authorizes are flawed – which means that their reasoning and conclusions could well be flawed too.
The apostle Paul understood why God had allowed a thorn in his flesh: “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure” (2 Cor 12:7). It was to prevent him from being puffed up or be exalted to such dizzying heights that he falls into the same problem as the two Kings, Nebuchadnezzar and Uzziah, as well as that of many others – and disregard God’s revealed will.
Brethren, let us heed the warning of the Scriptures that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” and may we remember the account of King Uzziah that “when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God”. This is a warning that should be heeded by everyone. Indeed, “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”