Pride’s Reality Check
Sermon Text: Amos 6:8-14
Sermon Theme: We ought to always remember that pride is actually opposition to the LORD Himself.
How dreadful, how miserable, is the case of those whose eternal ruin the Lord himself has sworn; for he can execute his purpose, and none can alter it! Those hearts are wretchedly hardened that will not be brought to mention God’s name, and to worship him, when the hand of God is gone out against them, when sickness and death are in their families. Those that will not be tilled as fields, shall be abandoned as rocks. When our services of God are soured with sin, his providences will justly be made bitter to us. Men should take warning not to harden their hearts, for those who walk in pride, God will destroy.
[From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary]
- Have you ever thought about why pride sometimes directs your actions and stirs God’s hatred? Why is pride a sin? “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverb 16:18). There are many other biblical warnings about the sin of pride. But why is pride so strongly warned against? Is it always a sin to feel proud of something you have accomplished? It is very important to understand what precisely is the pride that God hates (Proverb 8:13). While God is absolutely sovereign, and while nothing happens outside of His providence, our efforts, our willingness to be used of Him, do play a role in what God chooses to accomplish through whom. For example, let us look at the prideful actions of Satan: Despite the fact that God had created Satan, and despite the fact that it was God who gave Satan the power and beauty he possessed, Satan wanted the glory and credit for himself. Satan did not want to worship God in response to the gifts God had given him. Instead, Satan wanted to be worshipped. That is the sin of pride. Sinful pride is not recognizing that only God is worthy of worship because only God is able to accomplish things entirely in and of Himself. Only God is holy, beautiful, glorious, and powerful in and of Himself. Everything and everyone else rely on God. The most we are is evidence of the amazing creative power of God. “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Everything we have, we have received from God. Therefore, we should not act as if we have accomplished anything on our own. It is not wrong to feel good about something you have accomplished as long as you recognize and admit that you could not have accomplished it apart from God.
- Can we find delight in the Lord when He ends our prideful arrogance through humiliation? While pride sets us on an ill-fated course, the opposite of pride — humility — leads to honor. Psalm 10:4 explains that the proud are so consumed with themselves that their thoughts are far from God: “In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” This kind of haughty pride is the opposite of the spirit of humility that God seeks: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). The “poor in spirit” are those who recognize their utter spiritual bankruptcy and their inability to come to God aside from His divine grace. The proud, on the other hand, are so blinded by their pride that they think they have no need of God or that God should accept them as they are because they deserve His acceptance. For pride refers to an arrogant attitude that manifests itself as independence from God and contrasts strikingly with humility. Such arrogance is hazardous to our well-being and success in life because it keeps us from fearing the Lord. By contrast, “Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life” (Proverb 22:4). To fear the Lord and thus avoid the pride that goes before a fall is to respect, reverence, and submit to Him in every area of life. When we fear the Lord, we acknowledge our desperate need for God because He is infinitely wiser than we are: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil” (Proverb 3:7). Unchecked pride leads to destruction; the purpose of Scripture’s warnings is to put the proud sinner back on a path that leads to honor and life. For “when pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverb 11:2). And again, “Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor” (Proverb 29:23). The proud person pursues his or her own way, but the humble one obeys God’s Word. Delighting in the Lord and humbly following His commands makes us sure-footed so that we will not slip or stagger: “The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him” (Psalm 37:23). Humility and fear of the Lord establish us securely on God’s path, where we will not stumble or fall (Proverb 3:26; Psalm 17:5; Psalm 119:133). As D. L. Moody used to pray, “Lord, make me humble, but don’t let me know it.”
- Suppose you are a Christian who is at ease in Zion. What follows from the pride that has made you complacent? You become irresponsible and insensitive, not only in regard to the needy but also where your own family, neighbors, church, city, or government is concerned. There is work to be done, much work. Work never ceases. But you have opted out because it is much easier to enjoy your abundance, isolated from the very real problems around you, than to sacrifice your ease for the good of others. When problems are not dealt with, when responsible and able people withdraw, evil enters in and affects everyone, good and bad alike. Moreover, it accumulates with the passing of time. The irresponsibility is not only seen in this present generation but to our children and their children with the cardinal defect of the days of luxury and lolling: failure to care for the decline of the state and the broken lives of its people; the wanting to disassociate themselves from human need. So, we come to the point where we know that God has disassociated Himself from our need with such a deep alienation that it is no longer permissible even to use His name in an oath in an extreme disaster.
- Why should man tremble for his life when he stands before God? “I abhor the pride of Jacob, and hate his palaces; therefore, I will deliver up the city and all that is in it” (Amos 6:8). This is a violent oath. The Lord not only said this, but He also swore by Himself to fulfill it. The point of swearing “by” something is to add the note of assurance to the oath. It must be something of great intrinsic weight and urgency to suggest that the very nature of God Himself must be invoked to support it. But Amos does not simply say that the Lord has sworn “by himself” (cf. Isaiah 45:23), but by His holiness. God puts forth His holiness as the guarantee of His truthfulness. The word holiness indicates God’s absolute moral perfection, a characteristic that makes Him by nature unable to tell a lie. But there is holiness and holiness. There is the sort of god whose “holiness,” that is, his uniqueness as god, is served by the dedication of girls to prostitution (Genesis 38:21) and there is the sort of God who repudiates such worship and service as an “abomination” (cf. Deuteronomy 23:17-18). But there is a holiness that is distinguish from all others wherein the faith of Israel gave a moral content to the term. The place where the Lord dwelt in isolation was called “the holy of holies” (e.g. Exodus 26:33-34), literally, “the holiness of holinesses.” But in the tabernacle and temple theology the isolation of the Lord was a product of His moral holiness: the distinctive furnishing of “the holiness of holinesses” was the tablets of the moral law, the perfect code for holy being and holy living, and the mercy seat where was sprinkled the blood which reconciled the holy One to sinners and constituted them as His redeemed. This distinctive moral holiness of the God of Israel pervades the Old Testament. So, “What makes man tremble,” says Rowley, “is not the consciousness of his humanity in the presence of divine power, but the consciousness of his sin in the presence of moral purity.” This was Adam’s experience: he had no fear before his God until he became a sinner (Genesis 3:8). Only then did he hide. The testimony of Isaiah comprehends all that the Old Testament has to say on this point. The “Holy, Holy, Holy” of the seraphim (Isaiah 6:3) is most fittingly understood to mean that the Lord is “completely and utterly holy” ― holy not only describes the totality of His nature but also the holiness He possesses is the perfection of Holiness. Hence, His holiness makes the Lord what He is (God) and also what He distinctively is (the God of utter moral perfection). In both these ways, and in every way, it is His inmost, utmost and uppermost being. It is what makes Him uniquely distinct from man, and what marks Him out from all other claimants to be God. But we are bound to ask what there is in Amos 6 which specially affronts Him as the Holy One, the divine One who in the totality of His nature is unutterably and perfectly moral? A society and a religion organized on the basis of human self-pleasing. When we discover that our thoughts are not His, nor His ways ours, then let us take note and be ready to reform our thoughts and our ways of thinking, our values and our canons of appraisal. Where it is natural to scoff or turn complacently aside, we need to prod ourselves into repentance and bow before the Lord our God. When human self-sufficiency takes the stage, the Lord God vents a great oath for its destruction.
- Are you awake to the dangers about you? This is the point of the entire Book of Amos which speaks of judgment and its purpose to awaken people. In Amos 6:12, two foolish questions are asked: “Do horses run on rocks? Or does one plow them with oxen?” Here, Amos is saying, “You do not operate irrationally when you go out riding or when you set out to plow the fields to plant grain. You’re not foolish then. Why be foolish now? Wake up to the fact that sin brings judgment, and that prosperity is not your attainment but is rather the blessing of the Lord.” And secondly, you can turn from sin, perhaps even from some of those riches that have a hold on you. Even more, you must turn from sin, for God commands it. It is not the preacher who calls for justice. It is God. It is not the preacher who calls for the doing of righteousness on the earth. It is God. Is there sin in your life? If so, it is holding you back. It is making you complacent. Turn away from it. God will help you. Know that you cannot sin and serve God simultaneously. For sin is such a mysterious force let loose in the world, according to the Scriptures. Despite the story of sin’s beginning in Genesis 3, that chapter never really explains why men and women turn their backs on God and paradise, any more than the New Testament explains why we repeatedly reject the abundant and eternal life offered us in Jesus Christ. Rationally considered, sin is senseless, a dark corruption defying explanation, a festering rejection of all logic and order.
- Amos brings a message of the fearful solemnity of religious error. Their particular error was to isolate the main component within the true religion which had been revealed to them: sincerity. Why should we suppose that these people were less than sincere in their seeking of God at the shrines? But it was a sincerity out of step with the truth about God; it was sincere belief in a God of their own devising. Israel was oblivious to the danger they were in. But the Lord reminds Israel that they are dealing with the power who controls all power in the universe. He is Lord of all. God reminds Israel that they are dealing with the Lord of the exodus who created them as a nation, delivered them from slavery, and established a covenant with them. The Lord of Hosts reminds a people who are proud of their military power and accomplishments that he controls the armies of Israel and the armies of heaven. No army will dare to attack his forces. This all-powerful, all-controlling God is angry! He is repulsed by Israel’s arrogant pride. He detests the military fortresses or citadels that symbolize Israel’s military might and make them think their city and country are invincible. Israel thinks they will never again surrender to an enemy. But God says you do not own or control the city. You do not decide when to surrender. I control the city. I will surrender it to whomever I choose. I am angry at you and have surrendered your city to the enemy — get in line for exile. God’s surrender for Israel will not be partial. A house has ten men seeking refuge from the enemy (ten men constituted the smallest military unit). All ten will die. None will escape. God has brought total judgment. He has proved his awesome power and demonstrated how fierce is his hatred of Israel’s pride. In such a situation, no one dare speak the divine name, lest he return for another round of destruction. Divine judgment plays no favorites. God has issued the command to destroy and exile. No one will escape. Whether one’s house is large or small, it will soon be buried by rubble.
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