Corrie Ten Boom used to tell the story of a proud woodpecker tapping away at a dead tree. As he pecked, the sky turned black and thunder began to roll. Undaunted, the woodpecker went on working. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck the old tree, splintering it into thousands of pieces. Startled, but unhurt, the haughty bird flew off, screeching to his feathered friends, “Hey, everyone, look what I did! Look what I did!”
Obadiah is a book about pride. Specifically, it is a prophecy of judgement against the nation of Edom because of its arrogance. “The 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?’ 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” (vv. 3–4). Like the haughty woodpecker, the Edomites claimed to have far more power than they actually had. God would send a proverbial bolt of lightning to shatter them into a thousand pieces and thereby humble them.
While these words were written to Edom three thousand years ago, they ring as true in our day as they did then. We struggle with pride as much as Edom did. We claim for ourselves far more power and influence than we really possess. We should take Obadiah’s warning to heart.
God hates pride because it strips him of the glory and honour that he alone deserves. Edom was a classic example of a proud people, and God judged them for it. Self-exalting pride is sin, regardless of what pop psychologists and motivational speakers tell you. Recognising God’s hatred for pride, we need to allow ourselves to be brought back to earth.
How do we combat arrogance? Here are five considerations to help you as you seek to overcome pride and pursue humility in your life.
First, work hard at directing glory to God for what you have and what you accomplish. Edom lived in the rock fortress of Petra, which it believed was impenetrable. The Edomites rested in their own strength and believed that they could never be defeated. They failed to give Yahweh the glory that was his due. They would soon find out that their strength was vastly overestimated.
Too often, we congratulate ourselves for our own strengths when we should do all we can to direct the glory to God.
Second, and related to the above, work hard to recognise God’s good gifts to you. The Edomites rested in their rocky surroundings, believing that they were secure because they were geographically well placed. They failed to recognise that their security was Yahweh’s good gift to them. They would soon learn that he could strip away everything that he gave them.
Too often, we think that we have earned everything we have in this life that brings us security. This is arrogance. We must combat this arrogance by deliberately and intentionally thanking God for his gifts to us.
Third, take care to recognise God’s providence in your life. So secure was Edom in its placement in the rock fortress that the Edomites believed they dwelt among the stars (v. 3). They believed that they had earned this favourable position, failing to recognise that they were where they were only by Yahweh’s kind providence.
We must learn to recognise and acknowledge God’s kind providence in our lives. If we think that we have what we have because we have earned it ourselves, we fall prey to the sort of pride that God saw in, and despised, in Edom. And when we give into such pride, we should not expect God’s hand of chastening to be far behind.
Fourth, look for opportunities to actively serve others. In its pride, Edom failed to serve Israel when God gave it opportunity to do so. Instead, the Edomites “stood aloof” as God’s people were carried away captive (vv. 10–14). God rebuked them for not helping where he gave them opportunity to help.
Pride has a way of turning us inward. Rather than focusing only on our own needs and desires, we should learn to focus outward and thereby combat the arrogance that leads to a certain downfall.
Fifth, learn to define true greatness. Edom boasted of living among the stars and asked, “Who will bring me down to the ground?” (v. 3). They believed that their military might earned them greatness. They needed to learn that greatness in God’s eyes looks radically different from greatness in the world’s eyes.
Jesus said that those who will be great in his kingdom must be servants of all (Mark 10:42–44). Learn to be a servant and trust God to exalt you in due time.
As you reflect on Obadiah this morning, ask God to deliver you from the sin of prideful arrogance and to help you to pursue true humility, which will force you to rest in Christ’s greatness rather than your own.