Put Pride in its Place

The Minor Prophets  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Get rid of the pride in your heart, it is God who is in control.


When confidence fails

I still remember the time I first played the piano in Church. I was about 16. I’d been playing the piano since I was about 8 years old. I’d been going through the grades and was achieving good results.
Now I was the sort of kid that more or less floated through life. I didn’t get too bothered by much, and I had the confidence to try things even if it put me in front of other people.
And so, when a day came when the church I was attending didn’t have a piano player, I agreed without much thought when they asked me.
I was given a few songs to practice, and so I went home and thought - this doesn’t look too hard, I reckon I can do this.
I worked through each song - and so when Sunday came, I was feeling pretty confident. What could possibly go wrong.
I was actually feeling really good about the whole thing, right up to the point when the service leader stood in front of the microphone, ready to announce the first song.
I’m not sure what happened in that moment, but suddenly it was like something hit me. Nerves took over. My body became stiff. I fumbled my way through the introduction of the first song and people started singing. Except my fingers were tripping over themselves.
I’ve heard some pretty bad musical performances - and this one was up there with the worst of them. After making a complete meal of the first song, the subsequent songs were even worse. I barely managed a single finger.
As Proverbs 16:18 reminds us: Pride comes before a fall.
It was a lesson I learnt that day, and to be honest, a lesson that I’ve needed to relearn many times because I’ve made many similar mistakes. When pride takes over - things have a habit of taking a dive very quickly.
Confidence is something that can be good - but it depends on where it is placed. In the case of music - confidence should be placed in hard work and lots and lots of practice, not some misplaced feeling about your natural skills.
But there is a higher level to think about this still. Even our hard work can let us down.
Let’s think more broadly about where we might have confidence.
You see, in life, whether its a task we’re trying to achieve, or an outcome where hoping will happen, we tend to gain confidence when sufficient factors are in place that will point to a good outcome. So depending on what it is that we’re hoping for, but generally thinking we might consider things like, experience, financial backing, support from others, the abilities of those involved.
And when all things point in the right direction, we become confident that our desired outcome will actually happen.
Let me give a recent example - the Spring Fair that we ran a week ago. I think we can all agree it was a great event - but should we have been confident that we were able to pull it off?
Let’s see, we’ve got quite a few capable people here and an eagerness to work, so that was a good start. We’ve got a good property for this sort of thing. There was evidence that it was meeting one of the things that our community wanted.
So perhaps you could answer that yes, we did have a right to be confident.
And to a degree, it is good and proper to put this sort of thinking into an event - we are called to be wise in the way we do things.
However, there is a problem if our confidence is based too much on our own ability. That is that there are way too many factors that are completely out of our hands.
It wouldn’t have taken too many factors to go against us, and the day would have looked very different.
Now, don’t get me wrong… God never promised us that the Spring Fair of 2022 would be great, but the fact that it did is a great testament to God’s wonderful provision. Even where some of our skills might have contributed, the reality is even this is testament to a God who gifts us in ways that make things work.

Link to Obadiah

This morning, as we take a look at Obadiah, I want to look at the hideous factor that creeps up on us without us even realising - our pride.
You see, what pride does, it takes what God has given us, but forgets that it came from God, and then parades around as if we are in total control.
What we’re going to find in Obadiah - is a message to a group of people that had become puffed up because a few circumstances had gone their way. God is going to tell them that this pride that they have is misguided.
And so what I’m going to do, is after exploring the situation with Obadiah, consider how this same issue of pride can become an issue with us.


So what do we know about Obadiah?
Well, it’s the shortest of all the books in the Old Testament - this ones only one chapter long.
The first verse simply states that it is a vision of Obadiah, but doesn’t tell us anything more about who Obadiah is.
The name itself means “servant of the Lord”, but it was actually quite a popular name during the time. We do meet an Obadiah in 1 Kings - he was the steward of King Ahab during the time of Elijah - but we can fairly confidently rule out this being the Obadiah of the prophecy - mostly on account of the fact of when it was written.
Which brings me to the point of when it was written.
Now, unlike many of the other prophecies, we’re not specifically told when this was written, but unlike Joel which also had the same problem, we can be more confident of our guess based on the contents of what he prophesies about.
So, on the screen we have the timeline that I’ve used throughout this series. The point I want you to take particular note of this time is the fall of the Southern Kingdom around the year 586 BC.
Why is that significant? Well, throughout the prophesy, you may notice that there are quite a few references to Judah’s fall. In verses 12 to 14, we get no less than 6 references to the day of disaster or something similar.
We can put this together without too much trouble. Judah has fallen.
And for reasons that I’ll get to shortly, we know that we’re within a few decades of this event.


Okay, so we’ve got Obadiah up on our timeline now.
So what do we find when we actually read it?
Interestingly, we find the only one of the minor prophets that directs their message entirely to one foreign nation. Many of the other prophets, including Amos that we looked at last week, will add words of judgement to other nations, but in this book, it all goes in one direction.
And the lucky nation is… Edom.
So what do we know about Edom?
It was a nation that bordered Judah more or less to the South-East.
It was a nation that had quite a rocky relationship with Judah. But there was a kind of closeness based on their history.
You see, Edom is related to Judah.

Edom’s History

Let’s do a quick history lesson.
Edom traces their ancestry back to Esau who you might recall was the brother of Jacob - that’s the Jacob that had twelve son which became the twelve tribes of Israel.
In fact, Jacob and Esau were twins. You can read the history of this pair starting at Genesis 25.
Now Esau was the oldest, and by rights, he was the one that the bulk of the blessings should have moved to.
But something interesting happens… and it happens over a bowl of stew.
Jacob’s cooking some stew. Esau comes in feeling famished. And foolishly, Esau agrees to a bowl of stew in exchange for his birthright. I don’t think Esau realised quite what he did - but oath’s are powerful things, and this one was powerfully foolish.
The next part of the story comes in Genesis 27 - and here we find Jacob being rather crafty, which raises some interesting points - but points we’ll have to leave for another day.
You see, Isaac, their father, was old and was about to pass on his blessing - the blessing he had passed on to him from his father Abraham.
He asked his son Esau to go and prepare a meal - but long story short, Jacob beat him to it, and pretending to be Esau, he received the blessing.
As you might expect, Esau was not too happy about this situation, which, well let’s face it, is really the start of the rocky relationship these two have. A rocky relationship which continued when both of them become significant nations in their own right.
While the descendants of Jacob later go to Egypt and become shaped to be the people of God - the descendants of Esau stay in the region of Canaan with all of the influences of the other nations.
And so when Israel come back to the promised land - one of the foreign nations already there is Edom - a nation which is treated a bit different to the others.
Well, time won’t allow a full look at the history between these nations, so let’s jump to a short time before Obadiah’s message. In fact, if we recall last week when we looked at Amos, you might remember that the first chapter and a half was judgements on the surrounding nations, and included in this was a judgement on Edom.
However, what we actually find is that while Edom does receive some judgement at this time, when we eventually get to the time of Judah falling, Edom is still standing.
The Babylonians had come in and completely annhilated Judah and taken all but the poor off to captivity, but Edom remained.

Edom’s Judgement

Which brings us to the contents of the prophecy.
And based on the words of Obadiah, what becomes quite clear is that Edom is taking quite a bit of pride in the fact that they’ve outlived their brother nation, Judah.
Look at verse 3 - there’s pride in their heart. In verse 3, that pride is being placed on where they are. It talks about them living in the clefts of the rocks and having a home on the heights. You see, there was a certain strategic advantage to where they are.
And here we start to see the folly of the pride we so often have.
We do well, and we think it’s because we’re someone better than others. The problem being, it’s not because we’re better, it’s only our circumstances are different, circumstances that have very little to do with how good or otherwise we might be.
You see, Edom thought they were pretty good. Look at us in our heights. Who can take us down? We’re soaring like eagles.
What does God say? Maybe you are soaring like eagles - but that won’t stop God bringing you down.

Edom’s contempt

But it wasn’t just there pride that is in focus. It was their complete contempt for the situation.
You see, from verse 11, we start to see what Edom is doing while Judah is being ransacked.
It starts kind of bad - and gets worse.
In verse 11, they are just standing aloof while Jerusalem is ransacked.
In verse 12 however, we start to see them rejoicing. Almost as if the victory was there’s (and remember, the result of the ransacking had nothing to do with them).
In verse 13 is get worse however. With the ransack complete, the Edomites can now just waltz on in and take what they want.
Thinking that they are somehow superior, they now think they can do what they want.
But God says ‘no’.
You may be acting superior now - but this is not going to last.

What happens to Edom

Which brings us to the next part of our history lesson - what actually happens to Edom.
You see, they do last longer than Judah, but not by much. Judah was taken into captivity in 586 BC.
What the history books tell us is that in the year 552BC, Bablyon invades Edom, captures is, and makes it part of their territory.
Interestingly, they aren’t completely annihilated at this point. But their history is an interesting one.
They never again have their sovereignty. Similar to Judah, they are dominated by the successive world powers, including Persia and then Greece. But they then become known as Idumea, which becomes Jewish in this slightly weird way. Its from here that Herod comes - the one that is ruling the area when Jesus is born.
The bottom line however, is that the pride of Edom is brought low. Their feeling of superiority was short lived. God brought them down.


So what do we learn from all of this?
Well, it’s not hard to think of situations where we are in a position like Edom.
A position where we start to feel superior.
And there are lots of reason why we can gain that superior feeling. It might be because of a particular skill we have. It might be because of a set of circumstances that has put you in an enviable position.
And we can always form an argument for why it was our clever work that got us to that position.
But we’re being Edom. We’re taking pride in our high position. We’re showing contempt for a situation which really has very little to do with ourselves.
It is so easy to do it as a church. One church looks at another. We can see how we must be superior to that other church.
Even when churches are bigger than us, all we need to do is wait till they stumble and say - there, you see, we are better than them.
We can do it with our knowledge as well. We gain an insight into the Bible. We then look at those inferior Christians - those that don’t understand properly. We’re right. They’re wrong. We’re better then them.
It is all so foolish.
Not only is it foolish - it’s also destructive.
It’s the type of thinking that drives wedges right through the middle of the Body of Christ.
So often, we do it with the best of intentions. We think, I’m in the better position, so I will help my weaker brother or sister.
What we’ve failed to see, is that your thinly veiled attempt to help someone is actually the destructive element of pride that has crept in and started causing division.
So what should we be doing?
Well, the opposite of pride is humility - and this must be key.
it is with a healthy dose of humility that we begin to uncover where we mislabeled the destructive element of pride with this idea that we’re just being helpful.
It can be useful that when you’re about to give someone some sort of advice - put it through a bit of a mental filter first.
Is it worth saying? Do you have the right sort of relationship for the advice you’re about to give? Are you speaking with a level of humility, recognising that you’re perspective is limited?
Pride can be so blinding, and without a deliberate attempt to counteract it, we can so often be so unaware of its presence.

God’s Kingdom

The very last line of this prophecy is really the perspective that we need.
That last line says: “And the kingdom will be the Lord’s”
You see, it is in recognising that all of this belongs to God, that we actually will start to make sense of it all.
All knowledge belongs to God. All abilities have come from him. All possessions have come from God. He might have given you this knowledge, or ability or possessions… you have essentially become a steward of God’s provisions - but it is in understanding their origin that we realise that this is not about us.
This is God’s kingdom.
When we realise this, we’ll realise that when we’re left standing after our neighbour falls, it’s not because we’re superior. This has more to do with what God is doing.
When we let humility take the drivers seat instead, what we see is God doing incredible things. At times this might mean we will share our insights or our abilities with others, but we’ll do so in a way that is building others up rather than tearing them down.


Pride is so pervasive that we don’t even see it.
And so my plea with you this morning is to not think this message is for that person over there who has a problem with pride. Rather, take the time to see where the pride has taken a hold in your own life.
Because I can almost guarantee that to some degree, this is a problem that you need to deal with - I know I certainly do.
You might not have my problem where you think you can conquer the world of the piano without the hard work behind it - it’s more likely that it’s going to show itself in far more subtle way. But take the time to expose it for what it is - and instead realise that this is God’s kingdom - and you are a servant of the Lord.
So let me pray...
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