Obadiah and the Problem of Pride (by Ed Mackenzie)

Written in the wake of the Babylonian exile (6th century BC), Obadiah tells of God’s judgement against Edom and prophesies the coming ‘day of the Lord’ when God will judge all nations and restore His people.

The book begins with God’s indictment against Edom’s ‘proud heart’ (v.3). Such pride led Edom to boast in its status and standing among the nations. It led it to gloat against Judah’s destruction, and even to join in the looting of Judah (vv.12-13).

 

But although it soars like an eagle, Edom will be brought low (v.4). God will bring it crashing down to earth, revealing the emptiness of its supposed wisdom and so-called understanding (v.8).

The theme of God’s judgement of the proud, found within Obadiah, appears constantly in the Bible.

In the story of the tower of Babel, for instance, God scatters the people after they seek to ‘make a name’ for themselves by building a tower to the heavens (Gen 11:1-9).

In her song of praise to God, Mary proclaims that God has ‘scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts’ (Luke 1:51), while Jesus in his later ministry declares that, ‘all who exalt themselves will be humbled’ (Matt 23:12).

theworshipcloud.com/view/images/two-men-went-to-pray by Phil Nevard

theworshipcloud.com/view/images/two-men-went-to-pray by Phil Nevard

Meditating on grace through a cross, the apostle Paul explains that ‘God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong’ (1 Cor 1:27).

But while opposing the proud, God shows compassion for the lowly and the meek.

Rather than extinguishing the flickering flame, God tends it back to life (Isa 42:3).

Rather than crushing the broken-hearted, God brings them to salvation (Psalm 34:18).

And so Jesus declares, ‘blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 5:3)

Obadiah challenges us to avoid stirring up the pride that nestles deep within our hearts. Just as pride destroyed Edom, so it has the potential to destroy us.

Obadiah – and scripture as a whole – also encourages us to explore what it means to be people of humility, resting on God for our identity and purpose. Jesus is surely the model of what such humility looks like (Phil 2:5-8).

But what do pride and humility look like when we’re online?

How can we resist pride and nurture humble spirits in this interconnected world?

[Keen readers will have noticed that the focus on pride in Obadiah was also picked up in an earlier post – http://archive.bigbible.uk/2015/07/obadiah-whats-wrong-with-pride-seeking1st. This post was written independently, but the earlier post offers for some helpful responses on pride and social media]

About Ed Mackenzie

Ed is the Discipleship Development Officer for the Methodist Church, and has previously worked as a lecturer at Birmingham Christian College and as an Associate Leader of B1 Church. He has a PhD in New Testament studies and lives in Derbyshire with his wife and two sons.