Monday, July 9, 2007

The following are excerpts of a sermon given recently at Calvary Road Baptist Church by youth pastor Jason Rhodenhizer.

No doubt, we all face the battle of finding the balance between our strengths and weaknesses. We all know that an overemphasis on weaknesses produces low self-esteem, but an overemphasis on strengths has the tendency to produce pride.

Pride is one of those subtle, destructive character traits. We all know pride. We all deal with it on multiple levels. Proverbs 11:2 promises: When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom. How do I determine when I have crossed the boundary between confidence and pride?

In the book of Obadiah, we read the final chapter of a battle that has raged for centuries. It’s the battle between the families of the twin grandsons of Abraham, the patriarch of the nation of Israel. God acknowledges throughout the Bible that He hates the one, Esau, and loves the other, Jacob. How can this be? God is supposed to be a God of love. The reality is that God never chose to hate Esau; He hated the actions of the nation Edom that Esau fathered. In direct proportion, God loved the actions of the nation Israel that Jacob fathered. With little research, it’s easy to determine that at the heart of the nation of Edom is unbalanced confidence or pride.

In the opening verses of Obadiah, the lone preacher pronounces the state of pride in which the nation of Edom finds itself. Interestingly enough, the condition is clarified through the consequences it is to suffer. Allow me a few moments to point out three areas that became obvious markers of pride in Edom. As you read these warning signs, try to imagine yourself in the place of this nation. Is it possible that you suffer from the consequences of pride?

Warning No. 1: Isolation. Obadiah Verse 3 says, “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; you who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ ”

Interesting note: It wasn’t Edom’s strength that made other nations fear them; it was their absence and the mystery that surrounded them. They were simply removed from the rest of society. They had built this impenetrable fortress high in the mountains and were convinced that no one could get through to them. The reality is that no one needed to get near to them.

Pride will keep us in a position in which we don’t feel it necessary to open ourselves up to others. We remove interaction. Your pride, in part, can be judged according to how many people desire to interact with you. Exposure will always prompt growth.

Warning No. 2: Contention. Obadiah Verse 7 says, “All the men in your confederacy shall force you to the border; the men at peace with you shall deceive you and prevail against you. Those who eat your bread shall lay a trap for you. No one is aware of it.”

Often closely related to isolation is contention. Do you sense a lack of peace around you? Have you ever noticed that people are often argumentative, secretive and deceptive around you? Contention is often the byproduct of pride. The nation of Edom was warned that even those in close relationship to them would ensnare them. You expect an enemy to turn on you but never your friends. Edom could not even trust their allies.

When honesty and trust are replaced with self-gratification, contention rises. Your closest relationships begin to turn on you. Obadiah emphasized this by “the people who eat your bread.” The very people in closest relationship to you will eventually attack you.

Warning No. 3: Arrogance. Obadiah Verse 8 says, “Will I not in that day,” says the Lord, “even destroy the wise men from Edom, and understanding from the mountains of Esau?”

Please understand that the Edomites were not simple mountain men. In fact, Eliphaz the Temanite was one of the individuals that went to counsel Job during his distress. Teman, most likely, was a northern tribe of Esau. The Edomites had used the blessing of wisdom to protect themselves from surrounding armies. They used wisdom to ally themselves with the powerful nations of the day. But with wisdom, God expects us to have understanding. Understanding is the ability to properly invest wisdom in others and gain additional wisdom. Instead, their wisdom became arrogance in the form of an untouchable attitude.

The Edomites allowed their blessings to become their curses. The end result of the nation is found in Obadiah Verse 9, “Then your mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, to the end that everyone from the mountains of Esau may be cut off by slaughter.” Confidence out of balance becomes pride which is crushed into shame.

Are you finding yourself in a similar circumstance today? Consider the importance of repairing your character. May you be changed, from this point on.

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