Pride, a Groundless Thing

Sound Words graphicLet’s be frank: the reason humility is so elusive and pride so natural is that we think we have so much about which to be proud. We roll our eyes at the hickish (and irreverent) crooner who complains that “it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.” Yet, his self-estimation is very like our own. The essence of every person’s sin nature is a self-love that strives for the exaltation, freedom, and pleasure we believe we deserve. Of course, such inborn idolatry has no grounding in reality. We have no reason to be proud, as Isaiah 6 vividly demonstrates.

God’s infinite majesty is humbling.
Isaiah 6 begins with a reminder of how finite even the greatest of men are: “In the year that King Uzziah died.” Uzziah had enjoyed a 52-year reign! Yet, he succumbed to death like all others before and after him.

The passage immediately contrasts Uzziah’s death with the eternal and infinite majesty of King Jesus (for we learn in John 12:41 that Isaiah saw Him!). The names used of God in Isaiah 6 highlight His majesty—He is “the Lord” (adonai, v. 1), “Jehovah of Hosts” (the Commander in Chief, if you will, vv. 3, 5), and “the King” (v. 5). Furthermore, His royal train (much like the long train on a bride’s gown) flooded the entire Temple
(v. 1)! God’s majesty and our finiteness should humble us.

God’s infinite holiness is humbling.
King Jesus is served in Isaiah 6 by royal attendants. Seraphim offer Him constant and humble praise. They cry that He is holy—entirely “other,” separated from everything, without rival (v. 3). They demonstrate this point by humbly covering their eyes, lest they look on God, and their feet, lest they offend Him (v. 2). What is so fascinating about their abject humility is this: they are sinless! They are humbled not because they are wicked, but because they are creatures, as are we. God’s holiness and our creatureliness should humble us.

God’s infinite purity is humbling.
Finally, God is contrasted with Isaiah himself. Upon seeing a glimpse of God, Isaiah fell prostrate and confessed the sinfulness of his heart and his people (v. 5). What he did not do was side with God in an “us vs. those sinners” spirit. Though undoubtedly among the godliest men of his day, Isaiah rightly associated himself not with God, but with every other sinner in the world. He was broken by God’s unimaginable purity and his own wickedness. God’s purity and our sinfulness should humble us.

Are we proud? Absolutely, but not because we have any real cause. In the words of Spurgeon, pride is “a groundless thing…a mindless thing…the maddest thing that can exist” (Park Street Pulpit, No. 97). Pride is delusional, and only gazing on our infinitely majestic, holy, and pure God will cure us of it.

February 2009

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