What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
What is pride, the subtle yet powerful influence that most commentators believe is the father of all other sins? Hebrew, Greek, and English share the sense of the word's basic meaning: to be lifted up; to have an undue sense of one's importance or superiority.
Pride motivates us to exaggerate the value of our thoughts. It causes us to elevate our opinions and raises the importance of the fulfillment of what we perceive as our needs even above God's and, of course, decidedly higher than our fellowman's.
To be even-handed, the Bible shows that there is also a narrow, positive application of the word, and thus, depending on the context, it can be translated as "dignity" or "glory." For instance, Proverbs 16:31 reads, "The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness." This verse provides us with a slender sliver of insight that there is a natural pride to which God gives His approval. However, He qualifies it with "if it is found in the way of righteousness." Righteousness is the very thing pride sets itself to resist, making achieving a proper sense of pride more difficult. With God's own Word describing man at his best state being "altogether vanity" (Psalm 39:5 KJV), it certainly makes one wonder what we really have to be proud of!
In the context of the relationship between God and man, the overwhelming number of usages of the six Hebrew words and four Greek words translated as "pride" or its synonyms are negative and damning. These words are translated into such terms as "arrogance," "lifted up," "presumptuous," "loftiness," "proud," "proudly," "exalted," "overbearing," "condescending," "haughty," "superior," "disdainful," "scornful," "boasting," "self-esteem," and "contemptuous." Not all of these synonyms are in the King James or the New King James versions, but various modern translations use them depending on the context.
Pride carries, not only a lofty self-centeredness, but also a lively competitiveness against others that easily becomes a lustful, destroying enmity. It is highly critical, envious, and impatient, and it can be effortlessly stirred to anger, possessiveness, and suspicion of being taken advantage of. These characteristics are part of Satan's spirit. Each of them is destructive to loving family unity within the church.
Living By Faith and Human Pride
These people were undoubtedly sincere, but God did not care for their sincerity one bit. Why? God saw this as an attempt by these people to control Him through redefining His nature.
When we turn aside from the path, whether we realize it or not, we are beginning to redefine what He is according to our own thinking. If we think this is not a prevalent sin, Jesus says in Mark 7:7, "In vain do you worship Me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." He is not saying that these people are insincere, but that they a failing to follow the way of God. Like these Israelites, they proclaim their religion in the name of God though. Jesus also says in Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not the things that I say?" That is what they were doing in Exodus 32.
What was their motivation? Does this have an end-time application to the church of God? The answer is in verse 1:
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, "Come make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."
Moses, the charismatic leader, the type of Jesus Christ, delayed his coming! That is alarming! What motivated Saul to make the sacrifice in I Samuel 13? Because Samuel's coming was delayed, Saul presumptuously took it into his own hands to do something he had not been commanded to do—to make the sacrifice. The problem was the delay he perceived.
Do we understand why Christ says, "Do not say in your heart, 'The Lord delays His coming'"? He knows from the experiences from the Old Testament that, if we begin to think that Christ is delaying, then we will turn aside to idolatry because we will use it as a justification for adjusting ourselves to the spirit of the times we live in. This has alarming ramifications.
What did the Israelites do here? Redefining the nature of God is merely the sin that led to them adjusting their lifestyle, to fall into idolatry. Will that be a problem for this generation? Are we going to think that Christ is delaying His coming?
Sincerity is good, but truth is needed with it. Jesus says in John 4:24 that God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. We need to examine ourselves to see whether we are making adjustments in our way of life to be in harmony with the spirit of the age. Do we keep Sabbath just like the world keeps Sunday? If we do, we have adjusted already. Are we careful in tithing? Are we concerned God will not come through with prosperity? If so, we are already beginning to make adjustments. Who is the idol? We are.
We change the image of God by saying, "He won't mind. He understands." He does understand, but He wants us to trust Him. He knows we are under pressure, but He knows we need to learn to do without, to suffer, to wait. Do we believe that?
John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10
Solomon's fifth piece of wisdom in this chapter is that we must not let pride get the better of us by allowing ourselves to reject correction from a person we know has experience in a difficulty we are going through (Ecclesiastes 7:5-6). If we fail to humble ourselves in such a case, we will likely later regret passing off the correction as nothing more than arrogant interference. That can be a major misjudgment, as Proverbs 11:2 bluntly reminds us, “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.”
A sixth piece of Solomonic sagacity appears in Ecclesiastes 7:8, where he reminds us not to let impatience defeat us. When a trial is resolved, we will be glad we stuck with it. Impatience is a restlessness of mind that can easily become anxiety-ridden. It rises when we want to put an irksome and perhaps dangerous task behind us. Peace departs and the quality of our involvement in the situation dwindles. We so easily become frustrated and angry when things seem stacked against us. Some trials must be endured for long periods, often the case in relationship problems. Thus, Proverbs 11:12 cautions, “He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his peace.”
A seventh nugget of sound advice: Do not look back, bemoaning one's commitment to God's way of life (Ecclesiastes 7:9-10). Solomon directly states that is not wisdom. Wisdom is to keep plowing forward as one's best defense. Jesus says in Luke 9:62, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” He adds in Mark 4:17 that some called ones have no root in themselves and so endure only for a while, and when tribulation and persecution arise they stumble. We must continue forward, though it is difficult at times, because it will pay off handsomely in the end.
A final item of wisdom appears in Ecclesiastes 7:13-14: We should never allow ourselves to lose sight of God. Paul promises in I Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” God—the same God who gives us days of prosperity—remains with us during adversity. In adversity, even though it appears dark and perhaps never-ending, He calls on us to use our faith.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Fourteen): A Summary
Solomon compares patience and hasty anger. We become frustrated easily and frequently. Often, doing a good job is superior simply because it has been done well and does not have to be inspected by someone else to check and double-check the quality of workmanship. How often does a person's temper feed into the way and the quality of the job? God is clearly suggesting that a person's temperament has a distinct effect on the quality and consistency of his workmanship.
Does an angry person make a good spouse? Does an angry or impatient person make a good employee? Does an angry person make a good church member? Does a driver burning with road rage make a good driver? Most of the time, anger is not wisdom. Anger can be good if it is used at the right time, is controlled, is directed toward the right ends, and is not simply an expression of personal, willful frustration because things are not going as expected. Notice how the following verses confirm anger's ability to hinder good:
» Proverbs 14:17: “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated.”
» Proverbs 14:29: “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly.”
» Proverbs 16:32: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
» James 1:19-20: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Solomon expressly states in Ecclesiastes 7:9, “Anger resides in the bosom of fools.” He describes an anger ready to burst out at even slight irritations because a person's pride convinces him that even slight irritations simply should not happen to such a wonderful person as he is. He explodes because of his impatience.
From impatience, it is often but a short step to bribery, which Solomon mentions in verse 7. A bribe is often given or taken because the individual wants to hurry the process of achieving his goal. The recipient convinces himself it is merely a shortcut. It is a means of getting the job done quicker. However, in reality the bribe is a trap that binds him by indebtedness to another and ultimately, to shame.
Do not be misled by the word “end” in verse 8. It does not necessarily suggest a job that is finished. Rather, Solomon is thinking of the outcome, the fruit produced, or the quality achieved. Some things that do not seem to start well actually become quite productive. There is a saying: “All's well that ends well,” which is the sort of end Solomon means, one that is quite important to growing and overcoming.
Many times, we fear becoming involved with even the first small steps of overcoming a character flaw to improve our conduct, so we procrastinate. We often find, however, that once involved in disciplining ourselves and taking some small hesitant steps, we are encouraged because more good is happening than we ever thought possible. Some insignificant beginnings have endings of major consequence.
A clear example is found in the fact that Jesus Christ was born as a babe, in a second-rate, occupied, and enslaved nation and into an insignificant family—but that “project” will end in the awesome things written in Revelation 22 with billions of glorified, immortal persons gathered into one awesome Family. This illustration feeds into this principle and the overall thoughts about how we think about life now that we are in the midst of our calling and have a much clearer view of how things are going on Planet Earth.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Nine): Wisdom as a Defense
The times we live in are indeed becoming steadily more difficult. Christian values are consistently being attacked. Under such circumstances, a person is apt to say what Solomon warns us against saying. It is easy to let ourselves become “down.” But we need to be careful because discouragement is a child of impatience. In difficult situations, we want the trouble to pass quickly. However, be aware that in such times it is easy to allow one's carnality to take the bribe of doing a “quick and dirty,” less-than-good job to make life less stressful and tiring.
Taking a quick-and-easy approach is understandable because conditions in this nation give no sign of positive change. Those governing us seem to be delivering us into the hands of the nation's enemies. Others who are illegally invading us appear to be dragging us into the gutter, and much of the nation's wealth is flowing into the hands of the few. Jobs are becoming scarcer.
These things are true to some degree, but we have to resist allowing this influence to get a firm grip on us, as it indicates that our focus is too much on carnal men and all their self-centered flaws rather than on what God is accomplishing to fulfill His promises. Yes, living is growing less comfortable, but He is telling us to focus on what He will accomplish in the future. God wants us to evaluate honestly what we have received by virtue of His calling.
Consider an interesting aspect of the mindset of father Abraham. Genesis 13:2 describes him as very rich in livestock, silver, and gold. Hebrews 11:10 reports that despite all that wealth, he looked for a city whose Builder is God. We know that Abraham was wealthy enough to put together an army of over 300 men, but in this way, God shows us what dominated his mind.
What lay in the future, not the present, motivated his life. Abraham bought no land to call his own, and Hebrews 11:9 records that this very wealthy man lived in tents. A tent is a symbol of temporariness, as well as lack of wealth and status. The wealthy live in solid homes; the poor live in tents because they can afford nothing better. Yet, Abraham was not merely wealthy but very wealthy.
Abraham was aware of the riches of the world around him. He came from Ur of the Chaldees, a prosperous city. He visited Egypt, the world's most powerful and wealthiest nation at the time. What Hebrews 11:9 does not say is that, all the while he lived in what appears to be a lowly status, he was heir of the world (Romans 4:13)! To a person of faith that means a great deal.
Some may mistakenly think that everybody lived in tents in Abraham's time, so the way he lived was the way every wealthy person lived. Thus, there is nothing unusual in the Bible pointing these things out. Not so. The way Abraham lived reflected where his heart was, a glimpse into his faith, vision, and humility. Archeologists have compiled a great deal of evidence about the time Abraham lived. The people of that day built fine houses and huge buildings. The cultures were highly developed, and their building projects were grand and extensive.
It has been said that the “good old days” are the result of bad memory and good imagination. Old folks are prone to declare, “The old was better.” That is true sometimes. Solomon's advises that, though we must look back to learn, the future must nonetheless dominate our minds. A person looking over his shoulder while trying to move forward at the same time is likely either to crash into something or to trip and fall over an impediment. Jesus cautions in Luke 9:62, “No one, having put his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Solomon is urging us, the called, to move on with life and its problems by looking and working toward the future. In context, then, the “former days” refers to the time before we were converted, not some earlier time in the history of our culture. This makes this warning more individual and potent.
Being called creates new difficulties, but especially now because we are living in nations that are losing both their moral and economic powers. What we are experiencing can create feelings of despair that keep us focused on just merely making it. This kind of attitude is not good.
God warns us in verse 10 that it is not wise to hold a strong opinion that former days were better. He wants us to keep our minds on His sovereign power and purpose while accepting His governing judgment on the circumstances of our times. We do not want to be guilty of calling Him into account, but that is exactly what we would be doing. We must never forget that He rules—constantly!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Nine): Wisdom as a Defense
1 Thessalonians 5:15
Two wrongs do not make a right, and in our irritated or angry impatience, we frequently say or do something just as bad or worse as was done to us! Then where are we? Often, our patience does not delay our wrath as God's does.
The obvious meaning of Paul's advice is that we should not take vengeance. In Romans 12:19, Paul repeats this more plainly:
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.
This, in turn, feeds directly into Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:39-45, where Jesus' consistent instruction is that we not set ourselves against an evil person who is injuring us, whether verbally, physically or judicially. Rather, Jesus teaches us to be willing to give the offender something that might defuse the immediate situation—and perhaps even provide some small example that will promote his eternal welfare. Patience is of great value in this respect.
This in no way means we are weak, though to them we may at first seem so. Nor does it mean that we approve of their conduct. Though we may hate their conduct and suffer keenly when it affects us, Christ tells us to bless them, meaning we should confer favor upon or give benefits to them. We can do this by wishing the person well, speaking kindly of and to him, and seeking to do him good.
Situations like this may be the most difficult test we will ever face. Patiently deferring retaliation and committing the circumstance to God's judgment are indispensable to the best possible solution. But the primary point of Jesus' instruction, however, is not how to resolve these situations, but that we may be children of our Father. By imitating God's pattern, we will resemble Him and take a giant stride toward being in His image.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience
The drifting of the Laodicean happens so subtly that he is unaware of the decline of his spiritual perception and vigor. What happens when a person begins drifting is that human nature deceives him to judge two things wrongly: 1) the quality of his own spirituality and therefore, 2) the use of his time.
Consider the process of the Laodicean's decline: Does he stop to consider himself as loving death? On the contrary, his nature is selling him on what it calls "enjoying life." However, the reality is that because he enjoys it so much, he thinks that he is fine the way he is. He, though, is guilty of a very serious sin: presumption. This is a sin in which ignorance frequently plays only a small part. When someone is presumptuous, knowledge of what is right is usually available, but he does not think his intent and conduct through to a right conclusion.
On the other hand, carelessness plays a large role in presumption. The Laodiceans should have known better than what their actions reveal. Their lackadaisical approach to spiritual matters, to their Savior who died for them, has earned His stinging rebuke.
Leviticus 4:2 zeroes in on this sin, revealing that it may be more serious than one might suppose. The word "unintentionally" includes more than simply lack of intention, as when a person sins and says, "I really didn't mean it." That is not wrong, but it misses some of the point because that conclusion is shallow and broad. In spite of the sinner's feelings about his intent as he actually committed the act, the term "sin" still appears in God's charge, and he continues to turn aside, wander, err, make a mistake, miss the mark, and go off the path. Though unintentional, the act is still a sin.
Consider the possible effects of such a sin. How many deaths have occurred where a person did something seriously wrong yet claims, "I didn't mean for that to happen"? What could happen if someone is cruising along, not concentrating on his driving, and drifts into oncoming traffic, smashing into another car and killing its occupants? How many people have been killed because a driver's attention was diverted by a cell phone? Just because a sin is unintentional does not mean it is not serious. Such a sin is often one of careless, impatient, lackadaisical neglect. It is the ignoring of a higher priority.
It is in reality often a sin of presumption, an ignoring of God and His law. It includes sins done with a degree of consciousness, a level of awareness of what one's responsibilities are. Even though not arrogantly and deliberately done, they are in reality done willingly.
These can be quite serious. Exodus 20:7, the third commandment, reads, "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." Because we have been baptized and have received God's Spirit, we have taken on the name "Christian." We are children of God, followers of Christ, and as such, we bear the Family name, an honor not lightly bestowed. Recall again that to whom much is given, the more shall be required.
God warns that we must not bear that holy name carelessly, that is, to no good purpose. He will not hold us guiltless. That name must be borne responsibly in dignified honor to Him, to His Family, and to its operations and purposes. Can we afford to be presumptuously negligent in this privileged responsibility? It is right here that knowledge of God's justice should come to a Christian's mind. It does this because the Christian "sees" God—not literally, of course, but spiritually, in his mind's eye, because he knows Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice
The One who receives continuous praise and submission from these awesome angelic beings is our Savior and Creator. Without directly saying it, this passage touches on a major issue in this great purpose He is working out: that, unlike Satan and his demons, will we be loyal, faithful, to our Creator God, as He works out and governs His purpose for each of us personally? Or in our impatience will we resist and rebel?
Verse 11 contains the key statement that is vital to our living by faith: He created all things in the first place and all—including us—is created for His purpose to be fulfilled. The King James Version translates this phrase, "For You have created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created."
Satan could not accept this. Consider deeply what has resulted! So we need to take this sobering thought down to our level and to our time and examine it in more detail against the issues of our own lives.
Can we live by faith that He is, that He knows what He is doing with our lives, and that by His merciful act He has included us as part of His good pleasure? Can we accept that He knows exactly where His creative efforts are headed and what it will take to form and shape us into what He pleases? At the same time, we know His goal for us only vaguely, yet we must fully accept whatever He brings to bear on us for His purposes.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty (Part One)
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