What started as ridicule, by those opposed to the rebuilding of the city walls and gates surrounding Jerusalem, escalated into a plot for a full-scale assault against the city. Nehemiah didn’t have an army to defend the city and the walls and gates were barely half the height required to provide any measure of security. All he had was a rag-tag group of ordinary citizens that were, with all their might, trying to accomplish what no one thought could be done, except perhaps their leader, Nehemiah and those closest to him. What they did have was Almighty God’s favor and His will that the project be completed. Yet, the wrath of Israel’s enemies was an ever-present reality and the terror that they sought to impose, led to discouragement and fear among the workers and their families (4:10-23).
How many husbands and wives wake-up every morning, nearly immobilized by fear because nothing has changed since they last closed their eyes only a few hours before? The morning light has only brought them deeper into despair and discouragement because once again they can see their enemy and it is as ominous and frightening as it was before. They ask themselves, how did they get through the gates in the first place? I remember when I first saw them, they seemed insignificant, a mere amusement or distraction at worst. But now they terrorize me day and night…how do I get them outside the gate, slam the door in their face and lock it securely from the inside?
Who is this enemy, what is this terror that so many face in the morning light? It goes by any number of names, alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, violence, fraud, anger, greed, and the list goes on and on. How did it get in? You let it in!!! Sure it seemed harmless at the time and when you sensed that something was wrong, but you said, “It’s not my fault…it’s his, hers or theirs.” But it’s not, and until you own it, it will own you. Owning it is called confession and it is the first step in finding your way back to the gate, so that you can quickly and completely dispatch the terror of sin, which has so completely entangled you. Once confessed, you must commit to never again allow it back in the door, not for a moment and not for any reason. This is called repentance and once you have made the commitment, you have no more to fear for your victory is complete and your security is won.
The one sin that plagued Israel, generation after generation, was pride and it was the product of their calling. Not that it was God’s intent or plan for them to be a prideful people, but God did call Israel to be His people, special and set aside for His glory and for His purposes, above all other people and nations. They were a small and insignificant nation, in terms of earthly resources, but that’s what made them perfect in God’s eyes. Their insignificance would allow God’s power and glory to shine through, so that all people and nations might come to worship Him and enjoy His blessing. But like their unbelieving neighbors, it would be pride that would get in the way of their witness and lead them into crisis, time after time.
In our modern culture, the negative implications of human pride have almost disappeared and are often linked with self-esteem. Pride is almost always seen as something positive, such as having pride in a child’s accomplishments or when it is used with reference to a victorious team or individual athlete. Is this wrong and contrary to God’s teaching, should I not feel pride when my son or daughter is recognized for their accomplishments?
Words do change in meaning and application over time and from one language to another within the same era. Changes in meaning are typically gradual and driven by changes in culture and at times the belief systems of people groups. The way we use the word pride has changed over time and dramatically since the writing of the bible. Invariably, it is used in reference to sin in the bible and is akin to the word hybris or hubris. Other words that are synonymous with sinful pride are haughtiness and arrogance. For example, a leader or someone in a position of power may have a false or unrealistic view of their own their own competence and abilities. They think more highly of themselves than they should and when taken to an extreme, a person filled with such pride is attempting to steal the reputation of others and even God. Pride or hubris is the opposite of humility. This is the pride that led to Israel’s failings because instead of giving credit to God for lifting them up; they took credit for whatever greatness they had attained instead of giving it to God.
Certainly having pride in a child when they are obedient and demonstrate that they have learned from their mistakes and chosen to follow the path of the wise, instead of the path of a fool, is appropriate and in accord with the example God has set for us. We also need to teach others, by example that all we have is from God and He should be credited first for any accomplishments we may attain. This is the humility that pleases God and that He demands of us.
The reason that the Nehemiah’s crew would be successful and were able to allay their fears while rebuilding the walls and gates wasn’t because of their skill or their ability to fight off their attackers and detractors. It was because they followed God’s plan and relied on him for success and once complete, gave Him all the Glory. It is the same when rebuilding a marriage, pride in workmanship will only get you into trouble. Selfish pride should be kept on the other side of the wall and not allowed in. But at the same time, open the gates wide for the gift of humility as you place the interests and welfare of your spouse, before your own. “Christ Jesus is for us wisdom from God that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore it is written: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” 1Corinthians 1:30-31
Tool #286 Model Christ for He is the Son of God, and gave up everything for us, His life, His spirit and His divinity. He is our example and the source of our pride.