Sinful Pride Does Go before the Fall!
O Lord God, our dear heavenly Father, may we ever walk before You in humble faith and obedience. The world in which we live is filled with sinful pride and arrogance. Man rejects You, O God, and assumes he can control his destiny. How foolish! Open our ears, so that we might hear Your truths. Open our eyes, so that we might see every opportunity we have to glorify Your name. Bless us this day as we worship in Your presence. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Stephen was stoned by a group of his fellow Jews, who in their pride refused to listen to his message about Jesus. The Holy Spirit allowed Stephen to see God’s glory and Jesus standing at His Father’s right hand—a sight which confirmed Stephen’s faith and sustained him in faith unto his end.
Jesus here speaks of the wise man, who humbly built his house upon the rock of God’s Word, and the foolish man, who proudly built his house upon the sands of human thought. Which house stood the test of time? Upon what foundation are you building your house?
Text: 1 Samuel 15:16-23
The Samuel said to Saul, “Be quiet! And I will tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak on.” So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel? Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?” And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.” Then Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”
In Christ Jesus, to whom we should listen with due humility, dear fellow redeemed:
“I am so proud of you,” a mother says to her daughter as they look at the blue ribbon attached to a project at the county fair. “We are proud of the products and services we provide here at Midwest Wireless,” the company spokesperson says as she addresses a group of school children on a field trip. “I’m proud to be an American. Where at least I know I’m free,” sings Lee Greenwood to an enthusiastic crowd during a live concert. The concept of “pride” was used in all three of those examples, but in a way certainly different than those used in our responsive reading. In those references “pride” was something negative and sinful, while here “pride” refers to those positive feelings of joy, accomplishment, and loyalty that are an important part of our lives and in fact blessings from God himself. The joy of a mother in seeing her daughter’s success, the sense of accomplishment in a job well done, the loyalty inspired by one’s patriotism are in general good feelings inspired by thankfulness to God for His many blessings. Sinful pride, on the other hand, turns away from God and focuses entirely on oneself, thus depriving God of His glory, while depriving man of God’s direction and blessing.
You have no doubt all heard the old adage—“Pride goes before the fall!” Let us adapt that saying slightly today and consider this fact that SINFUL PRIDE DOES GO BEFORE THE FALL! Let us then consider the signs of sinful pride, the source of sinful pride, and, finally, the sad result of sinful pride!
There is hardly a more tragic figure in all of Scripture than King Saul. He started out his reign with such promise, but in the end committed suicide while attempting to escape what he assumed would be certain humiliation at the hands of his enemies. Saul lived approximately one thousand years before the birth of Jesus. He was a member of an upright, but rather unimportant family of the tribe of Benjamin—less than a distinguished background. He had impressive physical attributes, however, for the Bible describes him as “a choice and handsome young man,” who “from his shoulders upward…was taller than any of the people” (1 Samuel 9:2). When Israel rebelled against the rule of God’s judges and demanded a king, God gave them Saul to be their king. To begin with Saul was a good man and a humble king. As Samuel puts it in our text, to begin with Saul was “little in his own eyes.” During that early period Saul served God faithfully by defending the children of Israel and defeating their enemies.
As time passed, however, Saul’s humble demeanor changed and his faithful service ceased. The joy that he once possessed in the Lord and the thankful attitude that he had towards the Lord changed as he became full of himself—taking credit himself for his successes and thinking more about how to maintain his public success than how he might fulfill the Lord’s will. Pride took root within his soul, only one evidence of which was the fact that as he returned from the battle against the Amalekites mentioned in our text, he stopped at Mount Carmel and erected a monument not honoring God, but rather honoring himself. What other signs of sinful pride were evident in Saul’s life? Consider these two: he did not listen to the Lord’s instructions, but rather chose to follow his own path, and when confronted with his sin he blamed others rather than accepting responsibility for his actions.
What had God instructed Saul to do? He had instructed him to lead Israel against the Amalekites and destroy them completely—no one was to be left alive and all of their possessions were to be destroyed. That sounds terrible to our ears today, but remember that our God is a just God, who is patient, but who ultimately punishes sin. The Amalekites had for hundreds of years been bitter enemies of God’s people. They had attacked Israel, while they were weak in the wilderness after leaving Egypt. They had joined any number of Israel’s enemies in especially vicious and violent attacks. God was now ready to bring judgment upon them. But Saul chose not to follow God’s instructions, but rather invented his own. Oh, yes, Israel went into battle against Amalek. They won the victory. They killed most of the people, but they left some—notably King Agag—alive, and instead of destroying the property, the best of the property was preserved—presumably to offer to the Lord, but inevitably to satisfy the cravings of men. When Samuel called Saul on these acts of disobedience, Saul at first defended his actions, but when pressed blamed the people—“the people took the plunder”—and so attempted to evade personal responsibility. He refused to humble himself and confess his sins.
Do we ever see such signs of sinful pride in our lives? God’s biblical instructions for our lives are quite clear: “Honor your father and your mother…. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet….” (Exodus 20:12-17a) Yet, how often do we not sin against these commandments of our God—sins, which all too often begin with our thinking—“but in my situation I should do this…!” When we are confronted by our parents, or our spouse, or our neighbor, or our fellow Christian—we all too often make elaborate excuses, often blaming others for our actions—attempting to evade personal responsibility. My dear friends—SINFUL PRIDE DOES GO BEFORE THE FALL! Beware of the signs of sinful pride: failing to listen to God’s instructions and blaming others rather than accepting personal responsibility.
But what is the source of sinful pride? The source may surprise you. Samuel’s words in response to the excuses of Saul are so very revealing: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. [Notice in particular the following words.] For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” Samuel identifies pride with the sins of “rebellion” and “stubbornness,” which in turn are linked to the sins of “witchcraft” and “idolatry.” Think about that for a moment. Pride is a form of “rebellion” for the very reason that the proud individual will not listen to others, but demands to follow his own course—even when that course conflicts with the will of God. Pride is a form of “stubbornness” because the proud individual refuses to budge from his chosen views—even when they conflict with the Word of God. Rebellion is tied to “witchcraft” for rebellion is a sinful attempt to take power into one’s own hands and “witchcraft” is Satan’s way to obtain that coveted power—yes, even to wrest that power from God were it possible! Stubbornness is in actuality idolatry, for when you are stubborn you are placing your own wants and desires above everything else—even God’s will—so that in reality the stubborn individual is worshipping himself!
My dear friends, this is why Jesus ties pride to all of those others sins which proceed from the wicked heart of man. Man by nature is in rebellion against God. Man by nature does not know the true God and so is guilty of idolatry—whatever that idol may be. The source of sinful pride is to be found deep within the rebellious heart of man, which from the very first sin wanted to become like God (cf. Genesis 3:5). That is why pride is so intoxicating. That is why Satan is constantly attempting to turn those proper feelings of pride—joy, an sense of accomplishment, and proper loyalty, which flow from God and offer thanksgiving to God—into sinful pride, which elevates self in opposition to God. Let us recognize the source of sinful pride and understand that the only way to deal with it is through regular and sincere repentance. For it is only when we are led by the Spirit to acknowledge that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”—including ourselves in so many ways, that we can truly learn to rejoice in the fact that we have been “freely justified by His (God’s) grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). This is what Saul needed to understand. This is what we need to understand.
SINFUL PRIDE DOES GO BEFORE THE FALL! Let us be aware of the source of sinful pride, lest we experience the sad result of sinful pride! As mentioned earlier, Saul had such a promising beginning as king when he was “little in his own eyes.” Saul’s sinful pride resulted in God’s rejection of his reign, for Samuel told Saul with sadness, “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.” Saul’s reign did not end immediately. In fact, Saul reigned for a total of forty years before his untimely death. But the sad result of Saul’s sinful pride became evident in virtually every aspect of his life.
Saul’s sinful pride destroyed his relationship with David, his most promising general. It destroyed his relationship with his son and presumed heir, Jonathan. It destroyed his relationship with his daughter, Michal who became David’s wife. His life became filled with fear, anger, intrigue, violence, and murder. But those are only the results that applied to this life. The greatest damage done to Saul by his sinful pride was the loss of his relationship with the Lord—His Savior God. There is no room in any relationship with God for sinful human pride. God rejected Saul in view of Saul’s rejection of His Word. God ultimately refused to hear or heed Saul’s prayers, for his sinful pride sought only his own advantage. Saul ultimately in his fear and near despair turned to black magic and then to self-destruction, losing his own soul!
My dear friends, this is a stark story. It is included in the Scriptures for our benefit, so that we might see the sad result of sinful pride—avoid it and you will never have to suffer in a similar way. Rather, let us strive to walk with humility before our Lord, listening carefully to His word, fulfilling all of His commands as He gives us the ability, repenting of our sins, and rejoicing in the love and faithfulness of our God. Jesus died to take away Saul’s sin as well as our own. What a shame it was that in his sinful pride Saul rejected both his God and the Savior God had promised. May that never be true for you and for me! When we sin, and we sin often, may we confess those sins, so that they might be removed as the Scriptures say “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12a). May we be led by the Spirit of God to trust in our God, so that follow Him faithfully. Our lives are filled with potential by God—potential for great joy, for many accomplishments, for endless reasons to give thanks to the God of our creation, our redemption, our sanctification, and ultimately our salvation! SINFUL PRIDE DOES GO BEFORE THE FALL! God, preserve us from such pride and from such a fall! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting