The demon in power is pride.
— Richard Foster (The Challenge of the Disciplined Life)
In chapter 10, Ezekiel saw how Jerusalem would be destroyed. He witnessed the future. Now we see the present described. Between the time when a number of Israelites were killed or deported (Ezekiel being one of them), and the time when God’s final judgment would take place, a bizarre situation arose.
When an invading army deports citizenry, they take the best and the brightest. Religious and civic leaders, along with the very wealthy would be taken first. This left a power vacuum in Jerusalem that was filled by upstart leaders. People who never had a large share of power found themselves able to take leadership of the entire city! We can assume that they would have upgraded their living conditions from their former houses to the mansions that were now abandoned.
The new leaders bragged that this was not a time to build houses (they had nice new houses). They saw themselves as the choice cuts of meat inside the protective pot-walls of Jerusalem. Their short-sighted outlook gave rise to pride and a sense of invulnerability. And we all know what pride comes before . . .
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Ezekiel was told to prophesy against these people: their attitude in the face of judgment was despicable. In a few short verses, God says:
- You’re not the choice cuts of meat (the “cream of the crop”); you’re the butchers who have grasped for power when your fellow citizens were slaughtered and deported.
- You call yourself choice cuts of meat? I’ll be the butcher with my sword.
- You think Jerusalem is a protective pot? I’ll chase you out of the city to the border of Israel before I destroy you.
During this prophecy, Pelatiah—one of the two named officials—died. Ezekiel cried out in anguish: will you even destroy the remnant?
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Pride is incredibly seductive. It continually tries to grow in people’s lives. C. S. Lewis noted that “the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others” (Mere Christianity). And, of course, the thought that we are not as proud as the next person is nothing less than another form of pride.
One specific type of pride is schadenfreude. This is the German term for taking pleasure at someone else’s misfortune. This is what the Israelites left in Jerusalem were reveling in, and it was reprehensible in God’s eyes. How does it manifest in our lives?
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Lord God, help us to examine our lives. Show us what we refuse to see, and make us quick to repent. In Jesus’ name, Amen.