It is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery
in every nation and every family
since the world began.
— C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)
The second half of Ezekiel’s dirge jettisons the imagery of lions and takes up another familiar metaphor: a vine and branches.
Like the first half of this lament, the specific referents to the images are cloudy. We’re just not sure who Ezekiel had in mind. Again, like the first half, the referents are not necessary to understand the meaning of the poem. This half of the lament/riddle/parable has a simple and direct message.
. . .
Ezekiel told the exiles that their mother was a vine in a vineyard. This vine had every reason to prosper. She was planted by water, and became strong.
Interesting thing about vines: they’re not trees. Vines grow near the ground and climb other objects. The vine in Ezekiel’s lament decided she had spent long enough being a vine, and it was time for her to act like a tree. The vine threw her thick bows in the air, and stood proud in her power.
God’s act was decisive:
But it was plucked up in fury,
cast down to the ground;
the east wind dried it up;
its fruit was stripped off,
its strong stem was withered;
the fire consumed it. (v. 12, NRSV)
Proverbs is fitting:
Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
. . .
C. S. Lewis described this condition masterfully in Chapter 8 of Book III in Mere Christianity. Listen to his description:
There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine they are guilty themselves.
The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.
Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only of having more of it than the next man.
Israel had fallen into this sin in a big way. Like the young woman in Ezekiel 16, Israel flaunted her wealth and power, forgetting that her very existence was rooted in God.
Pride in Ezekiel’s day is just as serious as pride in our own lives today. Lewis’ warning is very important for us. Pride is that ugly thing we see quickly in our neighbours, and have a hard time seeing in our own life. Yet it’s our own lives we need to be concerned with.
. . .
Lewis continues to describe why Pride and Christianity interact like oil and water:
In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that—and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison—you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above
If we want to approach God, we need to let go of our pride. Pride and God have never mixed, and never will mix.
. . .
Holy Spirit, search my heart. Reveal the pride that I cannot see in my own life, and empower me to release it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.