RPM, Volume 15, Number 42, October 13 to October 19, 2013

Arrogance's Reward

Isaiah 3:16-4:1

By D. Marion Clark


Once again we come to judgment. This time it is embodied by the pronouncement made against the women of Jerusalem, though it will also include the men as well. What brings this doom is the same sin that was prominent in the second half of chapter two and is to bring the general doom on mankind — pride.

12 The LORD Almighty has a day in store
for all the proud and lofty,
for all that is exalted
(and they will be humbled),
13 for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty,
and all the oaks of Bashan,
14 for all the towering mountains
and all the high hills,
15 for every lofty tower
and every fortified wall,
16 for every trading ship
and every stately vessel.
17 The arrogance of man will be brought low
and the pride of men humbled…

Isaiah gives his attention to the women, who by their manner and dress express the same pride of the men. Whereas he referred to the arrogance of men; he now refers to the haughtiness of women.

You can see it in their manner. The walk with outstretched necks. It is a figure of speech that corresponds with our saying that a person has his nose in the air. They are flirting with their eyes drawing attention to themselves. They are the opposite of the modest woman with her eyes diverted down. They trip along with mincing steps — they walk in such a way as to make the jewelry around their ankles jingle, again to draw attention to themselves. By their manner, they are saying, "Look at me. See how beautiful or rich or glamorous I am."

"That day" is the day of judgment which is to come on Jerusalem and Judah. In verses 18-23 Isaiah lists the jewelry and clothing that the women are wearing to parade themselves. The very length of the list shows the great expense and effort spent to glorify oneself. The commentators I read are quick to explain that these items themselves were not bad; it was the prideful spirit of the women that Isaiah was condemning. I suppose that is true. It is a bit difficult, though, to imagine how a woman adorns herself with all these things with a humble spirit. I think Isaiah is portraying the woman for whom these things are her life. She lives each day to adorn herself so as to draw everyone's attention to her.

The consequence of this pride is shame. Sores will appear on their heads. Their hair, which is their glory, will fall out replaced with sores. Verse 24 contrasts the beautiful adornments with the shameful replacements that will come. Instead of the fragrance of the costly perfumes, they will bear a stench; instead of the decorative sashes, they will wear the ropes that are used by slaves; instead of the well-dress hair adornments, they will experience baldness; instead of fine, costly clothing, they will wear the sackcloth of mourning; instead of drawing attention with their beauty, they will draw shameful attention with the branding given to slaves. The attention they crave will be fulfilled in such a way that brings them shame rather than glory.

This judgment is not isolated to the women; it falls on all of Jerusalem. The men are killed in battle as the city is conquered by outside invaders. In verse 26, Jerusalem is personified as a woman widowed and made destitute. She sits on the ground in mourning and shame. After the invasion, so many men are killed that the women, who are now widowed, become desperate to find husbands. They are so desperate that they forsake all the appropriate conventions of becoming betrothed. Instead of being approached, they approach the men. Instead of the men having to provide a dowry and prove that they can provide for their wives, the women offer to do that work. What they need is the name that the man can provide and the opportunity to bear children. There was no greater disgrace than to remain single and not bear children who carry on a lineage. So they humiliate themselves going after men shamelessly that they not bear even greater disgrace.

The Bane of Pride

Why does God hate pride so much? Why is he so bothered by vain women or by men deluded by false power? Why come down so hard on what we think is best not even to give attention to? Let's turn to other scripture that helps us put pride in perspective.


2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.
4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
5 His ways are always prosperous;
he is haughty and your laws are far from him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
6 He says to himself, "Nothing will shake me;
I'll always be happy and never have trouble."
7 His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
8 He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent,
watching in secret for his victims.
9 He lies in wait like a lion in cover;
he lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, "God has forgotten;
he covers his face and never sees."

Psalm 31:18:

18 Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

Psalm 94:4-7:

4 They pour out arrogant words;
all the evildoers are full of boasting.
5 They crush your people, O LORD;
they oppress your inheritance.
6 They slay the widow and the alien;
they murder the fatherless.
7 They say, "The LORD does not see;
the God of Jacob pays no heed."

The problem with pride is that it always leads into mean-spirited sin. The prideful or arrogant hurt others. They have to, by the very nature of a prideful spirit.

To be prideful one must think ill of others. You have to put down others in order to lift yourself up, whether you openly do it or just think demeaning thoughts. But even then, your thought-life will govern the way you treat others. In some manner you must express your superiority.

To be prideful one must lie. You have to lie to yourself and to others. Certainly you are no better for the clothing or jewelry you wear, but you still somehow have to convey the impression that you are. You have to somehow convince yourself and others that things which are either beyond your control, such as your genetic makeup, or things that are really superficial, such as clothing or possessions really matter.

For you to be noticed by what you wear or how you act, you have to make others look or act as though they are less worthy of notice. And if you are unable to attract attention, you will then hate the others who get it. Otherwise you are not prideful. Pride necessitates hating other people. It necessitates using other people. That is its very nature. The arrogant man will use people to get what he wants and then cast them aside. The vain woman will gossip and slander the woman who wins honest praise.

Pride promotes injustice. It treats people unfairly. It assigns value to what is superficial or base, and belittles what is of true value. The self-sacrificing worker for the poor is made to seem little because he doesn't have a fashionable apartment. The virtuous woman is made to seem dull because she doesn't wear the truly fashionable clothes and jewelry.

It is true that God hates pride because he is jealous for his own glory. But the point of the matter is that God is the only one who is truly glorious. To contend with God for glory leads us only to sink in disgrace. Trying to be like God in the sense of being glorified, we sink lower than the beasts whom we are over.

The reward of arrogance is disgrace. Arrogance itself is disgraceful. The prideful man or woman somehow is unable to his or hers shame that is obvious. He is like the king who thought he was wearing invisible clothes and paraded proudly naked until a little boy shouted out the truth. We know that. There is nothing more embarrassing than to be around someone who is making a fool of himself, all the while thinking that he is impressing everyone.

Arrogance also leads to disgrace. 18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). Because he has deluded himself with a sense of grandeur, the arrogant man is unable to act wisely. He makes enemies, whether intentionally or unintentionally. He overestimates his ability and underestimates everyone else's. He has a warped sense of values and cannot judge what is of true worth and what is not. He may be shrewd, but he is not wise. His happiness depends on not merely having a lot, but of being acknowledged as one who has a lot; therefore he is really a slave to the opinion of people he also despises. Sooner or later he is headed for a downfall.

And then arrogance leads to disgrace, because ultimately God will disgrace the proud heart, as our passage makes so clear. God will judge with justice, and arrogant pride must then receive its rightful reward of disgrace. God and his justice will not be mocked.

But if pride receives its true reward, know also that humility receives it.

4 For the LORD takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with salvation (Psalm 149:3).
34 He mocks proud mockers
but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34).
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers" Luke 1:50-55.

The marvelous truth about this song of Mary is that our glorious Lord raised up the humble by humbling himself. And the incredulous part of it all is that he humbled himself even for us proud of heart. Let's be honest, in truth we are all proud. We may not all be arrogant or haughty before others, but we all have our forms of vanity, even if it is to take pride in our humble state. For without the work of the Spirit in our lives, we would each go our own way, which is always away from God. We either reject God altogether, or form our own image of him that best suits us. Ultimately, the reason anyone rejects the gospel is not failure to understand it, or lack of evidence to believe it, but the lack of humility necessary to receive it. Even so, the Holy Spirit breaks through our pride and gives us the grace to humbly receive Christ's saving work. And then of course the wonder continues. For once we are humbled, we then begin the journey towards glory.

30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:30).

It is glory, not shame that will be the final reward for those whom God redeems.

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