Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who taught him to fear God. And as long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success. … But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. [2 Chronicles 26:5,16 (NLT)]
When writing about pride earlier this week, I remembered the Bible’s stories of proud men who got their comeuppance. 2 Chronicles 26 tells of Uzziah who, as long as he “sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success.” His mighty army defeated the Philistines, Arabians, and Meunites (who then paid him an annual tribute) and, under his rule, Jerusalem’s walls were fortified, wilderness forts were established, water cisterns were dug, and something like catapults were erected on the walls to defend the city. With Uzziah as king, Judah prospered and the powerful king’s fame spread “far and wide.” Sadly, along with prosperity, power, and fame came pride. Believing he was above the law, the proud king entered the sanctuary and usurped the high priest’s role by offering incense. When priests warned him about his sacrilege, the proud king raged at them and immediately was stricken with leprosy—a disease that meant the “unclean” man lived the rest of his life in isolation and never again could enter the Temple. All the blessings, accomplishments, and prosperity of his reign were overshadowed by Uzziah’s one act of pride, insolence, and arrogance.
It is in the book of Daniel that we meet the proud Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. He was so full of pride that he erected a 90-foot golden statue of himself and then demanded that people fall down and worship it as a sign of loyalty to him. When the king had a disturbing dream about a tree that grew tall and then was cut down, he called upon Daniel to interpret its meaning. Daniel explained that Nebuchadnezzar was the tree and would be cut down by losing his kingdom. He then would live like an animal until he repented of his pride and learned that Heaven, not man, rules. Although Daniel advised the king to acknowledge God’s rule and govern with justice, his words fell on deaf ears.
About a year later, as Nebuchadnezzar looked down from his rooftop at the majestic splendors of Babylon, he proudly congratulated himself on his mighty power that accomplished such great things. Before the words were even out of his mouth, a voice from heaven pronounced judgment upon him and the king developed what is known as boanthropy, a psychological disorder in which one becomes delusional and thinks they’re a cow. The high and mighty king was driven from society and lived and ate like an animal for the next seven years. It was not until the once proud (but now repentant) king raised his eyes to heaven and acknowledged that God is the ruler over mankind that his sanity returned and his kingdom was restored.
For forty days and nights, the Philistine giant Goliath had proudly sauntered out to taunt the Israelite troops. Dressed in his bronze helmet, coat of mail, and leg armor while armed with spear, javelin, and sword, he challenged them to fight. Calling himself the Philistine champion and Israel’s army mere servants of Saul, the arrogant warrior thought himself invincible. What the Philistine didn’t know (but David did) was that, in taunting Israel, the braggart had insulted the God of Israel. When the nine-foot Goliath saw David walk toward him, he was filled with disdain for the apparently weaponless youth. In his smugness and conceit, he never considered the possibility that the boy was armed with sling, stones, and the power of Jehovah. When David ran toward him, the giant never saw what hit him. What a humiliating end for the warrior! He was felled by a single stone and beheaded by a shepherd boy wielding the giant’s own sword! Goliath’s demise is a perfect example of the old saying that “pride comes before a fall!”
Pride leads us down a dangerous path and, as we’ve seen from Scripture, pride inevitably leads to humiliation. It’s not just kings and giants who are proud rather than humble and fail to acknowledge from whom their gifts come and to whom they should submit. All that we possess in the way of power, strength, riches, intelligence, possessions, ability, talent, and even health are gifts from God—and He can take them away as easily as He gives them! Let us be humble.
No matter how dear you are to God, if pride is harbored in your spirit, He will whip it out of you. They that go up in their own estimation must come down again by His discipline. [Charles Spurgeon]