Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Obadiah 3 Pride

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, February 10, 2018

3 Your proud heart has deceived you,
  you who live in the clefts of the rocks,
  whose dwelling is in the heights.

Pride is a difficult sin to fight against. Based on 1 Timothy 3:6, most theologians agree that pride (or pride coupled with envy) was the original sin of the Devil. Johann Quenstedt (1617-1688) added two more points besides the 1 Timothy passage, one being that “from the temptation in which Satan undertook to instill the sin of pride into our first parents, the pride of arrogating (taking without justification) to themselves equality with God,” and the other, “from his perpetual endeavor to transfer the glory of God to himself” (I,729).

The pride of Edom was in its impenetrable defenses. The “clefts of the rocks” and the “dwelling in the heights” are references to the capital city of Edom, called Sela or Petra. A view of the ancient entrance and the winding crags that lead to and from the entrance are part of the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (there’s a short 90-second YouTube video of this if you search “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - Ending Scene”).  An army cannot advance on that city except in a narrow column, a few soldiers at a time. But our pride must never be in ourselves or our achievements. We have had many lessons about this as a nation through many terrible events, and by the grace of God, we have not yet been brought down to our knees. But we must not take pride in technology, or advances in science or engineering. We must not show off our strength to the world in useless parades. Teddy Roosevelt advised our country to carry a big stick, but he also advised our government to “speak softly.” This is something we need to remember.

You say in your heart,
  “Who can bring me down to the ground?”

There is a simple answer to this proud question. God can and will bring down anyone who rejects him. The punishment for sin is death (“the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23; also Job 30:23). In fact, it is more than death. The punishment for sin for anyone without faith in Christ is eternal death. Jesus said, “Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:5). So what are we to do?

Martin Luther teaches us in the Small Catechism: “Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:12-15). Luther goes on to say: “But before the pastor [that is, privately] we should confess only those sins which we know and feel in our hearts” (Confession, Secondly).

How can we recognize these sins? Luther advises with his usual practical wisdom: “Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments. Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, employer, or employee? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you hurt anyone by word or deed? Have you been dishonest, careless, wasteful, or done other wrong?” (Confession, Thirdly).

Having done all this, what then? Luther asks and answers the vital, final question: “How will the pastor assure a penitent sinner of forgiveness? He will say, ‘By the authority of Christ, I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” (Confession, Fourthly). Anything the forgiven sinner does after this is not to atone for his sins, since Christ has already atoned for them, and the pastor in Christ’s place has pronounced them to be forgiven. But a sinner might want to make amends, humanly speaking, and will certainly want to change his life. These things are not penance, but the fruits of repentance. We earn nothing with them, nor would we want to, but we show our faith and we give glory to our forgiving Savior. And this is how the Holy Spirit guides us to drive pride and other sins from our hearts—through repentance and the forgiveness of our sins.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

Browse Devotion Archive