[Pride: refusing to learn from the mistakes of the past]
There was a time when I really didn’t care too much for history. However, Biblical history becomes remarkably important when you understand that learning from the mistakes of the past can keep you from heading off in a perilous direction.
Pride is being focused on one’s self. It puts up walls, between us and God.
This makes it difficult for God to have His way in our lives. When we allow Jesus to lead the way, we invite God’s mighty hand and heavenly help into our lives.
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” –Psalm 40:2
Following Jesus is much like taking someone’s gracious offer to lead us safely over treacherous terrain; they’ll undoubtedly turn to you and say, ‘step where I step.’
Andrew has said this to me a time or two as we’ve walked across icy parking lots, even offering his hand to steady me when needed.
If pride were to rear its ugly head, I would instead refuse his loving protection. I might even say, ‘I’m fully capable of figuring out where to step on my own, thank you very much.’ I’d likely also fall flat on my face. Pride is like that, and it absolutely does go before the fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
“The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with His hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. ” –Psalm 37:23-25
“The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip.” –Psalm 37:31
There are pitfalls and consequences that come with pride. We have so many examples in Scripture that reflect this.
One of these lessons is this one: God gave King Nebuchadnezzar a very mighty kingdom, but he became prideful because he believed that his kingdom and power were of his own doing.
King Nebachadnezzar was also stripped of his kingdom as a consequence of his prideful words. He’d declared that his kingdom was of his own power, for the glory of his own majesty. (Daniel 4:30)
While his words were still on his lips, God had something to say. His gavel came down swiftly.
“The words were still in his mouth when a voice from heaven said, “King Nebuchadnezzar, these things will happen to you: Your royal power has been taken away from you. You will be forced away from people. You will live with the wild animals and will be fed grass like an ox. Seven years will pass before you learn this lesson: The Most High God rules over every kingdom on earth and gives those kingdoms to anyone he chooses.” –Daniel 4:31-32
These had to be some very sobering words for King Nebuchadnezzar. Ignorance, or arrogance in this case, is no longer bliss when we are faced with the cold hard truth.
God’s words to Nebuchadnezzar were immediately fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird (Daniel 4:33).
King Nebachadnezzar Repents and is Restored
At the end of this time he raised his eyes towards heaven and his sanity was restored. Then Nebuchadnezzar praised, honored, and glorified God.
“…His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: “What have you done?”” –Daniel 4:34-35
At the same time as Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity was restored to him, his honor and splendor were returned to his throne and became even greater than before.
God is More than Fair.
This isn’t our only example of God’s mercy and restorative grace. Nebuchadnezzar could never earn what he was given, but how much more amazing does that make God’s grace then?
You’d have thought that Nebuchadnezzar’s fall would become a great lesson for his family, but his descendant Belshazzar refused to learn from Nebuchadnezzar’s mistake. (Pride)
Belshazzar holds a feast. As he and his royal guests are drinking from vessels that have been taken from the Temple of the Lord a hand appears and begins to write words on the plaster of the wall.
Belshazzar’s understandably terrified by this, so he sends for his wise men, but they aren’t able to read the writing on the wall. When Daniel is summoned, he reminds Belshazzar that when Nebuchadnezzar became arrogant, he was thrown down until he learned that God has sovereignty over the kingdom of men.
Belshazzar Already Knew These Things
Belshazzar too had dishonored God, so Daniel says to him, “But Belshazzar, you already knew these things. You are a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar. But still you have not been sorry for what you have done. Instead you have turned against the Lord of Heaven…” (Daniel 5:22-23)
Belshazzar never received an opportunity to repent as Nebuchadnezzar had been given.
Instead, the message he received stands out in Scripture as a warning to those who refuse to learn from the past. Daniel reads the message on the wall and interprets it: God has numbered Belshazzar’s days, he has been weighed and found wanting, and his kingdom will be given to the Medes and the Persians. Belshazzar received his death sentence, and that very night he lost his life.
If we know what we should do but don’t do it, this is sin. Scripture says that those who do such things deserve death.
Aren’t we glad then that our merciful Jesus accepted death on a cross so that we could be set free from the wages of sin?
“Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” –Romans 1:32
If we’re not grateful for what we’ve been given (this includes God’s grace) and we don’t honor Him with His merciful gifts, what we have will be taken away from us; God will give them to someone who will honor Him. (Matthew 25:24-29)
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. –Proverbs 3:5-8
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” –Matthew 23:12