Psalm 26:7--That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Are You Personified?

Isaiah 10:15--Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.

 The verse above contains two literary devices I would like to draw out: personification and simile. For review, personification is the attribution of human characteristics to an inanimate object, and simile is a comparison using like or as. In this verse, Isaiah adroitly uses these two techniques to detail the steps in the progression of pride.

Pride is the most subtle of all sins, and all sin can be traced back to some form of pride. Even when we think we are without pride, we have pride because we are in essence boasting that we are humble. Furthermore, God hates pride severely. In my rationale this is because of two reasons: 1) Lucifer, one of God's highest angels, was cast out of Heaven and became the devil, enemy of anything God loves, because of his pride; and 2) pride, as stated above, is the root of all sin.

All of these are reasons why we need to watch out for pride in our lives. We must constantly be on the lookout for it and be praying for God to humble us, even as He humbled Himself and came to this earth (see Philippians 2:3-8). I am so thankful that Jesus humbled Himself and died on the cross for me; and I'm thankful that God, through Isaiah, gave us this description of the way pride can sneak into our lives and corrupts us. Let's take a look at what the Scripture says so we will better know how to combat pride.

Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? The first simile given by Isaiah is the personification of an axe. Specifically, Isaiah is dealing with the pride of Assyria's king--but this applies to everyone--and Isaiah states that his pride is like an axe boasting itself against the one using it to cut something. How foolish is it to think that an axe, a simple tool, would think itself better than the one who uses it, who controls its every action and maintains its condition? Likewise, it is foolish for us to think we are somehow out of God's control and doing our own thing, when in reality, God is ultimate Sovereign over all and it is only by His grace we still live. He raises kings and brings them low; He grants us every breath; He provides for us all our sustenance. What foolishness for us to think we are masters of ourselves! However, this pride is only in the mind, or, at most, verbal (but God still hates it). Pride, like all sin, begins in the mind (Matthew 15:18, 19). This is the first step in pride's domination of someone, and it is the hardest to combat. We must strive to keep our minds free of pride and have the humble mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). If not kept in check, prideful thoughts quickly and eagerly lead to more wicked things.

Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? This is where true outspoken pride, the second step in pride's siege, comes in. Prideful thoughts will lead to prideful words about yourself. As Isaiah's similes move from boasting to magnifying, so we will escalate from inwardly boasting of ourselves to outwardly magnifying ourselves as better than others, or even God. This is where pride becomes noticeably evident to others besides God and ourselves. By now, our attitude, words, and demeanor have been corrupted to haughtiness. This is where pride begins to destroy relationships and hurt others, and it severely weakens our relationship with and testimony for God. Remember, what proceeds out of the mouth comes from the heart (Matthew 15:18). Once in this stage, proud actions quickly come into play.

As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up. Now Isaiah's personification focuses on prideful resistance against the One Who holds us in His hand. This is when pride becomes extremely dangerous, when we actually act out against God. Imagine holding a rod, and it begins to shake. What are you most likely going to do? First, get a tighter grip on it. Then, when it shakes more violently, you'll drop it and it will fall to the ground. This is exactly what will happen to us. When, in pride, we act out against God, or sin, it causes our relationship to become strained and difficult. God will get a tighter grip on us by convicting us, but if we continue, He'll let us fall on our faces and punishment will come to pass. There are terrible aftereffects of pride that God, in His great love, never wishes on us. When we act out against God in pride, we are saying we don't need Him, and when God lets us go, we will utterly fail.

Or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. Lastly, Isaiah brings out his most interesting point, and, to me, his most laughable. I mean, how ridiculous is it to think that a staff, a piece of wood, could lift itself up? It's impossible, and the point is clear: without God, we are helpless and can do nothing (John 15:5). By using this analogy, Isaiah is also stating that when we act in pride, relying on ourselves and not God, we're not even acting like what God created us to be. That phrase "as if it were no wood" means the staff is behaving as if it were made of something other than wood. When we do not rely on God, we are not acting like humans, because God created us to run on Him. C. S. Lewis says it better: "God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other."

I hope you have seen how destructive and dangerously deceitful pride is. Pride causes us to turn away from the Source of our strength, the very Source of our life, and brings horrendous consequences. It causes us to ignore our God-given purpose. In a sense, pride "personifies" us because it makes us behave like something we were not created to be. This is grotesque and disgusting to God, and I hope it has become so to you. I hope you will join me in daily praying for God to eradicate pride in our hearts and give us His mind of humility.

If you are not saved, you will never be able to humbly submit to God, your Creator. Pride is the only nature you know, and maybe that's what is holding you back from being saved. Please, give up your pride. To quote C. S. Lewis again, "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 you." Surrender yourself to the all-powerful and loving God. On your own you will only fail, and you will go to Hell. You need help, and God is graciously offering it. Click the Salvation tab above for more information.

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