Many things may be said about God. One of them, is that He simply does not suffer arrogance in His people. Arrogance is an anathema before God. Jesus reserved His harshest criticism for the Pharisees, who were the leaders of the Jewish social order of the day. To Him they were hypocrites, arrogant in every way.
There is only one way to come before the living God and that it in humility. There is simply no other mindset which God will either accept or honour. Jesus operated in the same vein as His Father, accepting humility and faith and ignoring arrogance and the arrogant. He just would not tolerate or entertain them or their views.
Let us first look at the story of the rich young man who comes to Jesus as told in Matthew 19:16-23
“And behold, one came and said to Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?
And He said to him, Why do you call Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.
He said to Him, Which? Jesus said, You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honour your father and mother, and, you shall love your neighbour as yourself.
The young man said to Him, I have kept all these things from my youth up; what do I lack yet?
Jesus said to him, If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven. And come, follow Me.
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Truly I say to you that a rich man will with great difficulty enter into the kingdom of Heaven’.”
Nothing in the story describes this young man, other than he had great riches. He apparently came to Jesus openly and honestly asking Him how he could attain eternal life. The reply from Jesus to give away all his possession and follow Him, was a huge step too far for this man, who sorrowfully left, without saying another word.
Unlike the evangelists today, Jesus did not start the ‘soft sell’ of contemporary Christianity to the rich young man; He did not offer him to partake in a pot luck meal; He did not offer him to come to fellowship in the non-threatening environment of a cell group of a seeker friendly Church; He did not offer to water down the gospel or miss out the hard parts; He did not chase after the young man. Instead, Jesus watched him leave and said to His disciples “Truly I say to you that a rich man will with great difficulty enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”
The young man may not have been arrogant by our standards, but was not humble, by the standards of God. Jesus established standard this for us very clearly in Matthew 18:2-3 saying:
“And Jesus called a little child to Him and set him in their midst, and said, ‘Truly I say to you, Unless you are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven’.”
The Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, a teaching of Jesus unsurpassed for eloquence, truth and the right way of living over the last two millennia. Each Beatitude consists of two phrases: the condition and the result. As Matthew 5:5 says “Blessed are the meek! For they shall inherit the earth.” There are no blessings in the Bible for the strong, the arrogant and the know-it-alls. Instead, they are all held as being in rebellion against the living God; for it is in Romans 15:1 we read “Then we who are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” and in First Corinthians 4:10 where the difference is made clear by Paul as he writes “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are honourable, but we are despised.” This is how we need to both think as born-again Christians, and to act; for without actions, as James 2:20b says “faith without works is dead.”
The New Testament contains two notable instances which together, contrast the attitude and stance of arrogance and humility before God. Both, interestingly, relate to a time before the birth of Jesus, so it is certain that it is God the Father who is taking umbrage at arrogance. Interestingly also, the comparison pits a man, Zacharias, against a woman, Mary; the old, Zacharias, against the young, Mary; the very well educated, Zacharias, against the not so well educated, Mary. A teaching, a comparison and a contrast here on many levels, all of which are just as applicable today, as when the stories first occurred two thousand years ago.
Let us look at the two stories in the chronological order of the Bible. The first passage of Scripture is Luke 1:1b-20 which reads:
“For your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you shall have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall neither drink wine nor strong drink.
And he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
And he shall turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God.
And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
And Zacharias said to the angel, “By what shall I know this? For I am old, and my wife is advanced in her days.”
And answering, the angel said to him, I am Gabriel, who stands before God. And I am sent to speak to you and to show you these glad tidings.
And behold, you shall be silent and not able to speak until the day that these things shall be performed, because you did not believe my words which shall be fulfilled in their time” (Emphasis added).
The Message version of the Bible paraphrases v18 as “ Zachariah said to the angel, ‘Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman’.” Clearly, Zacharias thought the words of the Angel were and insult to his intelligence. What happened to Zacharias as a result of his arrogant outburst of disbelief? Zacharias, as v20 says, for being dumb and for not believing the words of the Angel, was struck dumb until after the birth of John the Baptist, by which time Zacharias had found humility before the Lord.
Compare the news received by Zacharias, to that of the news received by Mary, both of whom, we find, receiving their news from Angels. We now move forward to Luke 1:31-38
“And behold! You shall conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name JESUS. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest. And the Lord God shall give Him the throne of His father David. And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.
Then Mary said to the angel, How shall this be, since I do not know a man?
And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Spirit shall come on you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you. Therefore also that Holy One which will be born of you shall be called Son of God.
And behold, your cousin Elizabeth also conceived a son in her old age. And this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.
And Mary said, Behold the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word. And the angel departed from her”(Emphasis added).
In v34, Mary, like Zacharias, expressed her surprise at the news, asking the Angel, “How shall this be, since I do not know a man?” But her overall disposition is one of humility as she replies to the Angel in v38 “Behold the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.”
Mary was not arrogant and God gave her an explanation.
Yes, in these days of the end of this age, we are all under great deception by the enemy as he tries to distract us from God’s Word and plan for us. We are warned about this in First John 4:1 where we are warned: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits to see if they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” As we test these spirits we need to remember what we must do so in humility, as and when we seek the Lord, remembering the words of the Old Testament scripture Psalm 51:17 which tell us that: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
Dear Heavenly Father,
As I come before You now in prayer, I seek forgiveness for my lack of humility. I repent of my condition. I know that in Proverbs 6:3 we are asked to humble ourselves, for it is within our own power, to do so. I pray that You will give me both the strength of character and the conviction to humble myself. I humbly pray that You will also now bring Your chosen Saints into my life, to convict me to this. Let them be a true and faithful mirror of the way You see me, so that I may no more deceive myself. Please let me see myself as You, and others, see me.
In Jesus name I pray, Amen and Amen and Amen.