It has been often noted that at the base of all sin is some form of pride.
A man pridefully deems that the protection of his finances is more important than the government’s right to tax, so he is deceitful on his 1040 form. A child yearns for a toy and is billigerent in his asking because he pridefully thinks his desires for the object are more significant than his mother’s right to deny that desire. A neighbor cuts down a tree on his property line because his prideful assumption is that his right to a view is more weighty than his neighbor’s right to enjoy the fruit of the tree.
Pride is often — if not always — the driving force of our sins.
But is pride only a pervasive form of self-promotion — “I’m more important than you”? Yes, it is that. But it is also more than that.
Pride not only says, “I am more important than you,” but it also says, “I am more important than God.” And that is its greatest danger.
Pride, and all the sins it motivates, is an expression of rebellion against God and His rule and authority in our lives. It is our way of saying, “I am not only more important, but I am most important. I will rule this day. And I will rule my life. I will not bow my knee to any man, nor even to God. I am king.”
It was this very attitude that compelled the first sin in the universe — Satan’s rebellion against God (Is. 14:13-14):
“But you said in your heart,
- I will ascend to heaven;
- I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
- And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north.
- I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
- I will make myself like the Most High
Pride not only is an attempt to exalt self, but it is even more a futile attempt to diminish and ignore and usurp the authority of God.
To live in such a state is disastrous, as Satan quickly discovered: “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, To the recesses of the pit.” (Is. 14:15)
So, when God orchestrates events in our lives — through blessing or discipline — to demonstrate that we are not the authority in our lives or any other, then it is a gift of His grace. It is a kindness from the Lord when He humbles us by puncturing our overinflated (and misplaced) opinions of ourselves.
It is this very work of humbling the proud that God does in the book of Ezekiel. There is a repetitiousness to the book and its writing style. But in the repetition is also meaning. Sixty-seven times God says in that book, “I am the Lord.” And 25 more times He says, “I, the Lord.” Sometimes these words are in the context of judgment and discipline of the nation of Israel (6:10; 12:15-16), and sometimes they are a judgment of the nations (25:5, 11, 17; 26:6), and on a few occasions they are an expression of grace as He blesses them with something undeserved, like the promises of the covenant (16:60-62).
Always when God acts, Ezekiel indicates, it is to reveal that God alone is God. He orders the affairs and circumstances of life to indicate that He alone is sovereign. God alone is authoritative. And those who foolishly set themselves against Him will find that He has set Himself against them (14:8; 15:7). And the man who has God against him will always fall (1 Pt. 5:5b).
As one writer has noted,
“When mankind willfully refuses to turn to him, God mercifully uses discipline and judgment to cause the people to recognize that he is the only true God, always faithful to what he has said in his word!”
The grace of the book of Ezekiel is the repeated reminder to Israel (and the nations) of God’s position; in that simple phrase, “I am the Lord,” God has provided ample opportunity for repentance. They had — and we have — time to turn from rebellious pride and submit to Him. So “I am the Lord,” serves not only as a declaration of God’s supremacy, and not only a warning of judgment or discipline, but it also is an announcement of grace — a calling of God to sober the disobedient so they become humble before the only exalted One.