The peril of pride in privilege or pampering: Ephraim and Manasseh

Jacob Blessing Ephraim and Manasseh (detail) / Benjamin West, 1766-68

Jacob Blessing Ephraim and Manasseh (detail) / Benjamin West, 1766-68

Perhaps nothing so starkly displays the fall more starkly than comparing the first verse in Genesis (which begins, “in the beginning”) and the last (which ends, “in a coffin in Egypt.) Unfortunately, the story gets worse from there.

Until his death, Joseph was Egypt’s prime minister and held nearly unlimited power. Lord Acton’s saying, “power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely” is only partly correct.

Power reveals and intensifies the level of corruption already present. Strong faith in God reduces that level substantially. If sons of godly people show themselves corrupt, it’s because they did not inherit faith.… Read the rest

Jesus’ humility, Satan’s pride: whom do we follow?

Jesus' humility

Ecce Homo (Behold! The Man) / Antonio Ciseri, 1871. “The humble king they named a fraud, and sacrificed the Lamb of God.”

God is all-powerful, but when he chose to use his power to become a man, he also chose not to use power like other men. It is Satan who turns power into something coercive and egocentric.

It would be nice if we could say that Christians understand the situation and exercise power as Jesus did. Unfortunately, we can truthfully say no more than that some do, and they successfully imitate Christ maybe only some of the time.

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Our pride and God’s patience: Nebuchadnezzar’s dream

People don’t like to wait for answers to prayer. But what about when God warns of something bad that will happen some time in the future? In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar had a disturbing dream that involved a large tree being chopped down. Daniel interpreted it and said the king would be driven from human society for seven years and then be restored. He also said that Nebuchadnezzar could avoid his fate by repentance from his sin. The king forgot all about it. God did not.

28 “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29 Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon.

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God’s grace for the unreasonable: Nebuchadnezzar

Have you ever had to deal with a totally unreasonable person? What about some bosses you have had, or perhaps a neighbor or even family member? I know there are times in my life that, if I had Godlike  powers, say, a thunderbolt to wipe someone off the face of the earth, I would have cheerfully used it. That’s the way of sinful humanity. We’re much more prone to exercising judgment than grace.

The Bible knows its share of tyrants. Daniel 2:1-13 introduces Nebuchadnezzar when he was about 25 years old. A seasoned military leader, he had only recently become king.… Read the rest

The most popular of 100 posts on Grace and Judgment

It hardly seems possible, but since beginning this blog at the end of October 2009, I have posted more than 100 Bible studies and devotionals. Allow me to reminisce a little and highlight the most popular posts so far.

Who are you calling evil?
Jesus prefaced a comment saying, “If you, then, being evil. . .” But no one took offense at him. Wouldn’t most of the audience be offended today?

Prayer that really works
I have learned that instead of asking for my will to be done, I can ask God to conform me to the image of Jesus. When I ask for a blessing, I keep an open mind about what it is.… Read the rest

True spiritual leadership

Christians today find it easy to  hold the scribes and pharisees of Jesus’ day in contempt. If Jesus was so critical, then they must have been evil religious hypocrites, right?

We forget that they were among the most highly respected people in their society. Most of them, at least, must have been sincere and  honorable. Alas, too many modern Christian leaders take after the ones Jesus scolded. (One, of course, is one too many.) When they come under criticism, many of their followers go to great lengths to defend them.

Indeed, religious leaders who live less than godly lives have always presented a quandary. … Read the rest

Speaking what’s right of God: thoughts from Job on pride and humility

The Book of Job presents tremendous difficulties to anyone who really wants to understand it. In the prologue, we learn that Job was perfect in God’s sight, but to teach a lesson to Satan, God stripped Job of his wealth, his health, and his children. Three friends come to comfort him, but get into a nasty argument instead. Through it all, we see human pride at its worst.

All of them say things that sound very religious. Without careful study it is hard to pick out the rightness and wrongness of anyone’s comments. Then God shows up. What he says appears to have nothing to do with anything anyone said earlier.… Read the rest