It takes real courage, or mule sense, to take five small children on a hike up a mountain. But it takes a special kind of self-reliance to haul the kids up the mountain without knowing the length of the trail. Hiking in the North Cascades, we shared big hopes to see mountain lakes and snow-capped peaks. And as the pater familias—“the father of the family”—I knew exactly who should be the one to choose the trail to lead us there.
After what seemed like hours of hot trudging back and forth and up and down over the switchbacks, my family was starting to wilt. We pressed on, in spite of the children’s protestations, and made it to the end of the trail. What I’d thought would be a quick quarter-mile walk turned into what I now assumed was a seven-mile journey.
When we got back to the trailhead, ice cream promised to the children, I saw that I was wrong in both coming and going. I had chosen the wrong trail in the first place, and then underestimated its length; the trail was actually four miles long. Despite my confidence at the outset, and my wife’s loving support, I had misread everything.
Do you trust yourself? This can be a complex question to answer, but I reckon most of us trust ourselves to a great degree. I find that my proclivity is to trust my own judgment, my own opinions, my own perspective. And this is often what gets me in trouble, because all of these things—judgment, opinions, perspective—are the fiercest arenas of spiritual warfare. Here, the flesh and the Spirit battle.
We love to arm ourselves with worldly securities, with finances and influence, possessions and talents. To have such things is no sin, but to trust in them causes great peril. When we trust in our own strength, in our own fleshly accumulations, we find that all our allies have driven us to our borders, deceived us, and even conquered us (v.7).
When we lean on our own understanding, the pride of our hearts deceives us (v.3). We become like Edom, the recipient of Obadiah’s message of judgment.
Matthew Henry observed: “Those that make flesh their trust, arm it against themselves.” The folly of Edom was this trust in self, in the strength of arms, in strongholds and lofty dwellings. Their faith was in a kingdom of this world.
Faith always leads to practice. Worldly trusts inevitably lead to worldly living, and for Edom, the natural fruit of their self-trust was disregard for their neighbors, Israel. In arrogance, Edom stood by aloof and idle as Israel suffered, gloating over the calamity of God’s people, and believing it to be a means for their own gain.
This is a persistent and natural temptation for all of us, no matter how we dress it up. But thankfully, the new kingdom will be the Lord’s (v.21), and His kingdom is not built upon earthly trusts. What a great blessing, to see this prophecy already fulfilled in our own day! Though partial fulfillment was evident in Israel’s return to the land of Palestine, the final fulfillment is in Christ, who has come to upend all false and worldly faith.
The kingdom of the world is now the kingdom of God and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15). May we, with grateful hearts, honor Christ alone as King. May we yield all our trust to Him, and may His kingdom come and His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Written by Caleb Faires