By Russ Ramsey
What a fascinating picture in today’s reading of how God’s grace works against the proud. Even though Ezekiel 29 deals with an oracle against a nation that no longer exists in the form described here, it gives us a sobering, yet hopeful picture of how God delivers us from our pride.
This passage is the seventh and last of a series of prophecies against the nations surrounding Judah. It focuses on two primary charges—Egypt’s role in the destruction of Judah by withholding support in their time of need, and Pharaoh’s attempt to present himself as a god over the land. The king of Egypt has been going around saying he created the Nile—telling his own people this in order to maintain his power, casting himself as not only their king, but their god. The Lord likens Pharaoh to a great river dragon, saying He will set His hooks in the dragon’s jaws, pull him from the river, and cast him into the wilderness, and all Egypt with him, for forty years. But mercy will follow. After forty years, the Lord will gather them, restore their fortunes, and establish them as a lowly kingdom that will “never again exalt itself above the nations” (Ezekiel 29:15).
Put yourself in Pharaoh’s shoes. He is responsible for holding a nation together, maintaining control, ensuring prosperity, and keeping bad elements out. You may not govern a nation, but you probably still have things in your life that you are charged with holding together. You work to promote good outcomes and circumvent bad ones. Maybe it’s your family, your work, your business prospects, or your financial security. Whatever it is, the temptation is there to try to ensure control over things by casting yourself as someone who has more power or credibility than you know is yours.
When Pharaoh claims to be the maker of the Nile, the Lord strips him of his power and humbles him with a season in the wilderness. He undoes any credibility to the king’s claim. But then the Lord restores Egypt to a place of humility—their proper place.
This is how the Lord often disciplines us in our pride, too—He takes us down a notch or two, but not because He wants to ruin us. He wants to heal us. Restore us. Situate us rightly. Why would He do this? During this Lenten season we are reminded that there is a way we were meant to relate to Him—not as people trying to maintain power or its appearance, but as His children who are deeply, dearly loved. When God opposes our pride, when He humbles us, this is a great act of love. May He teach us to receive this sort of discipline from His hand.