Although it might not seem so at first, the book of Isaiah is very applicable to us as modern-day Christians. It’s like we’re younger siblings listening in on a father-son chat God is having with our older brother, Israel. We can learn a lot about God from this.
The first thing we learn in Isaiah 9:8-12 is the simple fact that God disciplines His children.
The Lord has sent a word against Jacob, and it will fall on Israel; and all the people will know, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and in arrogance of heart …(vv. 8-9)
God is a good Dad, and good dads discipline their kids. As it says in Hebrews 12:7-8:
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
On this point, the logic in the Bible is so simple. Fathers discipline their children. God is our Father, so He disciplines us. If you’re not disciplined by God, then you’re not His child because God disciplines every single one of His children.
What This Means for Us
This fact that God disciplines His children has huge implications. For one thing, if you can live in ongoing, unrepentant sin and feel comfortable with that, it’s a big red flag that you might not be a Christian. You may be a churchy person or someone who know their Bible inside and out. But if you have a lifestyle characterized by sin and you receive no correction from God, you’re probably not His child.
Now you may just be in a season where you’re plowing heedlessly through God’s discipline and the consequences of your sin. It may be that His correction hasn’t been fully brought into effect.
Christians do sin. But there is a difference between struggling against sin and living a lifestyle of sin. Here is an example. There’s a difference between a Christian who is growing in their ability to be honest, and someone who claims to be a Christian but is deceitful and comfortable with deceiving.
Whatever your sin pattern might be, if you are a Christian, you can expect God to discipline you. He loves you too much to let you go.
God Disciplines Pride & Arrogance in Israel
What specific sin was God correcting in Israel? Pride and arrogance of heart (v. 9).
Pride can be defined as a high regard for yourself. Arrogance can be defined as an overbearingly proud way of relating to other people. The pride and arrogance of Israel is illustrated in what they say in verses 10-11:
“The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.”
Because Israel had this proud and arrogant attitude, they were blind to what God wanted to show them and deaf to what He had to say. Instead of being corrected and correctable, they stubbornly and stupidly kept their course. As it says later on, they “did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the Lord of hosts” (v. 13). They didn’t even acknowledge that God had destroyed their bricks and sycamores – that He had done so to discipline them.
What does this have to do with us?
You might be thinking, “This is interesting, but completely irrelevant to me. I’m not proud or arrogant.” Well, proud and arrogant people don’t think of themselves as proud and arrogant.
So, how do we know if we’re proud or arrogant? Here are some thoughts that may help you answer this question personally:
- The most important commandments for Christians are to love God and to love people. If that’s the case, why do so few Christians take these seriously? Why are so few of us at least trying to figure out how to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? Why do so many Christians sound, act and react just like their non-Christian neighbors?
- COVID-19 has shut down and rebooted our whole lives, giving us a chance to slow down and think. Many have said, “I think God’s trying to teach us something through this! This pandemic has shown me how I’ve misprioritized God and family relationships in my life.” And yet, now that regular life is resuming, many of these people are going right back to the way things were before. They’re not learning the lessons God has been trying to teach them.
- How have churches responded to COVID-19? Many responded by just trying to replicate digitally everything they were doing in person. But maybe with these bricks and sycamores being cut down, God is trying to teach churches something. Maybe He wants us to come back together a different way – a way that is healthier and more honoring to Him.
- Think about all the civil unrest in America. How many Christians are praying and inquiring of the Lord to give them wisdom about policing, race and government? How many Christians have just doubled down on the opinions they had before?
As Christians, we’re supposed to be humble, teachable, correctable people. But hopefully you can see that we all struggle with pride and arrogance to varying degrees. God acted to correct the pride and arrogance of Israel (vv. 11-12), and He still does this today.
Responding to God’s Discipline
We all struggle in some way with pride and arrogance. So what is the answer to this problem? Unsurprisingly, the answer is Jesus Christ.
The answer isn’t to muster up humility out of our own willpower. It’s to confess our pride and arrogance and go to Jesus asking for forgiveness. We must allow Him to recreate us in His own image, which is perfectly humble and teachable.
Jesus leads the way in humility and away from pride and arrogance. As His people, we are secure. And we get to become more Christ-like every day as we intentionally follow Him. So ask the Lord throughout the day to show you any pride and arrogance in your life. Ask Him to help you pursue humility, teachability and correctability.