There is one word that the whole world seems agreed on in relation to the western withdrawal from Afghanistan – humiliation. Whether we are truly humbled or only temporarily disgraced depends on how our nations respond. We ought in all humility, to ask why this has happened. To do so does not minimise the heart-rending distress experienced by those abandoned in Afghanistan. Nor does it reduce the courageous sacrifice of our troops. Asking why this has happened gives us a window into our real state as nations. This is not just a military and strategic defeat but a failure of the mission to remake Afghanistan in the image of the West and its values. The decline of the West is due to its moral decay.
As western nations we thought we could export to Afghanistan the benefits inherited from the Christian heritage we have rejected, without also giving them the framework of belief and morality that produced them. The US army were so afraid of doing that they even burned Afghan language Bibles sent to them. It appears that British involvement commissioned fatwas calling for converts from Islam to be killed. As one writer has observed, the West in its decadence has lost its virtue, it has squandered the moral capital bequeathed by a living faith.
The emptiness of our pride as nations and the fatal complacency it produces have been exposed for all to see. The Old Testament prophets frequently show us such decadent pride in nations, with the implication that we are to learn from it. The small book of Obadiah is largely taken up with the nation of Edom who manifested proud contempt towards Judah. They were proud of their prosperity, resources and wealth (v3-6); allies (v7); wisdom (v8) and military might (v9). But judgement is threatened against the, ultimately their pride would be brought low and every one of these things in which they put their confidence pulled down. They would then be exposed to misery and contempt. As George Hutcheson observes the prophet shows how “the Lord would diminish their number, power, wealth, and reputation, and put them beneath all other nations and load them with contempt and ignominy.” In the following updated extract Hutcheson draws out the meaning of Obadiah 2-4 in teaching us the fearful danger of pride, the sin that God hates so much.
1. Pride Can Bring the Greatest Down
The Lord in pursuing for sin, can bring down the greatest person and people in the world, lay them in the dust, and pour contempt upon the most honourable. The Lord says He has made them small, and greatly despised.
The Lord’s showing mercy to any makes way for others also to show mercy towards them for their good (Jeremiah 42:12). In the same way, when the Lord becomes an adversary in anger, the affections and respect of others will dry up towards them. For however Edom was esteemed before by others, when God deals with him he is greatly despised.
2. Pride in Outward Advantages
A natural heart together with outward advantages and benefits usually produces pride, self-confidence and insolence. Edom is proud of their high and secure location and says in his heart, “Who shall bring me down to the ground?” But though a renewed heart has all these benefits, they are poor and depend on God.
3. Pride of Heart is Known to God
The Lord does not judge people’s pride by their outward conduct (which may be masked over with an appearance of humility) so much as by looking at their heart and discerning the conceit and lofty imaginations that reign there. He sees the pride of Edom’s heart.
4. Pride is Self-Deceit
Self-deceit is one of the greatest of all deceits. In this they are given up to delude themselves with vain imaginations and confidences so that their heart deceives them. However much pride and conceit musters up people’s excellences, it merely deludes them and makes a pretence of what will prove nothing. Either it is an evidence of what is nothing in reality or that what they are conceited about becomes blasted and withered. However much presumption may promise great things to make sinners secure and despise God’s threatenings, it only deceives them and feeds them with vain hopes. It will prove a deceiver in the end when they have greatest need of what they seemed to promise.
5. Pride is God’s Enemy
God looks on pride in the creature as an enemy against Himself. It strikes pre-eminently at His glory in failing to depend on Him and seeking to usurp His throne. It therefore provokes God, though there were no other aggravation or enemy, it engages Him to prove His power in abasing it. Therefore, that general defiance, “Who shall bring me down to the ground?” is answered by God as being His special concern. He says that He will bring them down.
The Lord is able to reach man and bring him down in even though he has the maximum imaginable strength and greatness. He can make strong holds a vain refuge in a day of vengeance and is even able to overturn more confidences then man can build up for his own security. To dwell in the clefts of the rock was but a small thing for God’s power to reach, and yet that was the utmost of what Edom could boast of.
It is easy to be proud of many things, even spiritual privileges. We need to take this to heart ourselves, how can we see this in our national life without living more humbly before others in our personal life? Perhaps the West is as it is because the Church has not been what it should be. We also need to make it clear to others why the West has lost its virtue. The more moral decay we see, the more we need to shine as lights in the darkness and the more we need to plead with and intercede on behalf of our rulers and nations. We need to be a clear voice for the truth as well as salt and light that has a restraining influence.
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