On the one side, it is terribly true: “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 16:5). “The haughty he knoweth from afar” (Ps. 138:6). It all sprang out of that proud heart that lifted itself up and said, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; …I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13, 14). With that “I”, all the trouble began, and that one bit his poison into the race. The poison of the human race is pride, and it has come all the way down. It is sometimes almost untraceable: we are not able always to trace it out in all its forms, because pride has what we might call negative aspects as well as positive. There are, of course, the obviously, manifestly proud, the ambitious, the assertive, the self-important, the self-sufficient. But there are negative aspects and I use that word with regard to pride very carefully, because pride is positive whatever form it takes. It is an ugly thing. A lot of our murmuring is pride; a lot of tears are pride; we think they are humility. A lot of our criticism of other people springs from pride: we think we could do better, we could go one better, setting ourselves up as the judge, the critic; pride is at the root. Very much of our poor, miserable tone is, after all, pride. Oh, how subtle and serpentine a thing this is! It is there. So the Lord has to stand back.
On the other hand, look at humility. “To this man will I look” – that is the beginning, the Lord even looking in anyone’s direction “even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit” (Isa. 66:2), and He dwells with them (Isa. 57:15). And “the meek will he guide in judgement: and the meek will he teach his way” (Ps. 25:9). And “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). It is like that all the way through; vindication is on that basis. “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3): and you know when that was said at the time when his position was disputed, and God appeared at the entrance of the tabernacle and answered the challenge on the ground of the meekness of His servant. God stands by and vindicates the meek.
Is not the Lord justified in taking any steps to clear up that situation breaking, emptying, humbling, withholding, deferring, delaying; in any way bringing us to naught, to a place of utter dependence, where there is nothing we can rely upon at all but the Lord Himself? Is He justified? It is a tremendous process. It is a very real, very devastating work.