pride - a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.
It is no overstatement to say that pride can be deadly. This is true both physically and spiritually. We are told that God’s most glorious angel fell into rebellion because of his pride (Ezekiel 28:17), and then tempted Eve into sinful rebellion as well. It is not just Eden where pride festered early in human history, but everywhere in the world since then as well. There are many times in the lives of all human beings when we experience just how quickly our proud thoughts and actions can lead us into states of fear, anger and depression. It is no coincidence, then, that the Bible constantly warns against human pride – that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
The Bible also constantly reinforces the message that we are utterly dependent on God. It is God who created us, sustains us, provides for us, enlightens us and redeems us from our spiritual depravity. Modern culture, in stark contrast, programs us to believe that we can be self-reliant; that we can enlighten ourselves and govern each other through various institutional mechanisms. Politicians promise us that they will enact the policies and regulations that force human society to run smoothly and efficiently, with little or no reference to God and his word. It is really no surprise that such ambitious minds always fall short of taming the human experience.
The history of human civilization has been one in which we have tamed various animals for purposes of both work and pleasure. The Bible teaches us that all of these birds and mammals were created by God with “nephesh” (soul) of mind, will and emotion, just as humans were (Genesis 1:24, Strong’s Concordance 5315). Nephesh or soulish animals nurture their young, relate to one another and are also capable of relating to and bonding with humans. Our early human ancestors quickly learned that some of these animals were very easy to tame, such as goats and donkeys, and some were very difficult to tame, such as horses, wolves and lions.
It is interesting to note that the animals which are difficult to tame usually develop a much stronger and more pleasurable bond with humans than the ones we can tame with ease. We see that there is a trade-off between this work of taming and pleasure of bonding for human beings. The book of Job teaches us that there exists one of God’s creatures which no human being can possibly tame, though. In this remarkable piece of wisdom literature, God rhetorically asks Job and his friends whether they can tame “Behemoth” and “Leviathan”, most likely the hippopotamus and crocodile, which are notoriously dangerous to humans in the water and nearly impossible to tame (Job 40:15-24; Job 41:1-2).
“Look at the behemoth,
which I made along with you
and which feeds on grass like an ox.
What strength he has in his loins,
what power in the muscles of his belly!
His tail sways like a cedar;
the sinews of his thighs are close-knit.
His bones are tubes of bronze,
his limbs like rods of iron.
He ranks first among the works of God,
yet his Maker can approach him with his sword.
Can anyone capture him by the eyes,
or trap him and pierce his nose?
“Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down his tongue with a rope?
Can you put a cord through his nose
or pierce his jaw with a hook?
Will he keep begging you for mercy?
Will he speak to you with gentle words?
Will he make an agreement with you
for you to take him as your slave for life?
Can you make a pet of him like a bird
or put him on a leash for your girls?
Will traders barter for him?
Will they divide him up among the merchants?
Can you fill his hide with harpoons
or his head with fishing spears?
If you lay a hand on him,
you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
However, even these powerful and dangerous creatures are capable of being tamed by humans to some extent, as we can discern from the pictures of Chinto (man) and Pocho (croc) above. The main point God is making to Job there is that, as difficult as it is to tame wild animals such as the hippo or the croc, it is even more difficult to tame a proud human heart. So difficult, in fact, that it can only be done by God himself (Job 42:1-6). The trade-off for God, so to speak, is that humans are absolutely unique in their ability to relate to and bond with God among all of his creatures. We are even capable of having a more intimate relationship with God than his most loyal angels.
As we may tame the lion and his pride to become loyal and affectionate companions to us, God has tamed all of humanity through Christ so that we may enter into an eternal and loving relationship with him. The lion of Judah has shown us how he can and will replace our proud hearts of stone with a new holy spirit and hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19), as long as we put our faith and trust in him. We must be ready and willing to be tamed by our better and our master, knowing full well that he will love and take care of us forever. If a proud human heart goes before destruction and a fall, then Christ’s redemption goes before deliverance and an ascent into Heaven.