After so carefully choosing and lovingly transporting our expensive bedding plants home, it never fails that the east-south-east wind blows cruelly cold for two solid weeks. It’s come to my attention because the wind generally predominates from the northwest here in Alberta. Inevitably, set your tender new sproutlings out on the patio and sure enough, the squall swirls around the building with spiteful intent.
This puts me in mind of how often the east wind is mentioned in Scripture. In Arabia, the east wind is called “Saluq”. Typically, any mention of the east evokes something new, a rapid change, coming out of nowhere to surprise the unwary. In these regions, blistering tempests whirl up from wilderness with cyclonic ferocity and present a real danger. This image was singularly powerful to the people of Old Testament times, symbolizing God’s intervention in the affairs of men. Always something powerful, the east wind was divinely retributive; an omen of impending evil. Many times, supernatural judgment in the form of stronger nations on an invading rampage was prophetically portrayed as God’s Saluq.
In Exodus, we get a front row seat in the contest between the Almighty and Pharaoh, potentate of his day. This tyrant has been commanded to “Let my people go”, and presented with increasingly escalating proof in the plagues. However, an ego steeped in pride, privilege and power, indeed, one who believes himself a god, can hardly back down. Though beseeched by great and small, his arrogant vanity has not the humility to secede with grace.
And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night,and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion.
Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen— the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. Exodus 14:21, 23,27-28 NKJV
The attitude of Pharaoh, so dramatically captured here, is what the Ancients called “hubris”. Hubris manifests out of an ego so dominated by pride and arrogance that it is not afraid to commit acts outside of common decency, humanity or propriety. Deliberate insolence, insult, contempt or even violence hallmark this dangerous character flaw, for it considers itself above the law. Hubris also loves to shame and humiliate others for the sheer malicious pleasure of it. In Greek mythology, hubris is a repeating theme, so we find its presence infiltrating the texture of the New Testament. Here, Herod personifies hubris marvelously. To the Hellenistic mind, hubris challenged the might or authority of the gods as if it was superior or equal, invoking strong retaliation. John Milton, in his masterpiece “Paradise Lost” captured this fatal shortcoming perfectly in the words of Lucifer: “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven”. Mess with hubris, and you’ve thrown down the gauntlet before God Himself. Study it closely and you’ll find this toxic substance always comes full circle, bringing full destruction upon its perpetrator.
It’s no secret that all of us struggle with ego, pride and the foolish pitfalls of our own carnal nature on a daily basis. Christians are exhorted to “put to death” this beast, and even the secular reasonably strive to keep it in some kind of bounds. Unfortunately, our generation is exploding in hubris. One need only visit social platforms to be unspeakably shocked at the level of over-blown vanity, self-aggrandizement and presumption so flagrantly parading. Not content to trumpet their own shameless horns, these Narcissists are unafraid abuse others with wanton disrespect. It takes real, determined effort in wisdom to perceive and combat this corrosive substance that has so infiltrated our age. Is there a remedy for so pervasive an evil? Blessedly, there is.
Humility is the antidote of hubris. This virtue permeates the life and teachings of Jesus. As the Son of Man, Jesus left Heaven to come to earth, setting aside divine privilege. This alone qualifies Him as the arch-enemy of hubris. Every day, His Spirit is disciplining us in meekness, gentleness, and even a docile passivity that renders us immune to the dangerous and destructive temptations of hubris. He’s teaching us the honor protocol that sustains heaven and earth, re-calibrating our understanding of worth and due reverence. He’s filling us with redeemed emotion that drives out the darkness of Satan’s influence. He’s teaching us the power resident in endurance, long-suffering, submission and service. We’re absorbing His peace, mildness and leniency, and it’s changing our cruel, selfish hearts and setting us free from ourselves.
Every now and again, some truly vicious emotion, in myself or others, catches me completely off-guard. Like gazing into the eyes of the serpent, hubris raises its malevolent stare. It robs my joy and makes me feel like cursing the whole human race. But instead of calling down fiery vengeance, I’m learning to take up the invitation of Jesus.
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matt 11:28-30 KJV
With these words, all power of the Evil One melts away. Just like the Red Sea, they drown our failure, fear and pain; all the violent hatred of the enemy. In Christ, God’s Old Testament Saluq of judgment has now become sweeping currents of grace, restoring, instead of destroying the soul.
Photo by Bing