Priests, Protitutes, and Pride
I want to share with you one of my deepest fears.
My husband knows about it. My closest friends know about it. My prayer journals know about it.
It’s often disguised. It goes unnoticed. It waits right under the surface. And it’s scares me so deeply, because I’ve seen such horrific destruction take place in its presence - damage that is rarely able to be undone, apart from the grace of God.
It’s called “pride.”
Now before you laugh at me and shrug off the earnestness of my fear, I want to ask for your attention until I can explain the ruthlessness of this viper in the heart.
Pride is not something to be coddled or to leave unchecked. It is no respecter of persons, season in life, position in the church, history of service, age or lack thereof -- it hunts us all, no matter how “safe” we assume we may be. In fact, I’ve seen it viciously prey on the very ones who consider themselves above such “undeadly” character flaws.
I was one of them. I was taken captive by its deception. And the story of Hosea literally shook me out of pride’s bewitchment until I saw myself clearly in need of the mercy of God.
This week in our homework we studied Hosea 4 and 5 in which God lays down some heavy accusations against Israel and pulls the priests into the spotlight.
Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel,
for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
and no knowledge of God in the land;
there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. (Hosea 4:1-2, ESV)
Yet let no one contend,
and let none accuse,
for with you is my contention, O priest. (Hosea 4:4, ESV)
It’s interesting that God begins His accusation here. The land is in outright turmoil and drowning in a sick culture void of good, and He points to one group of individuals as responsible for such dark outrage: the priests of the Most High God.
I wonder if we were given the task of evaluating the cause of a nation's corruption, who would we point to? The “dirty” of society? The criminals and prostitutes? The unfaithful and irreverent? The addicts and homeless?
But would we point to the highest level of religious servants?
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children. (Hosea 4:6, ESV)
The land is in turmoil, judgement is coming, the people are prostituting themselves to foreign gods all because they don’t know the Lord [a lack of knowledge]. Why? Because the priests have rejected the knowledge of God. The priests are failing to represent the steadfast love of a holy God and are instead offering sacrifices to pieces of wood and sleeping with temple prostitutes. And God starts the judgment here with them:
Hear this, O priests!
Pay attention, O house of Israel!
Give ear, O house of the king!
For the judgment is for you;
for you have been a snare at Mizpah
and a net spread upon Tabor. (Hosea 5:1, ESV)
What on earth happened? What made the priests stumble in such a way?
Their deeds do not permit them
to return to their God.
For the spirit of whoredom is within them,
and they know not the Lord.
The pride of Israel testifies to his face;
Israel and Ephraim shall stumble in his guilt;
Judah also shall stumble with them. (Hosea 5:4-5, ESV)
While the priests were probably pointing at the prostitutes, the Lord was revealing the prostituting hearts within the priests. But why couldn’t they see this?
Because of their pride.
Just like observations of a wild predator show how it lures, captures, and destroys its prey, we can observe those same characteristics within Hosea when it comes to pride. Here are some observations I’ve made:
- Pride always blinds its victims first.
Several times in these chapters, God informs the priests that they are stumbling. They can’t see what is right in front of them and they continue to make others stumble as well. Charles Spurgeon said that “Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self." So if humility is viewing yourself correctly, then pride is a blindness to your true reality.
The pendulum can swing both ways with pride; you can either think too highly of yourself or too low. For example, in my own life I have operated in pride by considering myself more important than others which produced impatience, selfishness, and frustration when people don’t treat me in accordance with the way I view myself. But I’ve also slipped into pride by assuming myself in worse condition than others, which produced shame, defeat, and unfruitfulness in my relationships with God and others.
Only grace give us the proper, redeemed vision of our true value.
It is therefore incredibly important to be aware of our blind spots. Christian community and discipleship are not a “luxury” when facing a threat like pride, they are absolutely vital. Obviously Scripture is the great sword that cuts through blindness in our souls, but even personal devotions without continually engaging the Church can become a breeding ground for pride. Personally, I have stumbled in such ways before. I often read the Word and assumed I was applying it, but it wasn’t until I became connected (and vulnerable) with gracious and wise believers that my blind spots were revealed. Then true confession of my prideful state took place.
- Pride destroys communion with God and with others.
The priests of Hosea’s time may have assumed they were still connected to the God of Israel, but in fact they were cut off from God’s presence.
“...Because you [priests] have rejected knowledge, I [God] reject you from being a priest to me.” (Hosea 4:6)
The special communion they once had access to was destroyed because of their sin. And because they were no longer connected with the Holy One, they no longer had anything holy to offer the people -- but instead they began to engage in and promote the sins of the people.
“They [the priests] feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity.” (Hosea 4:8)
- Pride turns people into objects intended serve us or make us look better.
If you follow God’s description of the priest’s sin especially in Hosea 4, they go downhill quickly. In verse 10 they begin forsaking the Lord with whoredom and wine, then they “inquire” and seek oracles from pieces of wood and walking staffs, which lead them to sacrifice to false gods on mountain tops and under trees, allowing their daughters and wives to become harlots while they take prostitutes for themselves. The priests no longer existed to serve and reveal God to the people, but the people become objects they use to serve themselves.
The priests are the prostitutes that filled the land with hatred, adultery, and bloodshed, robbing the land of faithfulness, steadfast love, and the knowledge of God.
Our pride robs our relationships of the same things. In our arrogance, people become objects intended to fulfill our desires. We compete instead of serve. We compare instead of love. We use people to get what we want, instead of considering them more important that ourselves.
. . . . .
I have been guilty of such things. I have allowed my pride to blind my soul, distance myself from community, and treat people like they exist to serve me. It’s disgusting, isn’t it?
But is there help for our pride? Did God offer the priests a remedy too?
I will return again to my place,
until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face,
and in their distress earnestly seek me. (Hosea 5:15, ESV)
Our pride can be broken and revealed by God’s grace.
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, ESV)
It begins with seeking God’s face -- because if you think about it, when you look into His face, you are no longer staring at yourself. That is where humility begins; it begins when our eyes are filled with a “right estimate” of God Himself. When we behold Him, we find our true place in this life:
“...you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV)
It was pretty easy to point the finger at the priests in Hosea and shake my head at their pride, but when I read the verses above, I was struck with conviction anew. As believers, WE ARE PRIESTS. We represent Jesus Christ to the world around us by the way we love God and love others. This is all the more reason to search our hearts and root out any pride that could destroy that mission.
So this week, will you join me in praying for the Reaching Her Community (starting with myself) that He would gently reveal our pride?
Let's ask for His grace to break our blindness. Let's pray for communion to be restored where pride has broken it. Let's seek His face for a fuller vision of Who He is and that we would find our proper place: children who are chosen, loved redeemed, and forgiven.
Kaysie Strickland is definitely nothing fancy. Jesus found her in a mess and won her with His Words. She feels called to be a servant of the Word and His people through spending her life and words proclaiming the reckless restoration available in the gospel. She is married to her best friend on earth, drinks lots of coffee + tea, constantly rearranges the furniture in her house (God bless her husband), loves gardening and DIY projects, enjoys long conversations over coffee, and loves all the words. She and her husband are expecting their first little one this month! You can find her on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Blog