The Corinthian church was divided over leadership… Some claimed to follow Paul, others followed Apollos – and still others were loyal to Peter. Paul tries to help them see that they should be united in following Christ!.
Each group was puffed up – thinking their “leader” was better than the others. Paul cuts straight to the heart of the matter… pride.
For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Similarly, in Isaiah, we read two chapters of vivid imagery describing the pride of both Ephraim in the north (Chapter 28) and Jerusalem in the south (Chapter 29). Isaiah, like Paul, cuts straight to the heart of the matter… “Ah, the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim” (Isaiah 28:1).
Pride caused the Israelites in both the Northern and Southern kingdoms to set aside their God and look to self for salvation. They exalted human wisdom, alliances with foreign kings, self-sufficiency and shallow worship to the place of deity. They had turned the order of the world upside down – foolishly thinking that they, as the clay, could mold the Potter to their whims (Isaiah 29:16). Pride was at the root of their sin – just as it was in the Corinthian church.
But thankfully, God’s grace abounds. He always gives an opportunity for repentance – just as Paul echoes at the end of today’s reading:
What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness (1 Corinthians 4:21)?
What would you want? Discipline for an unrepentant heart? Or forgiveness in the face of humble repentance? I know what I would prefer!!!! But hear this… both discipline AND forgiveness are rooted in love.
God brought judgment on the Israelites out of love for His people and zeal for His name!! Even as the great pride of His people is on display in these two chapters, God promises that He will break their pride and change their hearts! This is a message of hope for those who struggle with pride (like me). It’s a message steeped in His persevering love!
“Jacob shall no more be ashamed,
no more shall his face grow pale.
For when he sees his children,
the work of my hands, in his midst,
they will sanctify my name;
they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
And those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding,
and those who murmur will accept instruction” (Isaiah 29:22-24).