The media has begun calling the war in Ukraine, “Putin’s War.”
Nobody knows how Putin’s War will end, but everyone should know what happens to the proud, to those who think they are in control and that their power has been obtained by their accomplishments.
God alone controls the world.
Others who think they do will be humbled, be it Russia, NATO, America, or anyone else.
The LORD makes a promise to the proud:
Ezekiel 17:24: “I the LORD bring down the tall tree and I exalt the low tree.”
In the Bible, people are often compared to trees.
“The person who delights in the LORD will be like a tree planted by streams of water” (Psalm 1:3).
When the LORD promises to “bring down the tall tree,” He is repeating a theme that occurs throughout the Bible.
God promises to bring down the proud. He hates pride (Proverbs 6:16-19). The promise to bring down the proud person and to exalt the humble person is a promise that is repeated by the Messiah. Jesus said,
“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled by the LORD, and those who humble themselves will be exalted by the LORD” (Luke 14:11).
Let me show you an example from history of how God strikes down the tall tree.
In 722 BC, a powerful and proud Assyrian king conquered northern Israel and other kingdoms. This Assyrian king wiped out Samaria, the capital of northern Israel. The king took captive the Hebrew men from northern Israel and brought them to Ninevah (capital of Assyria) as slaves. He then brought men from other nations into northern Israel and ordered them to take the Hebrew women as their wives.
The “half-breed” descendants of these marriages were the people called “Samaritans” by the Jews in Jesus’ day. Jesus, born a Jew, did not follow the local custom of avoiding Samaritans. Humility never sees oneself as superior to others. Jesus went through Samaria rather than around it, and one of the classic stories of how Jesus heals wounded people is Jesus bringing real life to the Samaritan woman at the well.
But I digress.
The powerful king of Assyria ruled over an equally proud Assyrian people. Listen to what this proud king said of himself and his accomplishments.
“By the strength of my hand I have done this,
and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.
I removed the boundaries of nations,
I plundered their treasures;
like a mighty one I subdued their kings.
As one reaches into a nest,
so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations;
as people gather abandoned eggs,
so I gathered all the countries;
not one flapped a wing,
or opened its mouth to chirp.” (Isaiah 10:13-14).
Ancient Assyria reminds me of modern America.
Our land is filled with proud people and proud rulers. We boast of our economy and wealth. We brag about our sports teams and entertainment. We humbly serve no one but ourselves. We demand equal outcomes and shake our fists at those who oppose us. Even demonstrations are filled with rage as tall trees bow to none and demand others bow to them.
We are a country of tall trees.
The LORD never changes. “I the LORD bring down the tall trees.”
Listen to what the LORD did to the people of Assyria:
“The angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrians. When the people got up the next morning–there were all the dead bodies” (II Kings 19:35).
The LORD struck down the mighty and proud Assyrian people and their king.
When you were in Sunday School and read how “the angel of the LORD” came and struck down the Assyrians, you probably imagined some creature with two white wings holding a sword in his hand putting to death the Assyrians.
That’s not how the LORD brought down the Assyrians.
The LORD used a disease.
In Isaiah 10 the proud Assyrian king flaunts his power to the proud Assyrian people. The LORD initially responds to the arrogant king by reminding him that the king and his proud people are in the LORD’s hand and not the other way around. And then, true to His promise of “bringing down the tall tree,” the LORD tells the Assyrian people how He will bring them down.
“Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it,
or the saw boast against the one who uses it?
As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up,
or a club brandish the one who is not wood!
Therefore, the Lord, the LORD Almighty,
will send a wasting diseaseupon his sturdy warriors…
and the remaining trees of his forests will be few.”
God seems to have humbled America over the last two years.
God will soon humble proud leaders in Europe.
Rest assured, you may not understand how Putin’s War will end, but the promise of God is sure:
“God humbles the proud and raises up the humble.”
That’s the theme of the entire Bible.