The Spectacle of Fallen Greatness
Ezekiel 31:10-18
Therefore thus said the Lord GOD; Because you have lifted up yourself in height, and he has shot up his top among the thick boughs…

This very beautiful parable is suggestive of many things. The latter verses of the chapter bring the Divine meaning into full view. By the fact of the prophecy itself, we are reminded of -

I. THE DELUSION TO WHICH GREATNESS IS SUBJECT; Viz. that of imagining that it is invulnerable and irremovable. The strong kingdom says, "What power will touch me to hurt me? ' The strong man says, "What misfortune will overtake, what enemy will prevail against me?" (see Psalm 49:11). It is in the very nature of human exaltation to become foolishly assured of its own security, and to defy the assaults of time and change.

II. THE PREGNANT LESSON OF HISTORY. Egypt was now to learn of Assyria; to consider how surpassingly great she had been in her prime (Vers. 1-9), and to reflect upon the utter humiliation to which she had been condemned in the retributive providence of God. We may now learn of Egypt herself, to whom this lesson was addressed, and also of Macedonia, of Greece, of Rome, of Spain, etc., that a nation may tower high and far above the others, like this parabolic cedar (Ver. 5) above the trees of the garden, and yet be discrowned, be leveled to the very dust. And not only the lofty nation, but the ancient family, the proud dynasty, the titled and wealthy individual.

III. THE PENALTY OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS. It is certain that no kingdom or "power" of any kind will very long outlive its purity, its virtue, its simplicity. Two things determine its doom.

1. God will punish its pride (see Vers. 10, 11, 18).

2. Iniquity begets strife, folly, inward corruption, weakness; and this must end, in time, in disaster and ruin. The seeds of death are already sown when power, either in the aggregate or in the individual man, gives way to iniquity. Without any extraordinary means, by God letting his righteous laws do their constant work, such a one is "driven away for his wickedness" (Ver. 11). And the end of evil is nakedness and desertion, emptiness and misery (Ver. 12). Incidental truths are here portrayed, viz. -

IV. THE UNRELIABLENESS OF HUMAN PROPS. Ver. 12, "All the people of the land have gone from his shade, and have left him." There are noble souls that will cleave to the sinking cause or to the failing man just because it is sinking, because he is failing. But their name is not legion; these are not the rule, but the exception. When the day of decadence comes, and the hour when the house is likely to fall, then expect those who have lived in the shadow of it to leave it to its fate. Nay, there will be found many of those who in the day of its strength enjoyed its hospitality that on the night of its adversity will find themselves comfortable seats upon its ruins (Ver. 13). We have another trace of -

V. THE DEPTH TO WHICH GREATNESS WILL DESCEND IN BECOMING THE OBJECT OF GENERAL COMPASSION. (Ver. 15.) Once it was the province of the great power to pity the necessitous and to stretch forth its strong hand of help and healing; now it lies prostrate and is itself the object of universal commiseration. "And none so poor to do it reverence."

1. Let human greatness beware. It is high and uplifted in the sight of men; but beware lest its heart be lifted up in arrogance and in self-confidence; for, if that be so, or if it be allowing evil to creep into any cracks of its walls, it will call down the condemnation of Heaven, and, in time, it will meet its doom. Where other prostrate powers lie, where the humblest and commonest are stretched, "in the midst of the children of men," "delivered to death" (Ver. 14), there shall it also be found, down and dishonored.

2. Let the holy humble-hearted be filled with a wise contentment. How much better than the greatness which is humiliated is the lowliness which is blessed and crowned! - blessed with the benediction of God and man, crowned with the glory to which righteousness conducts and in which it ends. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast lifted up thyself in height, and he hath shot up his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height;

WEB: Therefore thus said the Lord Yahweh: Because you are exalted in stature, and he has set his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height;

The Penalty of Pride
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