After Amaziah, king of Judah, had defeated the armies of Edom, he went to pick a fight with Jehoash, king of Israel (2 Kings 14:8). Here is Jehoash’s wise reply:
A thistle on Lebanon sent to a cedar on Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son for a wife,’ and a wild beast of Lebanon passed by and trampled down the thistle. You have indeed struck down Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Be content with your glory, and stay at home, for why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you (2 Kings 14:9-10)?
Amaziah didn’t listen. He went to war, and was soundly defeated by Jehoash. A few brief reflections that my heart needs as I consider this passage:
1) Our hearts are easily lifted up. It doesn’t take much success for us to be impressed with ourselves. Soon, we have a skewed self-perspective: we think we are a cedar of Lebanon when in fact we are a thistle. We think we can do more than we really can; we think we deserve more than we really do; we forget that we are utterly dependent on God for all things. We need help maintaining an accurate assessment of ourselves before God and others.
2) We are restless for personal glory. We want others to think as well and as highly of us as we think of ourselves, and this often drives us to take foolish, destructive action to seize that recognition and honor. We need help staying focused on directing others to God’s glory rather than our own, and being content with whatever measure of recognition we might receive along the way that God deems helpful for us.
3) Our unchecked pride brings trouble to ourselves and to those who depend upon us. Amaziah’s inflated view of self led not only to his downfall, but to Judah’s, as the rest of the narrative tells us. The family I lead, the church I serve, and the friends who count on me will also suffer consequences from my selfish pride. We need help remembering that many other people are impacted by our growth in humility and godliness (and lack thereof).
4) Those who help us see ourselves rightly are our friends. Being compared to a thistle, rather than a cedar, is not pleasant – it wounds my pride. But Jehoash was being kind to Amaziah, trying to prevent his own self-destruction. We need help remembering that those who help us see ourselves rightly – including our weaknesses and personal propensities to sin – are our friends.