A Tale Of Two Men

Two days ago, Jason Giambi reached an agreement with the Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball team to play back-up first baseman.

Did you miss that news story? Surprisingly not.

Not long before, Mark McGwire reached an agreement with the St. Louis Cardinals to become their hitting coach.

The chances are much more likely that you heard about McGwire’s story than Giambi’s. Why? Because four weeks ago McGwire—the former single season home run record holder—admitted that he injected himself with steroids earlier in his career. Baseball fans were incensed.

But Giambi used steroids too. A former teammate of McGwire’s and a baseball star in his own right, Giambi is a 5-time All-Star  and the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2000.

So what’s the difference?

After the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2004 that a number of professional baseball players had taken steroids—including Giambi—Giambi admitted his guilt and apologized to the fans. His prompt confession caused a moderate stir which quickly died down.

McGwire was exposed as well in a 2005 book written by former baseball star Jose Canseco. As a result, McGwire was subpoenaed to testify at a congressional hearing on steroids later that year. But when asked if he had taken steroids, McGwire replied, “I’m not here to talk about the past. I’m here to be positive about this subject.” He never answered the question directly. You can watch his testimony here.

Five years later, McGwire finally came clean: “I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.”

Two men with similar offenses. One apologized quickly and moved on with his life. Another man avoided admitting his guilt, only to confess it years later…amidst a storm of controversy and protest.

A little humility goes a long ways in helping a person avoid further pain and sorrow.

Just ask one of our characters in today’s reading…

TODAY’S READING

Exodus 10:1-12:13
Matthew 20:1-28
Psalm 25:1-15
Proverbs 6:6-11

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Exodus 10:3. This verse echos yesterday’s discussion about humbling ourselves. Again, God asks Pharaoh, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” At this point, Pharaoh would lose face before all Egypt if he gave in to Moses’ request. Hardened hearts and pride go hand-in-hand.

Exodus 10:7-8. His royal officials are now trying to convince Pharaoh to let the people go.

Exodus 10:13-14. According to the Bible Background Commentary, “Locusts breed in the region of the Sudan and would have been more plentiful than usual in the wet climate that initiated the entire sequence.” The east wind, then, would have blown the locusts into Egypt. Incidentally, a locust eats the equivalent of its weight every day.

Exodus 10:21-29. The Bible Background Commentary explains, “The comment that it was darkness that could be felt (v. 21) suggests that the darkness was caused by something airborne, namely, the khamsin dust storms known in the region. There would be excessive dust from all of the red earth that had been brought down and deposited by the Nile, as well as from the barren earth left behind in the wake of the hail and locusts…The fact that the text emphasizes the darkness rather than the dust storm may indicate that the sun god, Amon-Re, the national god of Egypt, the divine father of Pharaoh, is being specifically targeted.”

Exodus 11:1-10. Once more, from the Bible Background Commentary: “In Egypt Pharaoh was also considered a deity, and this last plague is directed at him. In the ninth plague his ‘father,’ the sun god, was defeated, and now his son, presumably the heir to the throne, will be slaughtered. This is a blow to Pharaoh’s person, his kingship and his divinity.

Exodus 11:3. This verse made me laugh. Of course the people were favorably disposed toward Moses. He was making Pharaoh, their king, look like a fool. Pharaoh’s pride was destroying his country.

Exodus 12:2-3. This refers to the Hebrew month Abib, which begins with the first new moon after the spring equinox, generally between mid-March and mid-April.

Exodus 12:7. Placing the blood of the lamb at the top of the doorpost and on both sides forms a cross. This foreshadows Jesus by 1500 years.

Matthew 20:1-16. Matthew’s Gospel was written for Jewish believers. In light of this, I can imagine that as Gentiles were coming to faith, the Jewish believers were feeling a little uncomfortable. It was upsetting the balance of power—and changing their culture. I can hear them claiming, We’ve been in the faith since Jesus; we should enjoy extra privileges. But Jesus said no. In the same way, every follower of Jesus is a recipient of God’s grace. No one is better than the other.

Matthew 20:20-28. Read “The Word Made Fresh” and then take a second look at this passage. The tentacles of pride are insidious. Most telling of all is the fact that the other disciples were “indignant” with James and John—obviously because they, too, wanted to sit on either side of Jesus in the age to come.

Also, look at Jesus’ words in verse 28: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” What humility! The creator of the heavens and the earth, the savior of humanity, came to serve…us! What great love. And what a great model to follow.

Psalm 25:1-15. This is the prayer of a humble person. Look at verse 9: “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” The key to receiving God’s direction in our lives is to humble ourselves.

Also, we read in verse 14 that the Lord confides in those who fear him. The word “confide” means “secret” or “friendship” and gives the idea of intimacy. Friends share secrets.

Proverbs 6:10-11. This passage runs through my mind at times when I try to take a nap. When it does, I can’t sleep!

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Stages take time to be built. The more time you have, the bigger the stage.

Today’s reading about Pharaoh really spoke to my heart…

Up to this point in the book of Exodus, we read about the seven plagues God inflicted on Egypt. Then today, we read about the locusts and the darkness, bringing our total to nine.

Each plague created time for Pharaoh to humble himself or time for a bigger stage to be built on which he would be humiliated.

Finally, Moses stood before Pharaoh and promised him that if he didn’t let Israel go, all the firstborn sons in Egypt would die—from royalty to the lowly slave girl to the best cattle in the land.

If the previous nine plagues had come true, surely this one would, too. But by this last confrontation, Pharaoh was so hard-hearted that he refused to budge. Pharaoh knew all the firstborn sons and livestock in Egypt would die—but he refused to humble himself.

Pharaoh’s pride now became a liability to everyone around him. And his subjects, to whom he owed the duty of protection and provision, meant nothing to him.

Lesson Learned: We Aren’t God

The insight that the Pharaohs were considered gods (mentioned in “Insights and Explanations”) really hit home. Ultimately, the confrontation became a showdown of wills—not between Pharaoh and Moses, but between Pharaoh and God.

It seems to me that walking in humility is really the acknowledgement that we aren’t God. This is the issue God targets in all of us. We aren’t God.

Like Pharaoh, when God begins dealing with our pride, other people are affected as well. Our family and friends. Perhaps coworkers or clients. It gets messy. And the longer we wait to humble ourselves, the stage upon which we will ultimately confess becomes bigger and bigger.

Humble Or Be Humbled: My Story

Earlier in my life, God began dealing with my pride. It wasn’t the first time, and surely won’t be my last. But in the midst of it, I refused to acknowledge my shortcomings. And the longer I fought God, a stage was being built for me to be humbled. At the end of that painful season, I departed a broken man—humbled on a stage before hundreds. And unfortunately, other people were affected. Family, but also friends. Some are embittered about the mess to this day.

I wish I could go back and do things differently. But had I not encountered the pain of my humbling experience, I would have repeated my mistakes.

My heart aches because I know what’s coming to Pharaoh. I want to warn him “It’s not worth it!” But when our hearts are hardened, we only listen to people who agree with us and tell us what we want to hear.

It really boils down to a choice we all will eventually make: be humble or be humbled

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to your heart in today’s reading?
  2. Describe a time when you were forced to humble yourself on a stage. What would you do different?
  3. Why do you think humility is such a big deal to God?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “A Tale Of Two Men

  1. Carri

    wow this is so true! The Lord has really pressed it on my heart to practice more humility this past year and as a result the outcome has been astonishing as far as reconciliation and deeper connections with others. I realized that I let pride so often stand in the way of just admitting I was wrong and say I’m sorry. I can only think of one person out of the many this past year that did not respond positively when I blew it and shortly after that humbled myself before them and apologized and ask for their forgiveness. I am now a huge believer in keeping an attitude of humility and a short account of offenses with others.

  2. Doris

    I can never read this passage without questioning the whole lot of the dogma I have been taught. If God can harden hearts – why didn’t he do it early on – say in the Garden with Adam and Eve’s heart in regards to wanting to eat of the tree. How do I know that the way I feel now is real or God hardening my heart? Would the heart be hard if God did not harden it? It just makes me want to run away and forget how gnarly this whole thing is.

  3. Mike

    Doris, you ask a good question, one we have all wondered about. Do you mean, how do we know if we are pawns, being manipulated by God for some reason that is beyond our ability to change? This matter of free will and hardening of the heart don’t seem to go together. My answer may not be very good but permit me to try.
    With an addicted person we do an intervention, attempting to break their denial of their obvious (to us) problem. Often they still don’t believe or change. I think God, who knows the future, knew the hold Pharaoh’s pride had on him so he could take credit (I will harden Pharaoh’s heart) for being the One who would expose Pharaoh’s pride and false religion. God played off Pharaoh’s pride time and again because he was exposing the weakness and folly of the false religion of Egypt. And all of Egypt, and all of Israel saw it. What an object lesson.
    Further the pride of Pharaoh might not have been exposed had it not been for the acts of God who prompted the response by his signs and wonders. Those signs from God brought out the response so in all fairness God could claim credit for hardening Pharaoh’s heart. God’s actions bring something all of us – faith or denial.

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