Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
In a day of much going to-and-fro, in a day of the increase of knowledge and of what many falsely call “wisdom,” it behoves us to never lose sight of the cause of every fall, and the root of all wickedness.
The scriptures have set forth as an example before us the fall of the Covering Cherub, Son of the Dawn as he was properly called at one time; from which we ourselves are given a warning through the manner of his fall, and insight as to the source of his corruption.
You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you.
Ezekiel 28:15 (NASB)
The words of Ezekiel reveal to us that this heavenly being was blameless in all his ways from the day he was created. God makes nothing unrighteous. No wickedness, no corruption, nor any moral evil, results from His design. That which arises contrary within them are derived from a turning of their will away from His good purpose, which, in turn, curses their generations also.
[We only see that the Lord “creates evil” and “forms darkness,” as the prophet Isaiah expressed, in the sense of letting loose upon the wicked the very calamity inherent within their crooked ways – this action on His part is not a moral evil, but only an “evil” in the sense of what we might call “evil tidings”: an omen of great trouble and righteous judgement upon the workers of iniquity. (See Isaiah 45:7 KJV)]
For He entrusted His creatures from the beginning to learn righteousness, after having created them blameless; perhaps similar to the way in which Jesus Himself would come to learn righteousness from infancy as an inherently blameless man – though His case differs in that His being very God assured no possibility of a fall on His part; so that through faith we might share in the blameless nature of His righteous blood.
Therefore, see how the corruption of this once-glorious creature is described: “unrighteousness was found in you.” Unrighteousness is not a thing created by the fallen one, nor is evil a pre-existing force which he came to embrace; yet iniquity came to be “found” in him. For God’s whole creation was blameless, and everything about it; but not having yet been perfected, there remained a capacity for the creature to deny the Creator’s art of perfecting, and and in so denying, to become what appeared to be a foul mark upon the canvas of His universe, and what sounded to be a dissident chord in the symphony of His magnum opus – what horror! For faith was always that through which the grace of God would perfect His creation; but the innovations of the self-reliant heart, puffed up in its self-perceived achievement and insight, have ever since been the undoing of faith within the creature, causing it to wander from the grace which sustained it, bringing forth sin unto death. “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” And so we ought always to be mindful that pride is the root of all evil.
Thus, in describing the fall of this anointed cherub through the peophet Ezekiel, the Lord reveals the innovations of pride in its self-reliance:
By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned; therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God.
Ezekiel 28:16a (NASB)
“By the abundance of your trade” – Some good translations render “trade” as “merchandising”. The proud heart takes what God has graciously bestowed only to make a name for itself and to turn the gift into a means of profiting over others. There is no greater a mockery of God’s grace than to put any price upon it less than that of the Life of His Son. And so this is precisely what the false prophets do in following after their father the Devil. They remove from men the only way to the kingdom of heaven through the incentivizing of self-deception, not even entering in themselves; having traded the Life of the Son for the false wisdom of the fallen Cherub: the enlightenment of self-exalting wisdom over the Life of God found in humility through faith.
“…you were (became) internally filled with violence, and you sinned…” – The exaltation of selfish ambition over the plan of God, and the seeing of His fellow creatures through the lens of personal agendas is always at great expense to the wellbeing of other; and the more vainly inflated one’s opinion of one’s own insight and purpose, the more inflated will be the sense of entitlement to climb and grasp over the heads of others for that which has not been granted of God. The further a soul travels down this path, the more senseless it becomes to the casual neglect of the good of another, violating the dignity of another without conscience. The more righteous such a soul deems his own cause, though the cause be not God’s, the more he will tend to think himself the righteous hand of God’s vengeance upon those who inconvenience his vision for the world around him. He will use his gifts and everything within his power to do violence, whether directly or indirectly, to those whom he has made his enemies; though none asked to be at enmity with him. Every spiritual matter becomes to him a competition of unrighteous jealousy, though he will not admit it; and so, in his mind he accuses everyone else of the very hypocrisy in which he is truly participating.
And how did this unrighteous jealousy arise? For he was made to radiate a measure of true light bestowed upon him by God. And what did God say in the beginning when He laid the foundations of the earth? “Let there be light!” The scripture tells us that at this time, “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” For this unapproachable light, which was at that moment revealed through the spoken word of of God before His heavenly creatures, had no equal; and it was not to be fully comprehended by any except He from whom it proceeded. It may have been this first revelation of the Light of the World, the Son of Man, which provoked the cherub of lesser light to jealousy, not accepting his rightful place.
In any case, through the Word of God such light has gone forth that no darkness can overcome it, and the fate of all the unrighteousness which sprang forth thence was forever sealed from its very inception. All that the Father has willed and designed is of such perfect wisdom and prudence that even when His creatures should rebel, the ultimate undoing of their evil schemes is seeded within the schemes themselves. What first appeared as a foul mark upon the Master’s canvas has been enshrined in the beauty of His victory over it to show forth His untold wisdom through the reconciliation of the redeemed; and what first sounded as a dissident chord in the Great Composer’s symphony has been transposed within the richness of its manifold harmonies to pay tribute to His glory. His light shines forth into all the kosmos, and its purpose shall not ever be impeded. There is no darkness at all in God; and by its very nature, no darkness can abide in His presence.
“…therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God.” – In scripture, the “mountain of God” is the place of the meeting of His assembly, or His “divine council” (Psalm 82, 1Kings 22:19-22). So to cast the fallen one from this place denotes the worthlessness of his new-found “wisdom”. God needs no counsellor; therefore the wisdom of those sons of God which sit at His council are considered not for their wisdom over God, but for their unique expression of the wisdom that is from God. And that wisdom is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” But such was not the attitude of he who became enamored with himself over that which was the gift of God.
Therefore the Lord says of the one who squandered this highest of heavenly privilege, becoming a creature of darkness and falsehood:
And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.
Ezekiel 28:16 (NASB)
“I have destroyed you from…” – today we find this a curious turn of phrase. We know that the one undergoing this punishment was not unmade; therefore we might say that this “destroying from” denotes such an utter separation of the condemned from his designated place, such a cleansing of the temple from its unworthy inhabitant, that the temple itself reflects no trace of him ever having occupied its space, nor even so much as having breathed its air. He has been so completely removed from his original place, that were the temple of God a sentient being, its pillars would have no memory of his walking between them, nor its blessed walls remember so much as an echo of the former songs of his devising.
But new are the feet of them that now walk between its pillars, and new shall ever be the songs which resound through the courts of heaven; for the True Conductor arranged His masterpiece, and has only begun to strike its first notes through the mouths of the redeemed. Let us therefore be quick in faith and constant in humility, as mere instruments laying hold of the sweet melody of His grace.
For consider again the Devil, and see from what a great height he fell:
“…from the midst of the stones of fire.” – How heavy are these words, and how frightening should they be to us all! Who has seen the stones of fire, much less walked in their midst? Wouldn’t such status be reserved for one great in the knowledge of the holy? And wouldn’t such a place also sanctify the one occupying it ever the more swiftly, so as to become immune to all vanity? Yet one who dwelt in such a radiance of holiness has indeed become vain. Therefore let no man suppose himself to be without the possibility danger, presuming upon the grace of God: within which presumption lie the very seeds of pride.
And so the Lord says,
Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.
Ezekiel 28:17a (NASB)
Here at last we come to the heart of the matter. The anointed cherub possessed true divine beauty and had lain hold of true Godly wisdom, so much so that they are described as “your beauty… your knowledge” – which he had attained by the grace of God, and surely knew it once. Hence, it was not for any lack of these that he fell, nor even for a lack of knowing from whence they had proceeded.
But the test of every soul, from which even this mighty one was not exempt, is the test of a grateful devotion; which makes no idol of the increase of heavenly splendor within itself, but only glorifies He whose grace bestows its continued sustenance. The failure inherent within the sin of pride is the failure to continue by the grace of God. It was the failure of the cherub to say in his heart “Thy grace is sufficient for me: Thy strength is made perfect in my weakness.” For even the heavenly creature which has always lived without blame is fully and forever indebted to the Lord of Hosts for every gift bestowed upon it, being weak apart from God, and grows in its consecration according to its humble offerings of thanksgiving.
Ah, but what did this one begin to do in light of the unsearchable riches of God’s abundant gifts?
“Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty…” – This marks the beginning of sinful pride. The effect produced has become gloried in above the One through whom it was ever possible. The heart has turned from He who gave it every good thing unto congratulating its own capacity for those good things to abide within it. “Surely,” he reasons within himself, “I have come to sustain this splendor, which the Lord graciously bestowed upon me, according to my own tendency for righteousness, by which I have learned to walk.” But have you not seen, O fallen one, how that righteous tendency in itself is a yet greater gift, for which you ought to fall down in humble adoration before the Giver of such grace upon grace? But you have seized upon it to make much of your splendour rather than of He through whom your splendor was given: therefore it has been stripped away; and you are left to crawl in its absence, and to deceive by the false light which you have since contrived.
“You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.” – In saying that his wisdom became corrupted, it is revealed that his wisdom was once uncorrupt. It was not his wisdom that corrupted him, but rather the attitude in which he began to hold it. We see here his wisdom described as the cause for his splendor, or the good soil from which righteousness had bloomed to splendidly array him in the clean garments of heavenly beauty. Yet “by reason of” this resultant splendor, the wisdom from which it had flowed became corrupted.
Yet isn’t the splendor a good thing? We have no reason to believe that it it wasn’t. What then is meant by the phrase, “by reason of your splendor”? Simply put, the lifting up of the cherub’s heart was seemingly justified to his proud mind because of his elevated wisdom. He considered the possession of wisdom, which was manifest in his splendor, to be a justification to feel entitled to walk in a path of his own making, to sing a melody in praise of his own sanctity, and to have a kingdom unto himself. For as we have already established, he had begun to see his beauty as a grace not of God, but of his own worthiness – though at first he may not have said it even to himself this way, as self-deception works with great subtlety.
So it is not the abundance of wisdom in itself that brought him to this self-justifying posture of heart; for we know that had he truly consulted the heavenly wisdom – which he indeed possessed – he would have found it rebuking all such thoughts. But he who has committed to a path of self-reliance must by necessity heed no warning against it, though wisdom has called out to him at every turn.
Therefore, those which rebel against the Living God must lie and must continue to lie – primarily to themselves, “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.” And those who so lie, and do not relent in their self-deception, build an entire world about themselves; which they themselves come to believe with such a sincerity that their false light appears as divine as the holy angels unto those who are likewise quick to trust their own hearts, not being grounded in the Truth. Thus, the Devil is called by Christ the father of lies; for he was first to lie, and he precedes all others in spinning a web of lies to defend himself against the inevitability of the truth. Hence, his lies are of the most primary and essential untruth and unreality; since he contended at first with all of heaven against He in whom and according to whom is all truth.
And so, because he came to contradict the One whose very Name is The Truth, the very manner of his fall has become the lie, and has been falsely conveyed by his nameless whispers to the ears of all men, that they may sympathize with him as the misunderstood victim of an unjust God.
Therefore, lest such a deception be left with any excuse in the world, the punishment of God is perfect:
I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, that they may see you.
Ezekiel 28:17b (NASB)
The ultimate fruit of sinful pride is shame and exposure. The casting down of the fallen cherub is a warning, especially to rulers – but indeed to every man – that the Lord will share no glory with another, and cannot be fooled by the hypocrite. God has revealed this to every heart, so that the more any man puffs himself up, the more conviction of the truth he must suppress in unrighteousness, and the more he must lie to himself in order to evade the hound of repentance which seeks to bear down upon him. And that gift of repentance is not granted to the fallen angels, some of whom Christ visited in prison to declare His victory; but only among men has He become incarnate: so that the hordes of the Devil are vicious toward men, seeking always to subvert their course to salvation. But the Lord has set His Day of vengeance, and He will not delay.
So let the kings renounce any allegiance to the accuser of the brethren, whereby they seek the destruction of God’s people; for he will always betray their trust, and they will find him only to be a purveyor of death to them. O kings! O judges! O legislators! Do you see him who was cast to the ground, who was made to partake in dust? His fall is set before you, and you know it within your own hearts! The same shall be your lot if you do not pay obeisance to the Son of God.
For He is full of mercy, and abounding in steadfast love; but He will not leave the guilty unpunished. By him kings both rule and fall. It is He that overturns the kings from their thrones and rips their kingdoms from before their faces; because they do not exalt or praise Him, or humbly acknowledge whence the kingdom was given to them. In the Day of His rule, shame fills the faces of the wicked; but those who recognize the Son of Man are blessed.
Learn the wisdom of King Nebuchadnezzar, who thought himself a god among men, and was cursed to become as a beast of the field; and who, after coming back to his senses, glorified the God of Daniel as King of kings and Lord of lords, “whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase” – and so his kingdom was returned to him, and all its glory. Humble yourself before the time; for you do not know the Day of your visitation, or what example the God of heaven will make of you should you walk in that delusion of the serpent.
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.
Psalm 2:10-12 (ESV)
The horrors into which the powers of darkness have drawn the rulers of earth will be their downfall, and the lot of the righteous will always prevail over them. For although they cannot see it, the kingdom of God permeates the whole earth, and the Lord is seated above its heaven, undefeated.