Derivative (Ezekiel 28:17)

“Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
I put you before kings,
That they may see you.”

Ezekiel 28:17

This verse is part of the lament over the king of Tyre. This lament is often interpreted as a description of Satan and certain portions of the lament do tend to push rather strongly in that direction. Whether this lament is about the king of Tyre or about Satan is not really pertinent to what caught me about this verse this morning. For this morning, I will walk around that debate and simply look for how the verse can apply to me today.

Proverbs 31:30 says that charm is deceitful and beauty is vain. And this verse affirms that. The individual addressed is told that his heart was lifted up because of [his] beauty. Good-looking people are particularly susceptible to pride, but beauty comes in many forms and can describe dozens of attributes. That beauty, in all its various manifestations, is vain is a thing too often overlooked or ignored entirely. Beauty, when thought to exist of its own accord, becomes vain. Beauty only lives rightly and humbly when it is known to be derivative; given by and a reflection of the beauty of God, Himself.

The Hebrew word translated splendor only occurs in Ezekiel, according to my concordance. There may be related words that occur elsewhere, but this book is it for this particular word. In English, we sometimes speak of a person being a shining example of something — usually a virtue. So we might speak of a woman being a shining example of modesty — a vastly underrated virtue. The problem is this: being a shining example of something means that you are always compared favorably against others. If I am a shining example of humility (another underrated virtue), then it is best I not know it, or I am liable to lose that status. There are two things that come to mind about splendor as I am understanding it this morning. One, splendor; a shining forth is not something consciously done. The sun is not aware (as far as I know) that it is shining. It simply does. Likewise, a virtuous person will not be conscious of the splendor of that virtue, only those who see it from the outside will. Two, to become aware of our own splendor is hazardous. This verse notes that the one addressed corrupted his wisdom because of his splendor. If I am aware of whatever splendor I may have, I can become focused on that and on maintaining that and not realize that I do so to my detriment. I cannot be wise if focused on myself. I cannot be humble or kind or any of the other virtues if I am focused on myself. All virtue and all splendor and glory are, like beauty, derivative. God is the source of all virtue and all splendor and glory. Any splendor present in my life is due to reflecting God’s splendor. I must be mindful of that.

The result of the individual addressed being self-focused and proud (those often come as a set) is that God casts him to the ground in front of kings. In front of those who are susceptible to the same transgression and sin, God makes an example. Being His child does not exclude me from this possibility. If anything, it makes it more probable. God’s children are to be examples in the world — either of God’s goodness and power in a life or of how God disciplines and addresses certain sins and transgressions. And one thing that is frequently reiterated in The Bible is God’s opposition to pride and grace toward humility.

The takeaway; the lesson this morning is this: all beauty and splendor present in my life are derived from God. They are present not because they are mine, but because I am reflecting God and the things which are inherently His own — His beauty and splendor and on the list goes — are reflected as well. Let me be mindful that any good that is in me is there by proxy; by reflection of the good inherent in the God Whom I am to reflect. Let my eyes be trained on Him and oblivious to all that might distract or detract from His reflection in my life.

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