Summary: The nobility of John the Baptist submission to God’s plan for his life is contrasted with Lucifer’s ambitions for prominence. The value of a healthy appreciation for the sovereignty of God is considered.
A Glorious Decline
Fortifying the Foundations # 8
When we say the word “down”, what kind of thoughts go through your mind?—down and out, down under, down hearted, a downer. By and large “down” is considered negative. In contrast, “up” sounds real good.—up and coming, upper class, upwardly mobile. We associate the word “up” with increase in status and power. Advertisers promise to take you up with a product, not down. Employers promise to take you up the ladder, not down. This is the mindset of our society. It has always been the way the world thinks. It is in perfect accord with the human ego.
Before we get into our text, before we see the “Glorious Decline” of John the Baptist,
I want to paint a dark background of contrast from the word of God—
I. The Disastrous Ascent of Lucifer.
Isa 14:12-17 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground-mighty though you were against the nations of the world. 13For you said to yourself, "I will ascend to heaven and rule the angels. I will take the highest throne. I will preside on the Mount of Assembly far away in the north. 14I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High." 15But instead, you will be brought down to the pit of hell, down to its lowest depths. 16Everyone there will stare at you and ask, "Can this be the one who shook the earth and the kingdoms of the world? 17Can this be the one who destroyed the world and made it into a shambles, who demolished its greatest cities and had no mercy on his prisoners?" TLB
Long before God created man, this catastrophic event occurred. The archangel, Lucifer, rose up in rebellion against the Almighty God. The mystery of iniquity began. In verses 13 and 14 we find an attitude of self-promotion, ambition, self-aggrandizement—a rebellion and defiance of the sovereignty of God.
Throughout the history of mankind this spirit of self-promotion has worked havoc and produced horrific pain and suffering. The seductive promise of the serpent in the Garden of Eden was “...your eyes will open and you will be like God...” That was Satan’s promise to Eve. That same spirit drove Absalom to rebel against David. It caused Hitler to slaughter innocent Jews in the Holocaust—the lust for power and prestige. It is the spirit that motivated Saddam Hussein’s atrocities and attack upon neighbors.
How many marriages have been destroyed by a diabolical drive to get to “the top”? How many friendships have ended because of envy and jealousy? Prov 27:4 “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” NIV
Because of jealousy Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. Because of envy religious rulers wanted Jesus killed.
There was Lucifer so near the throne of our majestic God—God so pure and so full of love and goodness. What caused the privileged archangel to rebel? "I will ascend ...(I will) rule... I will take the highest throne. I will preside ...I will climb to the highest heavens...(I will) be like the Most High." What was behind all that? —a discontentment with the plan of God, an insistence on having the prominence.