How Does God Regard Ornamentation?
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it: And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite: Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way. And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments. For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee. And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.” (Exodus 33:1-6)
The first and primary enemies of the children of Israel were not the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. The main adversary—the first obstacle that must be addressed—was the thing that made them a stiffnecked people. Why was this the most significant of their enemies? Because God would not help them in their stiffnecked condition, and He was continually angered at them because of their pride and was inclined to leave them to face their enemies alone because of that pride that made their necks stiff and them slow to humble themselves.
“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5)
The ability to humble oneself from the heart, genuinely and absolutely, is the absolute essential of being an overcomer. It makes the difference between overcoming or being overcome. We are satisfied that a vast crowd of precious human beings are going to miss heaven and go to hell because they cannot humble themselves. They are too stiffnecked to live for God.
The simple fact of admitting that you are stiffnecked is not enough to enable you to be able to bow. It is a step in the right direction, but there is something else that you must do. You must strip yourself of your ornaments. God will go with you and help you if your strip yourself of all your ornaments.
“And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments… And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.” (Exodus 33:4,6)
To understand the profound significance of what happened there, we must comprehend what it meant to:
1) avoid putting on my ornaments (note the plural—more than one ornament)
2) strip myself of my ornaments
We will note that both of these processes are the opposite of putting ornaments on.
There was a big pile of ornaments by Mount Horeb, wasn’t there? And there were more scattered about that had never been put on that morning, weren’t there? And every ornament in that pile or discarded represented a certain feeling, a certain satisfaction of thought, a certain complacency, a certain self-regard that was discarded right along with the physical manifestation of that personal philosophy. People put on jewelry, superfluous apparel, and other things that are regarded as improvements—sometimes regarded as crucial, necessary improvements—to the self-image. They paint their faces and dye their hair for the same reason. They invest money in expensive apparel with a certain cut and look for the same reason. The beauty shop and sometimes even the barber shop exist because of this human trait, don’t they? The condition of pride of heart in human beings is so commonplace that it is regarded as entirely natural, even essential. But this pride of life is “not of the Father.” It is of the vast majority of humanity who are resisting God and His plan for us. It is of the world (1 John 2:15-16). This pride in the heart exacts an enormous penalty. It causes God to not help us; and worse yet, this human pride, expressed in ornamenting oneself and the stiffnecked condition that always accompanies the ornamentation, causes God to resist us. We might add that it delights the devil and makes his job of corrupting us and damning our souls, much easier.
“Could you see what every stirring of pride does to your soul, you would beg of everyone you meet to tear the viper from you, though with the loss of a hand or an eye.”1
[Andrew Murray; Humility]
We do not want to give you the impression that ornamentation is limited to jewelry, superfluous or expensive apparel, or other external things that you attach to yourself or drape over yourself in some way. There are ornaments of an intangible nature that need to be stripped off. The proud Pharisee that prayed with himself (not with God, for God was resisting him) in the temple was absolutely loaded with inner ornaments. He had a lot of attitudes; he was adorned with a lot of attitudes that fairly begged to be trashed if he really got hungry for the blessing that God had for him, instead of his own blessing (Luke 18:11-12).
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) Surely you recognize the educational system of today in this scripture. It is a perfect house of fleshly ornamentation, loading its adherents up with the ornaments of philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world. It is certainly “not after Christ.” But it is not necessary to enroll in college to acquire these philosophies and deceits. You can acquire a working knowledge of the world and its ways by buying a television set and listening to the various philosophers of worldly ideas. You can delve into the internet and acquire and fasten upon yourself all manner of worldly garbage—highly-regarded ways of thinking and sophisticated deceits that will make you seem “cool,” knowledgeable, “with it,” and of the same spirit and attitude as the world. And as you do these things, carefully justifying yourself and drawing your own borders of restraint, God will resist you and not help you, while the deadly enemy of your soul will rejoice and find great satisfaction in your foolishness. You will think you are getting smarter, “making something of yourself,” “being all that you can be,” etc., while Satan prepares your eternal home for you and grows more sure of your imminent arrival there every day.
Will you not listen? Will you not seriously consider the plight of the children of Israel? If the ornaments did not go, then the stiffnecked business would not go, either; and they would be left at the mercy of their enemies. They were hard up for God’s help, and so are you. Will you abandon your self-confidence and the things which accompany it for real solid, genuine confidence in your Creator?