Wednesday, July 2, 2014

“Needle to the North”

"Needle to the North"

    I love this poem, by Emily Dickinson, entitled "The Martyrs":

Through the straight pass of suffering
the martyrs even trod,
their feet upon temptation,
their faces upon God.

A stately, shriven company,
convulsion playing round,
harmless as streaks of meteor
upon a planet's bound.

Their faith the everlasting troth,
their expectation fair,
the needle to the north degree
wades so, through polar air.

    I love also the Spirit-inspired affirmation of the martyrs, as declared by the writer of Hebrews: "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy" (Hebrews 11:37-38; emphasis added).

    Think for a moment about figures whom the world admires, particularly in our generation.  It is not a pleasant thought in many cases, so don't spend more then the recommended moment pondering the uncomfortable contemplation.  Conversely, we could spend an eternity admiring and extolling the virtues of the martyrs.  They would not, however, want us to do so.

    "But Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55-56).

   The first martyr of the church, Stephen, died with the heavenly glory of the Lord Jesus Christ in his eyes, and the confession of Christ on his lips.  He directed attention away from himself and unto his Savior and Lord.  By definition, martyrdom must be accompanied by such devotion to the glory of God.   The Apostle Paul tells us 1 Corinthians 13 that it is possible to make the ultimate sacrifice with impure and misdirected motives.  "Thou I give my body to be burned and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing" (I Corinthians 13:3).   The martyrs do what they do only because of Christ and through His leading and enabling.  To borrow from the poetess,  the Lord Jesus constitutes their "needle to the north degree" as "the everlasting troth" of their faith accesses the power of God to enable their journey "through the straight pass of suffering."  If we could speak to the martyrs even now, each would join the Psalmist in his holy determination to deflect all praise and glory to the only One truly worthy of it: "Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory!" (Psalm 115:1).

    Many, if not most people admired by the world spent their time working to achieve such reputation.  They set their needle in some direction other than to north degree and the glory of the Lord Jesus.  Our Heavenly Father provides to His trusting children a far better destination, albeit reached "through polar air."  We do well to heed the example of the martyrs, first regarding the faith in the Lord Jesus that enabled their sacrifice, and then in walking the challenging path as directed by His heavenly compass.  Yes, needle to the north, or "Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory…

"As it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
(I Corinthians 10:31)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.
(Ephesians 1:3)

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