"The Greatness of Another"
Recent events have reminded me of these words, written by the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1818.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert.
Near them, on the sand,
half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
tell that its sculptor well those passions read
which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
Shelley reminds us of the fleeting nature of our earthly lives, including those who aspire to greatness and may even seem to achieve a bit of their goal. Such aspirants, however, all come to the same sad end, their achievements soon forgotten as time reveals the wicked foolishness of human pride and bluster.
"I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 2:9-11).
God gave to Solomon greatness and riches. More importantly, he gave to Solomon the wisdom to realize the vanity of greatness and riches. Few who tread the golden and gilded path reach a destination and destiny of anything other than destruction. Humanity exists for the greatness of Another, to extol the wonder and spiritual riches of the Lord Jesus Christ. "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (II Corinthians 10:17). Only those who humble themselves before Him and before people find the narrow path that leads to life. Christ Himself is that path, the Great One who "made Himself of no reputation", and who now dwells forevermore as King of kings and Lord of lords. "Before honor is humility" (Philippians 2:7; Proverbs 15:33).
The masses follow dust unto dust. Believers in the Lord Jesus follow the Savior unto life everlasting. The former way shines brightly, but momentarily, with the best that humanity can muster in temporal appearance, achievement, and accolade. The latter way is Blood-stained and paved by humility. "That colossal wreck" - or the eternal glory of the crucified and risen Christ. These are the paths, the narrow path of life and the broad path "boundless and bare".
"Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."
Weekly Memory Verse
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.