December 22, 2008
May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; Establish the works of our hands for us – yes, establish the works of our hands.
We live in a world filled with temporary fascinations. What is new and popular one moment lies in Ozymandian forgotten-ness the next (read below). But God touches us with the eternal through his truth and Spirit. Paul could say, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), but the testimonies of the world are different. Many would say, “For to me to live is fame, and to die is to be forgotten.” Others would say, “For me to live is power, or riches, or influence, and to die is to lose it all.”
The psalmist prayed for God to establish the works of his hands, that all his efforts would not pass away with time but that something of the works of his hands would remain for eternity. He was not praying for spiritual insight or the comfort of God but that his sweat and toil would have some eternal impact. This is transparently something that man cannot achieve on his own, that only God can do. God granted his request and we are today, more than two millennia later, reading and benefiting from his words. We might pray the same, that the ultimate thrust of our lives would last past the whims and fads of our day, stretch well past our own generation’s fascinations, go to where biology and mere mortality cannot reach – the future of God.
And he has given us a path and a method to do just that. The path is Jesus Christ and the method is involvement in his worship, his word, his mission, and his fellowship. There may be the sense that we pray this prayer and mean that God would let what we do not die with us, but last into future generations, but it seemed that the psalmist was asking for something greater than just a few more years of earthly influence. He was asking that the hand of God would be upon his efforts so that they would bear eternal fruit, as Christ said, “fruit that will last” (John 15:16), but this is praying precisely in agreement with the will of God. Some of the things we do, some of the buildings we erect, for example, should pass away so that something more effective can be built. All church programs are temporary, all church buildings will one day fall down; it is the work with hearts and souls and people, the work of communicating the truth, of helping people to believe and follow Christ, of leading people to worship him and commune with his Spirit, of healing the wounds of the souls — these are the eternal things of God.
Sometimes God may lead us in surprising ways to fulfill this plan. He led Philip to leave a revival in Samaria to win an Ethiopian eunich to Christ. Today some would criticize such a thing, saying that he should have stayed in Samaria. No doubt some Samaritans would have offered him financial inducements to do just that, but the Spirit led him to bear fruit that would last, to have the works of his hands established for all eternity, so he led him away from the church and ministry that perhaps would have eventually made a memorial to him when he died — Our Favorite Deacon. But that reward would have wasted away with time; it would not have been established by God. The work with the Ethiopian, however, was eternal and permanent.
Yesterday, Texas Stadium in Dallas, Texas, that for years had been the home to the American football team, The Dallas Cowboys, saw its last Cowboy game. A new stadium is being built, of course, but the air was thick with nostalgia and memories of the great games and events staged there. But it was not all about football. Stanley Waggoner wrote the following remembrance:
It’s a sad day to see Texas Staduim come to an end with a loss. I was in Texas Stadium for it’s grand opening and it wasn’t football. Billy Graham held a Crusade there in ‘71. I was in the 9th grade attending John B. Hood. It rained cats and dogs just as the Crusade was ending. I remember tucking my new Scofield Reference Bible inside my shirt while running to the church bus. Mom paid $25.00 for it at Sanger Harris in Bigtown and just got it out of lay-a-way. The Crusade at Texas Stadium was the first public meeting, outside of church, I carried the Bible to.
What the Cowboys did or did not do there will be forgotten, but the lives God touched in that meeting held by Billy Graham will have a lasting impact. There is no need or point to withdraw from the world of football and the world’s social events. We live in the world and share many of its values and thoughts, but our hearts have another home, the heart of God. Enjoy life on earth and its rewards, but be careful not to give them your heart, rather recognize how quickly they fade and pass away.
Let’s give our hearts, our efforts, and ourselves to the things that matter and that last for eternity, the things of God.
Lord, establish the works of our hands. Lead us to invest time, energy, thought, and hearts into your eternal things. Let us realize that what you give will never be taken away. Amen.
Ozymandias is a poem based on the theme of inappropriate human pride and hubris, and based upon the coming to Europe and later Britain, of the partial statue of Pharaoh Ramsees the Great. Shelley’s version is best remembered but it was written in competition with his friend Horace Smith. Both poems are included below.
OZYMANDIAS, by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 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 shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d 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.
Ozymandias, by Horace Smith
In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.” The City’s gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.