One of my favorite poems is the one entitled Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley:
I am struck by the irony of the picture his words create – the pompous declaration of the king in the past contrasted with the reality visible in the present; the pathos of the empty vastness and the poignancy of the observation Nothing beside remains; the endless sands marking with finality the futility of perceived grandiosity and assumed greatness, while preserving the true nature of mankind mocking the tyrant in a subtle lasting way!
No other writing well portrays the fickleness of trying to leave a mark. No evidence better describes the vanity of doing something to inspire envy in the hearts of people fortunate enough to view a glory. No amount of power or wealth seems to be able to leave an impact on history inspite of efforts. No way to extend remembrance of existence in time and space even when possessing impressive grandeur.
We all do want to leave our mark in this world, in one way or another. People endow grants and prizes, carve their names and faces on rock and stone, work with tree and wood or paint and brush to create impression. We want to not only be remembered, but also make a dent on the fabric of this life to show our presence. How do we ensure that we do not end up like Ozymandias, with no trace of even in the very monuments he created in order to preserve his place in time.
What we strive to accomplish with the help of ambition, greed and selfishness are all swept away by the passage of time, worn out by the winds of change that are inevitable. What we pay attention to, give preference for, run after, slog for and pour ourselves out for, all become meaningless or redundant in the long run. What we value and pursue, giving our whole being to attaining, soon passes away into oblivion and forgetfulness. Rightly did King Solomon the Wise at the pinnacle of his glory declare: Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
If this is all there is to life, what then is the use of work, toil, labor, striving and forbearance? Don’t we all want to be held in memory, remembered and not forgotten? How can we ensure perpetuity of existence and linger long in the minds of others? What is it that will help us etch our brand firmly on life and people?
As people, we are the best of creation, made to be eternal and everlasting. We have been given the unique trait to transcend from humanness and evanescence to godlikeness and permanence. There is an innate need within us to set in concrete terms that we were once alive and well. What is it therefore that helps us leave a fingerprint or footprint in time and space that cannot be erased or eroded away, giving expression to a need that throbs within us?
Life in general and all living things in particular get perpetuated by the proliferation and multiplication of their kind. The Creator has bestowed the ability to procreate within the body of every living kind, be it plant, animal or human. Each species on earth embodies a seed, which when planted in the right ground, brings forth fruit after its kind. Thus do all living things leave behind a generation that preserves its kind and type on earth.
Reproduction is the greatest blessing endowed on all living beings on earth, ensuring their kind has existential continuity!
Monuments may decay and die; Memories fade and flee;
Moths and insects erode and destroy;
Thieves steal and vandalize;
But a generation cannot be erased,
Nor a people totally annihilated.
That’s the mark we can create or help establish. That’s the impression we can leave behind.
A progeny that will replicate and remember us;
A posterity that will carry on our name;
A people who will be living miniatures of ourselves,
Establishing and marking our past in their making of the present,
And impacting the future through their own
King Ozymandias would have done well to leave behind a host of people or his own sons and daughters to continue the good work he had done in his lifetime.
Whenever I watch a movie that pits a small force against a larger enemy, I always look for the battle strategy by which the smaller army conquers the larger one. It excites me to see a bigger enemy, who comes into battle confident of gaining the upper hand because of the sheer number of people on their side, made to bite the dust by a smaller opponent through their sharper wits and smarter battle plans.
It thrilled me to watch: Prince Caspian’s force emerge from beneath the ground to encircle the enemy in the film of that name; Scottish King Robert Bruce vanquish a larger English force by impaling the enemy cavalry with spears hidden in the muddy terrain in the movie The Outlaw King; the American Robert Martin hoodwink and rescue his men from the English Lord Cornwallis in The Patriot and other such clever strategies in military and combat movies.
Interesting though these warcraft are, nothing can beat God’s battle strategies and plans that help His people win over foes stronger than themselves. The instances portrayed in films can be appreciated, the superb planning involved marvelled at and, even though these appear as unexpected twists in the tale, they can be fully understood. However, when compared to the art of war in the Bible, these pale in contrast to that which is exhibited by the Lord. God’s warfare and strategies are truly out of this world because they are often dependent on irrelevant and irrational actions that are precursors for victory or defeat.
Take, for example, the time Israel fought the Amalekites in the desert after the Red Sea Crossing as reported in Exodus chap 17. Fresh out of Egypt, rescued from bondage through ten miraculous acts of God that brought the then world power to its knees, led by an able warrior, Joshua, Israel had the ability and mental capacity to overcome this attack. Yet their victory and defeat did not rest on such strengths, but were hinged on their leader Moses holding his hands raised in the air or not while watching the battle from a hilltop. It seems such an irrational way of winning a battle, but that was how God worked it out for them!
Why did God make such moves as the battle turning for good or bad depending on whether Moses kept his hands raised or not? The reason is not hard to figure out: Four hundred years of bondage under a violent and harsh nation would have taught them the efficacy and advantage of brute force as well as strength. Israel was chosen to be God’s people, His royal priesthood and the people of His pasture. They had to learn to do everything not by might nor power but by Him.
They had to understand that their dependency on Him would be the reason for their success or failure. They were to cleave to Him and obey Him fully and totally. They had to learn this lesson before they entered the promised land and started live among others who did not follow Yahweh. God was teaching them this lesson and inculcating this into their beings so that when they were among other people groups, they would function as His people. Israel had to learn the secret of their existence – their relationship with Yahweh and their allegiance and obedience to Him!
Consider another time when they had crossed over the river Jordan to the land God promised to them through their ancestor Abraham. The first city they had to conquer was Jericho, one of the strongest cities of their times, a walled and defenced city, strong enough to withstand any invasion. It was a veritable fortress and conquering it would be the key for their conquest of the whole land.
Joshua, their commander is met by the commander of the army of God who then outlines the battle plan to conquer the city they are targeting. He tells Joshua that for 6 days the whole army of Israel should walk silently around the city once each day. On the 7th day they must go around 7 times, 6 times in silence as before, but the 7th time they must shout and charge straight ahead of them at the sound of the trumpet.
Any commander would consider seeking out the weak points in the battlements and using them to attack the city as the logical battle plan. God asks Joshua to do something that looked foolish in the eyes of men. The people of Jericho must have first looked on with incredulity, then with astonishment and finally with ridicule at the spectacle of an army marching in silence around the city they wanted to conquer. Israel had to bear it all and quietly rest in their tents, without reacting to their taunts and mockery.
Nothing is more difficult to bear than ridicule and it is hard to stand by or keep quiet or be without reacting at such times. Israel could not allow itself to be triggered into action or do something to prove they are not sissies. They remained faithful to the strategy given them by God through Joshua and won a great victory. They did not allow their own doubts or misgivings to distract them and they did not allow their own thinking to disrupt their obedience to God’s battle plan.
In the case of the Jericho strategy, it was not Israel who had to learn a lesson, but the nations around them. They had go know that Israel had a supernatural protecting force that would fight on their behalf. Israel was coming into the land as new settlers and the nations around had to be made aware of them being the people of Yahweh, so that the other nations would beware His power and allow Israel to dwell in safety and security. It was an object lesson for the nations around and indeed the Gibeonites came to make peace for this reason and because of the demonstration of God’s power on behalf of Israel!
It would often seem that God is a poor general and indeed this is a comment by Rameses, Pharaoh of Egypt in the movie Ten Commandments when he finds Israel trapped before the Red Sea. Pharaoh thought he had the Israelites under his mercy for he didn’t understand God’s battle plan. The Lord totally destroyed the Egyptian army, burying them in a watery grave under the waters of the Red Sea when they thought they could easily overpower Israel by their military prowess. Egypt that day ended up, not only losing its firstborns, but also its army, one that was feared for its invincibility during that period of world history. Moses’ song at that time declares His might: The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, the Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, the Lord, shattered the enemy (Exo 15:3-6).
To answer the question why God allowed this confrontation and made Israel go throw this crisis when they had just escaped 400 years of tyranny and bondage is again answered in Moses song: In your unfailing love, you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength, you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall on them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone – until your people pass by, Lord, until the people you bought pass by. You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance – the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established Exo (15:13-17). This is what exactly happened!
God never wastes His moves, but is always completely in control of the fight. He is an able General, a Master Strategist and Victorious Veteran of many successful missions. He knows what He is doing or how He is directing, and as His people we need to fully trust Him. The way He directs or plans the fight will be contrary to ours, often incomprehensible and seemingly foolish.
Apostle Paul well puts it in his second letter to the Corinthians and answers the question of why God’s combat operations are different and His plans appear nonsensical. It is because We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. He points out that this so since We are not fighting against human enemies. Instead, we are fighting against the rulers and the powerful spirits that have authority over this dark world. We are fighting against the bad spirits who live in the heavens (Eph 6:12 EASY).
God’s war mode may not fit our thinking process or our working style, but it brings total vanquishing od the enemy. It is ok to not be able to comprehend His strategy, but it is very important to obey it. If you want a complete rout of the enemy, you better hear and obey His strategy, unintelligent though it may seem to you. God knows what He is about and He plans with a far reaching eye about what is to come, who is to be touched, how it should effect and where it should impact. Therefore, it behoves us to follow His instructions implicitly, even when we don’t fathom them. He has more experience and expertise than anyone on earth or heaven. We must trust that God knows what He is about, even if we don’t!
In this pandemic period, let’s take care to follow His leading in our daily fight against negativities and negative situations of life that we are seeing and facing, daily!
MacDonald’s is a name that’s recognized all over the world, even in seemingly remote places. The phenomenal growth MacDonald’s achieved has made it not just a business or a brand, but a symbol of a country and its way of life, specifically its food.
One of the reasons for the success of the MacDonald’s chain of restaurants is the quickness of their service and the quality of their product, maintained the same in every place they have opened up. Their fanatical obsession to maintain their quality and sameness has contributed to the explosive growth of their franchisee.
The key to their near-perfect replication of their product lies in their strict adherence to the same production process in every location they are found. They discovered and refined a way of doing things and then religiously stuck to that way everywhere. Their insistence that the same process is repeated every time, all over, is the key to their phenomenal expansion. MacDonald’s owes its growth to the sameness of its process that has resulted in the sameness of the end product delivered in the same interval of time!
What has made this business expand and be outstanding is that its profit has been achieved everywhere and every time. The key to such effect is the ability to reproduce through replication, not duplication, of its product and process. Nobody likes a duplicate for it is the imitation of the real thing. However, if the real product can be got with the same quality and in the same quantity, that’s the key to multiplication into multiple locations. The crux of such an achievement is thus having a model, prototype and a pattern to emulate, and then following it strictly.
A pattern and a model enables easy way to multiply, expand and establish. If there is no pattern, then the original prototype will become submerged and lost in the milieu of possibilities and modifications. Only when the integrity of the design of the source model is maintained, the reproductions will be true to the prototype and can be validated as that product. Otherwise, you will end up with imitation that looks like the original but does not retain its integrity. Only when its integrity is safeguarded can the product be trademarked.
The key for an industry to grow and impact with its product is this same thing, a pattern or a model or a prototype. This is especially true in the textile industry where multiple garments can be tailored using a key pattern. This is indeed crucial for the export of such garments, for each and every piece must be the same as the model they showed the buyer. The colors may vary, but the pattern and sizes ordered must not very from the original that was exhibited while receiving the order. Every industrial product goes through the same process, including big one’s such as cars and trucks!
In the Bible, we see both in the Old and New Testaments a pattern of worship and life given to the people of God to live as a community of faith. Through Moses God gave Israel a manner of life in very minute detail, including their worship, their holidays, their occupation, their diet, their justice system, their education, their family life etc. Since they were the people of God, their life revolved around worship and expressions of their faith. Their allegiance to Yahweh permeated every part of their existence and the sociocultural as well as economic and political construct of their lives was ordered by His instructions, communicated to them as His laws. Irrespective of the places they migrated to, they maintained their identity and their distinctiveness through this pattern of worship places, practices and lifestyle!
Similarly, in the New Testament Christ, as the Apostle and Architect of His Church, gave Paul His administrative plan for those who follow Him to exist as His people on earth. In order for them to be the community of faith, He gave them a distinct blueprint and pattern for their lives so that would be witnesses of His death, burial and resurrection. The way they lived as individuals, families and community would communicate the good news of His love for all to the world around. This pattern was for all times, providing a sociocultural framework for His followers that would distinguish and set them apart as the adherents of His teaching.
Paul and other apostles faithfully communicated this framework through their teaching and their letters, urging the people of God to follow the pattern of life and inward transformation. This was what would set them apart and brand them as Christ’s, worthy to be called His people.
The question to ask today in our churches is this: Are we following the pattern shown and showcased by the Apostles and the early church? Is that a core reason that we haven’t multiplied and expanded the way they did? What if returning to the way of Christ and the Apostles is the need of the hour and the appropriate step to take if church has to shine with the glory of God?
After all, the blessing inherent in creation for multiplication is: each kind bringing forth its own kind!