© D Rudi Schwartz
The phrase found in an almost predicted regularity in the history of the Israelite kings is recorded in the Bible: “… and he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” The opposite is “.. and he did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”
What counted was not how the king was seen in the eyes of the people or what he achieved in terms of his military success or his civil or engineering programs. A king was successful in terms of how he lived in the eyes of the Lord.
The measuring stick was the standard of God. And God’s standard was what He stipulated in his Covenant Law.
Many kings reigned for long years, they built strategic garrison and fortified cities, roads, channels, etc. Some were excellent in building commercial and diplomatic relationships with other kings and kingdoms. In some cases these relationships led to economic growth and the general welfare of the people. Their years on the throne in some cases brought peace and stability, and as a result prosperity.
And when they died, they were remembered as good people: they rested with their fathers in the burial plot of the kings and tribute was brought to them.
We do the same.
We have leaders, many of whom are really successful politicians and kings. They introduce reforms on numerous fronts, all to the benefit of the people. Some introduce reforms heralded by the people as progressive and far-reaching. Some disregard God altogether and scorn his Law: marriage is redefined: same-sex marriages, stem cell research, abortions and pornography are legalized as a sign of a progressive society, brave to face realities of our century.
Some leaders on other fields of social and scientific achievement have an influence in the way we live. We look at their work and admire them for giving us the benefit of their brilliant research. Charles Darwin is heralded as one of the most brilliant thinkers of his age, braking the shackles of a society in the grip of religion. Many books of praise are written to him who gave us the theory of evolution, which do away with the Creator God.
There are leaders on the front of the arts and music. Film makers, stars and celebrities influence our society and the way we think. The product of their activity is spread on the pages of our television screens, in their books and the films they make. And let’s face it, some of it are really good. But many die with a bottle of drugs next to them, with the scorn of God on their lips. And they are remembered as heroes. The sculptures and paintings of those who mocked God sell for big dollars and occupy the best places in museums. Our children learn about them in schools.
Recently a television personality was honoured for his work. He will be remembered and honoured for the fact that he was first to ridicule religion on the TV screen!
Someday I will die, and you will die. What will we be remembered by? How will people look at our lives? What will they want to write on our headstones?
It doesn’t really matter what people think. The most important is what God will say.
How did we live? Did we do what is right in the eyes of the Lord?
Henry Martin, a pioneer missionary to India, died on 16th October 1813 after selfless service in the Kingdom of God to the people of India, “… whether from the heat and fatigue of travelling, or from the plague, which was raging there, is uncertain. Just what words can express the loss which India, and the whole world has sustained!” He was only 31 years of age.
He translated the whole of the New Testament into Urdu, Persian and Judaeo-Persic. He also translated the Psalms into Persian and the Book of Common Prayer into Urdu. From India, he set out for Bushire, Shiraz, Isfahan, and Tabriz.
Martyn was seized with fever, and, though the plague was raging at Tokat, he was forced to stop there, unable to continue. On 16 October 1812 he died. He was remembered for his courage, selflessness and his religious devotion.
Martyn was buried in Persia, far from friend, family and homeland. He died in the Lord. His last entry into his diary reads:
“Oh! When shall time give place to eternity! When shall appear the new heaven and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. There, there shall in no wise enter anything that defileth: none of the wickedness which has made men worse than wild beasts—non of those corruptions which add still more to the miseries of mortality, shall be seen or heard any more.”
Thomas Babington Macaulay wrote an epitaph on Henry Martin.Here Martyn lies. In Manhood’s early bloom The Christian Hero finds a Pagan tomb. Religion, sorrowing o’er her favourite son, Points to the glorious trophies that he won. Eternal trophies! not with carnage red, Not stained with tears by hapless captives shed, But trophies of the Cross! for that dear name, Through every form of danger, death, and shame, Onward he journeyed to a happier shore, Where danger, death, and shame assault no more.
I am sure that most people, most Christians even, don’t know who Henry Martin was. By the standards of this world he would probably regarded as someone who wasted his life and exposed himself to unnecessary danger.
But, in the eyes of God … That is what counts!
Lord, teach us to live by your standards. Teach us what is wise in the eyes of the world, is foolishness in your eyes. To be friend of the world, and to be popular can sometimes be very enticing. Like the rich man in the parable of our Lord we can have everything, even barns full of riches. But what really counts is our relationship with You and how we live as your children. Father, teach me that secret, which is a pearl of great value. In the Name of Christ. Amen.