"The Work of Their Hands"
I have always found something evocative and haunting about history. Its silence often calls to me in profound ways. I have had the privilege of traveling widely in my life and have seen many of the great works of mankind. They cause me to ponder.
I’ve seen the ancient ruins of the Mayans in Yucatan, the Acropolis in Athens, the Colosseum in Rome, the Cham ruins in Vietnam, Stonehenge and the sprawling ruins of Anchor Watt. I’ve seen great cathedrals like the Vatican and Mont St. Michaël, the Cao Dai temple and the Hindu Batu caves and the religious shrines of the 10,000 Buddha in Hong Kong and Our Lady of Fatima. I’ve been to Arlington, The National Cemetery at Omaha Beach and Auschwitz. I’ve visited famous battlefields like Gettysburg, the Alamo, Normandy, the “Little Big Horn”, Pearl Harbor, Bastogne, Khe Sanh and the “Bridge over the River Kwai”. I’ve seen great works like the Panama Canal, Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve traveled through once great empires that have long since become dust in the wind and cities that were old before Europeans sailed to the New World.
When I have visited these places, I have often thought of those who have gone before - of the countless unknown lives that were lived and died millenniums ago. I have often reflected on all the people who have experienced the same dreams and ambitions and heartaches and sorrows and simple joys like each one of us. I think of the loves won and lost, of dreams come true and dreams never fulfilled. I think of the endless wheel of life that Solomon observed and the great vanity that was the fate of it all.
I remember one poignant moment in Venice as our gondola slowing cruised through one of the narrow canals. I was looking down through the water and noticed doors and bricked-in window frames from long ago that had sunk into the tide flats of Venice. I considered the families that once lived in those underwater dwellings -- Those who were born there, played as children there, fell in love there, married there had children there, grew old there and died in their beds only to have another generation repeat the same cycle.
In these moments of reflection, I also find myself deeply moved by the sheer enormity of all that has happened apart from the gospel. I am staggered by the sobering reality that the vast majority of what has happened throughout history has had absolutely nothing to do with the truth or God’s purposes in the earth. I am staggered when I contemplate the billions of "worldlings" who have gone about their business each day consumed with the cares of this life. When I think of all the things that mankind has invested so much of their time and energy and wealth into and realize that it has all been futile apart from God, I am bewildered. I think about all the scheming, plotting, planning, purpose driven agendas and grasping for the wind. I think of the billions of individual plans and passions and dreams and exploits of so many who don’t have the slightest clue about what is really going on and I shake my head in dismay. These considerations have brought me to the same conclusion as Solomon when he said, “Vanity of vanities, says the preacher. All is vanity!”
When I consider everything under the sun that man has accomplished and schemed for and sacrificed for and fought for and died for and realize that almost all of it will mean nothing in the end I am stunned. The sheer variety and complexity of worldly pursuits and priorities throughout history can almost seem to overwhelm the simple concept of the gospel. Yet, the world goes about their business each day oblivious to reality that all the works of man will burn one day when the goats will be separated from the sheep.
In comparison to all that man has achieved through the work of his own hands we are but meaningless specks of dust in comparison. Yet, If your history is not centered upon HIS-story then you are on the wrong side of history. No matter how relevant, “woke”, progressive, tuned in and trendy you may be if He is not your story then you will forever be out of touch, out of date and irrelevant. The only way to be on the right side of history is to come to Him with empty hands and a contrite heart.
I met a traveler 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."
- Percy Bysshe Shelley