Tag Archives: Providence

A Tale of Two Kings

A Tale of Two Kings (CaD Ps 144) Wayfarer

Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,
    mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
    their days are like a fleeting shadow.

Psalm 144:3-4 (NIV)

Bear with me today, because I’m going to theatre-geek out on you a bit.

The tale of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is one that I have found myself referencing repeatedly in these post over the past 15 years. Macbeth is the Bard’s shortest play, and the further I traverse this road of life, the more meaningful I find it. It is full of mystery and of humans striving against both fate and unseen forces to ascend power in the kingdoms of this world to a tragic end.

Did You Know?
In the theatre world, it is considered taboo to utter the name of Shakespeare’s tragic hero, Macbeth. When referencing the play of “he who must not be named,” it is most common to simply refer to it as “The Scottish Play.”

To refresh your memory from high school English class, Macbeth is a soldier who does himself proud. On his way home from war, he meets “the weird sisters” who prophetically tell him that he will become a noble, and then will become king. He writes his wife the news and immediately the first part of the prophecy comes true.

As fate would have it, King Duncan is passing through the area and decides to spend the night with the Macbeths at their estate. Rather than waiting to see if the prophecy comes true, Lady Macbeth and her husband are convinced that this is the opportunity to make the second part of the prophecy come true. They murder the King, seize the throne, but in doing so they unleash circumstances that will cycle out of control and doom them.

Near the end of The Scottish Play, King Macbeth receives news that his wife is dead. As Jesus would have observed: He gained the world, and lost his soul, along with everything else that matters. As this realization kicks in, the tragic hero utters one of Shakespeare’s well-known monologues:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

I couldn’t help but think of Macbeth as I read David’s lyrics in today’s chapter, Psalm 144:

Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,
    mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
    their days are like a fleeting shadow.

As I meditated on the similarity of sentiments between Macbeth’s lines and David’s lyrics, I was eventually led to contemplate both the common themes and the contrasts.

Macbeth was given a prophesy that he would be king of Scotland in the same way that David was anointed king by the prophet Samuel when he was still a young man. Impatient and hungry for power, Macbeth and his Lady resorted to lies, deceit, and murder to take the throne by force. David lived for many years in the wilderness, refusing multiple opportunities to kill his rival, King Saul. If the prophecy was to be fulfilled, David wanted it to be God who made it happen, not him.

Macbeth’s observations about life being a walking shadow are filled with the emptiness and bitterness amidst the ruins of his choices and their tragic ends. David’s observation is filled with faith and awe that God would choose to love, protect, and bless him when he humbly acknowledges that he is nothing before the hand of the almighty.

In the quiet this morning, I’m thinking about my own life. I turn 55 at the end of this month. Even if I am graciously allowed the average number of days on the “petty pace” earthly journey (and that’s no guarantee), I must acknowledge that “all my yesterdays” account for more than my “tomorrows.” There are more days behind me than before. I will eventually make my exit from this terrestrial stage.

As the “fleeting shadow” of my own journey creeps to the ext, whom will I be most like?

Macbeth in his despair and woes of meaningless futility?

David in his humble praise to God for all the blessings he’d graciously been afforded despite his tragic flaws and many mistakes?

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 16

Footprints of Beach-ChickensWe can make our plans,
      but the LORD determines our steps.
Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

I never planned to be a businessman.
I never planned to live in Pella, Iowa.
I never planned to be divorced, nor remarried.
I never planned to build a place on a lake (I dreamed about it, but I never planned on it).
I never planned to write a blog.
I never planned to…
I never planned to…
I never planned to….

Looking back, I can see so many places where my plans for the path my life would take and the actual steps of my path diverged. As I examine the past I can clearly recognize poor choices, sinful acts, wise moves and divine interventions at specific points in time. What becomes impossible for me to clearly differentiate are the consequences of will from God’s eternal purposes for me, for they weave together into one road that has brought me to this place on this day. All I am left with is the determination of what I will do with this day. At this moment, standing at this place on life’s path, whom will I serve and what will my next step be?

God, help me this day make wise choices with my every action I take, with every word that comes out of my mouth, and every meditation of my heart.

I’ll trust you with where that step will lead.

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Chapter-a-Day Ezra 7

Prophet Esra (Bibelhandschrift des Arnsberger ...
Image via Wikipedia

Blessed be God, the God-of-Our-Fathers, who put it in the mind of the king to beautify The Temple of God in Jerusalem! Not only that, he caused the king and all his advisors and influential officials actually to like me and back me. Ezra 7:27 (MSG)

When I was a young man, I heard the adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” If I were to write a book on the most important life lessons I’ve learned along the journey, this one would be included. I was reminded of it again in today’s chapter.

Ezra was a bright man, there’s no doubt. He had a lot going for him. Nevertheless, the reason that he was allowed to return to Jerusalem with a “letter of transit” signed by King Artaxerxes (feel free to make your own Casablance reference here), was that he knew the king. More than knowing the king, he had the kings favor. As a result, the king gave Ezra “everything he asked for.”

In business, in church life, and in the community, I’ve found that knowing the individual who can make things happen is critical. But just knowing an individual is not enough. Having favor with the right individual is the key to accomplishing certain things. This is where character and attitude play a key role. In my experience, the granting of favor is derived from a mixture of God’s providence and grace and earning respect through a loving and genuinely faithful attitude of service.

God grant me favor with those whom you bring along my path, that I may accomplish your divine purpose in this life.

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Chapter-a-Day Deuteronomy 8

Young Corn from the Grant Wood collection
Image via Wikipedia

After a meal, satisfied, bless God, your God, for the good land he has given you. Deuteronomy 8:10 (MSG)

Wendy and I drove to Des Moines this past Friday. The rolling hills of the Iowa landscape stretched out as far as one could see. It’s beautiful this time of year with layers of color from the rich dark soil and the deep green of the crops covered with a glowing golden blanket of tassels. After gazing out the window for a long time Wendy commented that Grant Wood had captured the Iowa landscape so perfectly. I agreed. The comment brought to mind a memory of walking through the gallery at the Des Moines Art Center many years ago and seeing a pastel of the Iowa landscape. I did not know the artist, but I knew immediately that she must have grown up here. There was a depth of knowledge of the land beneath her pastels.

Growing up in Iowa you feel a certain connection with the land. The landscape is not an attraction, it’s a part of you. The people and the land are inexorably intertwined. In Iowa, you grow up with an appreciation for both the divine providence and the hard work that produces a family dinner on Sunday.

Many years ago I was on a journey through God’s Message and passed through this section of Deuteronomy. The verse above resonated deep within me. You could say I memorized it, but I feel more as if it attached itself to my spirit. This verse comes to mind after every good meal, and after an exceptional meal my family will hear me utter it out loud.

I never want to forget the blessing of living in a good land.

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