"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Raising The Standard: Cautiousness Is Realizing That My Greatest Ability Is Also The Point Of My Greatest Vulnerability

"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." ~ 1 Corinthians 10:12
"...Therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9
From The Pages Of Scripture:
The true test of a man's character is not determined by his achievements, but by how he responds to the praise that accompanies his success. Pride, overconfidence, and ingratitude will result in swift judgment and destruction. Success demands an acknowledgment that it is God who lifts up one and takes down another. (Psalm 75:6-7) If a ruler ever had a right to be proud, one eastern sovereign could have legitimately claimed the honor. He had handily conquered the wealthiest and most powerful empire that the ancient world had ever sceen. However, unlike the emperor whom he replaced, he was acutely aware that his victory and future reign depended completely on God. When one ruler conquered the world, he praised the gods of gold and silver. The man who conquered this foolish king displayed much greater wisdom. He praised the God of heaven and earth who had predicted his rise to power one hundred and fifty years earlier. Who was this discerning conqueror who understood that a person's greatist ability is also the point of his greatest vulnerability? Cyrus.
How Is The Danger Of A Person's Ability Illustrated In Scripture?
The prudent king pondered over the wrinkled military plans with great interest. The secret blueprints revealed the impregnable design of the mightiest city in the ancient world. Massive stone walls rose up behind a broad moat that encircled the entire city. The towering parapets that overlooked the fertile valley were able to support patrols of chariots drawn by four horses. Supprisingly, this seemingly impenetrable stone barrier was not the city's greatest strength. The king's clever general carefully traced the key to his invasion plans with the finger of his war-calloused hand. A victorious smile lit up the confident countenance of the old soldier as he pointed to the river that ran beneath the city gates. He carefully explained to his sovereign that the city's greatest strength, an unlimited source of water, would provide the necessary point of vulnerazbility for his invading forces. As the general's well-disciplined troops neared the ancient stronghold, entire divisions of enemy soldiers surrendered without a fight. While plans of conquest slowly unfolded outside the walls, the arrogant ruler of the city sponsored a lavish feast to honor his own glorious achievements. As the drunken king raised a golden goblet to wish himself long life and continued success, foreign soldiers were cleverly diverting the river and providing an underground access for their assault force. That very night the city fell. The foreign monarch received a liberator's welcome. His spirit of understanding and generous treatment of his new subjects strengthened and unified the kingdom. Unlike the emperor he had defeated, the wise new ruler recognized that God had given him the victory. With a spirit of gratefulness, he allowed Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. In return, he requested daily for himself and his sons. One hundred and fifty years earlier Isaiah had prophesised that this conqueror would one day rule the world and rebuild God's temple. Thus, with God's help, King Cyrus perceived that Babylon's greatest vulnerability could be found within its greatest strength. With this important insight, he conquered the city without a battle. (From Daniel 5, Isaiah 44:28, Ezra 1:1-2, and the historical accounts of Herodotus and Xenophon.)
Why Did Generals Surrender To Cyrus Rather Than Fight?
Cyrus had a reputation for being benevolent to his captives. When the Medes surrendered, he treated them with respect and dignity. They became allies who shared in his future success. He also allowed displaced captives from former administrations to return to their homelands. Cyrus was regarded as a liberator rathern than a conqueror. Cyrus also had a reputation for being a brilliant military strategist. One of his most spectacular victories was against Croesus, the walthy king of Lydea. When their battle became deadlocked, Croesus retreated to Sardis for the winter. He expected Cyrus to wait until spring before attacking. In the meantime, he planned to add reinforcements from Babylon, Egypt, and Greece. Instead, Cyrus attacked immediately. Althought Croesus had a greatly superior calvalry, Cyrus had the larger army. Cyrus canceled Croesus' strength by placing camels at the head of his procession. When the horses caught scent of the camels, they panicked and became unmanageable. Cyrus routed his enemy and added Croesus' great wealth to his growing empire.
Was Cyrus' Treatment Of Conquered Nations Common In His Day?
Cyrus reversed the policies of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. Both of these former world powers had ruled by terror. They believed that by being cruel and even torturing their captives, other nations would not dare to rebel. Another tactic used was the displacing of captives from their homelands to break their national spirit. When Assyria conquered Samaria in 722 B.C., Sargon deported the leading citizens and replaced them with exiles from other territories. A tactic used by Nebuchadnezzar was to change the names of the captives to encourage them to forget their past loyalties. Daniel's name was changed to Belteshazzar. Daniel must have winced every time someone referred to him as "Bel's Prince" instead of by his given name "Jehova's Prince." These policies were reversed when Cyrus came into power (Daniel 2:26; 6:20). It is not surprising that Cyrus' reign was welcomed by many.
In What Way Did Cyrus Influence World History?
Cyrus' kindness toward conquered peoples was so politically successful that it has been followed by civilized countries up to the present day. Cyrus' Persian successors, the Greeks, and then the Romans, allowed smaller contries under their rule to maintain as much autonomy as was considered to be safe. Cyrus' pro-Jewish policies were expecially helpful to the struggling remnant that returned to Judea. When the temple reconstruction was challenged by local politicians, a decision was requested of Darius the Great. Darius found Cyrus' proclamation concerning the rebuilding of the temple. As a resutl, he allowed the construction to continue and even commanded the Jew's enemies to provide financial assistance (Ezra 6:12). Continuing this policy, in 458 B>C> Artaxerxes I allowed Ezra to return to Jerusalem with a contingent of fellow Jews to help rebuild the temple. In 445 B.C. he allowed Nehemiah to return and fortify the defenses of the city (Nehemiah 2:1-8).
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
Loons are large black-and-white birds which live almost entirely in the water. They are excellent divers, surpassed in speed and agility only by the penguin. Loons are good fliers, but they have considerable trouble landing and taking off because of their heavy bodies and wings. The voice of the loon has become a symbol of the northern wilderness of the United States.
How Is Unexpected Vulnerability Illustrated In The World Of Nature?
The indignant native jealously glared at the large flock of migrants as they circled the mountain lake and shattered the mirrorlike surface of his private fishery with a less-than-polite landing. Days had become noticeably shorter and the night air whispered subtle warnings of an approaching snowfall that would soon adorn the majestic pines. A veteran of many migrations himself, he instinctively sensed that the long flight to the warm, southern marshlands would require an added reserve of energy. The fish that inhabited the lake were no match for his agility and experience. His webbed feet generaged powerful, dart-like movements that enabled him to chase down even the slipperiest catch. With his ample supply of food now threatened by the noisy colony of intruders, the solitary bird retreated to a smaller nearby lake. There he found an abundant supply of savory perch and sunfish. As night began to overshadow the forest, the faint calls of his uninvited neighbors echoed through the timbers. Lured by migratory instincts, he decided to join the large flock. His determined wings beat against the water as he half flew and half ran across the shimmering pond. The tiny lake supplied a limited runway and nearly prevented him from clearing the tree tops. That night a heavy frost blanketed the woodland refuge. One by one the lake birds departed from the area. Finally, the native bird began the difficult journey southward. However, as he gained altitude, he spotted the smll lake where he had feasted the day before. Confidently, he swooped down on the well-stocked pond, ignoring the rim of ice that reduced its dimensions. He dove under the water and ate fish to his heart's content. After a short while he decided to rejoin the migrating flock. Once again he flapped his wings and pushed his feet against the water as he ran down the lake fo rhis takeoff. To his dismay he discovered that the lake was now smaller than the day before. Ice jutted out from the shore in every direction. He tried again and again to take off without success. The fish that he had just eaten laid heavily in his stomach. He decided to wait until next evening; perhaps the stronger wind would give him the needed lift to clear the lake. But even with the help of the stronger wind the large bird was unable to take off from the rapidly shrinking lake. He was helplessly trapped. Soon the lake froze over, forcing him to go ashore. Ironically, the loon's great ability to dive, swim, and catch fish had produced a lack of cautiousness which exposed him to the frozen, snow-swept wilderness, where he would soon die.
The Characteristics Of The Loon In Scripture:
The loon's vulnerability on land and on small lakes is a valuable illustration of a Christian's need to be committed to Christ and to wisely consider every venture before entering into it.
"And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" ~ Luke 14:27-28
The abilities which make the loon successful in catching fish are limitations in living on land. In the same way, Christians have special abilities to be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). This limits our ability to be involved in worldly pursuits (2 Timothy 2:4). We are to be in the world but not of the world.
"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11).
Like the loon, God wants the Christian to "...mount up with wings..." (Isaiah 40:31) and to "...ride upon the high places of the earth..." (Isaiah 58:14). Once a Christian comes down from his "spiritual soaring," it is very difficult to get back up again (see Hebrews 12:15). Just as the loons continually call to each other, we are to exhort one another daily (see Hehbrews 3:13).

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