“And of Zion it will be said, “This one and that one were born in her; And the Most High Himself shall establish her.” 6 The LORD will record, When He registers the peoples: “This one was born there.” Psalm 87:5-6
When I asked Jesus into my heart as a teenage boy, one of the things that I was encouraged to do was to write down the date of my spiritual birthday in the front of my Bible. I think that in someways, this is the idea, the thought behind, the intention found in these two verse. It’s a remarkably encouraging verse. The Psalmist indicates that in the future the anniversaries that will be celebrated will be for the righteous – the redeemed.
That’s not normally the way things work in our current world. Today anniversaries are publicly celebrated for those who are considered great – a politician, a poet, a military hero, some scientist who discovered a cure for some disease, or one who has accumulated a great deal of this world’s wealth. I don’t wish to disparage these in any way, for each has their place in our current culture, but the Psalmist says that he’s looking forward to a day when birthdays won’t be remembered for those who were considered “great,” but for those who are known to be godly.
As I look at this year’s calendar, I see where there are several days that are set aside to remember and honor – to celebrate – the life of some hero of history. I wonder how it would surprise the world if a day was set aside to remember and celebrate the life of some simple man or humble woman who was unknown to history? I would imagine that there would not be just a few questions that would be raised. “Why are we celebrating the life of this man? Why are we remembering the works of this woman? I’ve never heard of him. Nobody’s ever heard of her.”
The thing that we need to realize is that far more often than we realize is that those who have risen to the rank of being known by the world owe a great debt to those who are completely unknown. Those who have have had the world for their stage had done so because of the care and attention given to them in the nursery. The formative hours that fitted him for a future fame came in those quiet, unseen days where he spent time on a mother’s knee or at a daddy’s side. Many of the world’s greatest thinkers first received their knowledge in the classroom of some unknown teacher who wasn’t known outside of the town’s city limits – the teacher had the knowledge, he just simply lacked the eloquence or ability to express it. Many of our most renowned citizens owe their fame and fortune to some unknown christian who came with a word of encouragement – “Don’t quit.” “You can do it.” “I believe in you.” – at a time when they were tempted to drop out. But because of this encouragement they found the strength to go on and became known to the world. Oftentimes the scientist who found a life-saving cure for some deadly disease learned patience and endurance from another who never discovered anything but himself, who suffered but did not reply. Some men have reached the summit of the world’s tallest peaks because of an internal drive and belief in themselves, but most of the time it came because they heard the voice of another one than themselves. Those voices came from the valley, the lowly, the unknown. Those deeds of silent sacrifice, the homes of humble holiness, the acts of covert kindness, the words of unrecorded righteousness, the examples of unpublished purity – these more times than not are the source of human greatness.
There is a place in the future for all people, but the monuments and anniversaries will be reserved for the “Men of Zion,” those who have sacrificed for Him. There is a crown reserved for each area of successful service, but anniversaries will be recorded for those who sowed the seed. We in this world enjoy the flowers and fragrances of the trees that they planted. But the flowers and the leaves are not the beginning of the tree. The tree had its beginning underground, in a lonely, silent and unseen place. It is on these places that the eye of the Lord keeps watch. It’s there, in the unknown days and hours that He looks for the birthdays of the great.
Many times I catch myself wondering what I have done to be worthy to be remembered in a future world. What have I done, or achieved, to deserve this? I need to let the Lord teach me the error in this way of thinking. I need to realize that it is in the lives of the humble that the great find their beginning. I need to see that those things which will have their majesty in the future are those things that now seem so poor. It’s the difference between the cradle and the crown, the bud and the blossom.
It’s Shakespeare in a shell, Newton in the nursery, Bacon in diapers, Homer at home, Dante in day-care, Milton at mealtime, Goethe playing games and Plato in the pastimes of childhood.
“I would see, Lord, those who molded their earliest moments. Those who carefully counseled them about their conduct. Those who helped to frame their faith. The architects of their aspirations. The directors of their desires. The partners in their pleasures. The leaders of their leisure hours. Then I will know why it is that in the future world birthdays are reserved for those who were born in Zion.”