February 2014

OF MOUNT EVEREST AND MAUNA KEA

Suresh Manoharan

Isn’t it human tendency to go only for the visible and the obvious?

It’s quiz time, folks! Name the tallest mountain peak in the world. A no-brainer for some folks, really. Pat would come the response from them, Mount Everest! No, that’s not the right answer. Pat yourself on your back, if your answer was Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea, off the Hawaiian coast, ‘towers’ over the rest. Its height is 33,000 feet vis-a-vis its nearest competitor Mount Everest whose height, as most of us know, is 29,000 feet. The only problem with Mauna Kea is that nearly 54% of it is submerged below the Pacific Ocean and hence not immediately visible to the naked eye.

Isn’t it human tendency to go only for the visible and the obvious? Did it not all begin with the luscious-looking forbidden fruit (Gen.3:6) in the Garden of Eden for which our grandparents fell, when far more nourishing, but perhaps in effect ‘not-so-attractive,’ fruits were abounding in the ‘little heaven on earth’? Talk of transmission of traits from the parents to their offspring!

In this message, I am inspired to share about our Heavenly Father’s perspective, which is not quite the same as ours (Isa.55:8-9). There are at least four instances in the Scripture where we perceive His vision going beyond what meets the eye.

Shepherd
“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1Sam.16:6-7).

Welcome virtually to the men ramp show of 1000 BC, the contestants being the sons of Jesse of Bethlehem, and the prize at hand, the crown of the kingdom of Israel. Lo and behold, the winner is not the most handsome, strongest or the most intelligent of them all, but the boyish, earthy last son of Jesse (1Sam.16:1-13), who tended his father’s sheep.

This shepherd boy in his ‘incomparable CV’ had a heart that was at all times subservient to the Lord’s will (Acts.13:22). No wonder, the Lord saw in shepherd boy David the potential to accomplish a mission for His chosen nation, which among others included control of the Promised Land “from the desert (southern border) to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west” (Josh.1:4). The conquest that resembled ‘Mission Impossible’ during the 400-year reign of 12 judges turned into ‘Mission Possible’ in the mere 40-year reign of one shepherd boy turned King, David.

The implicit obedience of David was bound to court success, hence it was not all surprising that wherever David went in his crusades, the Lord crowned all his efforts with success (2Sam.8:14).

His all-round success in military campaigns aside, King David, barring a blip here or a blip there, was to leave a lasting legacy of obedience to the Almighty (2Chro.17:3;28:1;34:2), who graciously gave him the throne when he was a nobody in the Jewish society, more so in his own family. The good Lord spotted ‘a Mauna Kea of potential’ in him which his own family members were not cognisant of.

Stammer
Talking of mountains, nearly 500 years before the advent of David, we see yet another Biblical hero – again a shepherd at that – in his mountaintop conversation (Mount Horeb, to be precise) with the Almighty (who appeared to him in a burning bush) grossly underestimating his own potential and dishing out one excuse after another (Exo.3:4-13) for not undertaking a divine responsibility.

Yes, you guessed it right. I am speaking of Moses, who simply did not want to shoulder the onerous responsibility of being the ambassador of the Lord before the powerful Pharaoh (world super power at that time) seeking deliverance for the 2.5 million Jewish slaves from Egyptian bondage, especially in view of his own hasty departure from Egypt 40 years earlier with ‘bloodied hands’ (Exo.2:11-15). Was the Lord in a mood to let Moses go, listening to his many excuses which among others included a serious speech impediment (Exo.4:10)? No way!

In Moses, the good Lord saw a leader who would shepherd His people all the way from Egypt to the borders of the Promised Land. History bears witness to the fact as to how patiently and perseveringly, this once reluctant leader led the people in an arduous journey which would last for 40 long years. There would be very few great leaders like Moses in the entire Biblical history. His speech impediment? Well, the good Lord, who transforms the weaknesses of His chosen ones into their strengths (Heb.11:34;2Cor.12:10), made this ‘stutterer’ give the longest recorded sermon in the Bible. We would see Moses’ farewell message spanning 33 chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy!

Scared
“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior’ (Judg.6:12).

For the uninitiated, the above Scripture verse could well make them imagine Gideon as a Mr. Universe contestant flexing his bulging biceps before an admiring global audience, but one has to go back by just one verse, to see how Gideon saw himself for what he was, “…one day the Angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the oak tree at Ophrah, on the farm of Joash the Abiezrite. Joash’s son, Gideon, had been threshing wheat by hand in the bottom of a grape press—a pit where grapes were pressed to make wine—for he was hiding from the Midianites” (Judg.6:11TLB).

The Book of Judges, describing the period of Israeli history after the departure of that great leader Joshua, gives us a cyclical pattern in the matter of obedience, disobedience, chastisement, repentance and again obedience of the people of Israel. Whenever the Lord’s chosen people, due to sheer ingratitude despite inheriting a ‘land flowing with milk and honey’ (without as much as raising a finger in labour), would disobey their Redeemer God, He would use their neighbouring enemies as ‘whipping rods’ to bring them back into the right track (Heb.12:5-13). Once they would come ‘to their senses,’ like the Prodigal Son (Lk.15:11-20), He would raise a leader to deliver them. Our unlikely hero Gideon was used by the Lord to ‘save’ the repentant lot from the Midianites (the Lord’s temporary chastening rod) who had harassed them for seven years (Judg.6:1-10). But it is the introductory account of Gideon in the Scriptures which is at once arresting. Here is the cowardly man threshing his wheat in a winepress, afraid of the Midianites; but the angel under the Almighty’s orders is addressing him as a ‘Mighty soldier.’ Obviously, the Lord was seeing in Gideon a potential not visible to the naked eye. Once Gideon trusted the Lord and responded to the divine call, the rest was history; rather, the Midianites became history when challenged by Gideon with a ‘puny army’ of not more than 300 men carrying in one hand a flaming torch and in the other a horn (Judg.7:16-25). Boy, no weapons to start with!

Solecistic
“When the Council saw the boldness of Peter and John and could see that they were obviously uneducated non-professionals, they were amazed and realised what being with Jesus had done for them!” (Acts 4:13).

The men who turned the world upside down in the first century (Acts.17:6 KJV) never rode on their majestic horses, nor did they carry any gleaming swords with them, quite unlike the Roman army which held sway over much of the then known world at that time. They were ordinary men, the only difference being that they had been trained by their incomparable Master for three and half years and were now indwelt by His Spirit (Acts.2). No wonder, they were ‘on fire’ speaking with courage and authority which can come only when you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, which their Master promised before His ascension (Acts.1:8).

Now let’s hit the rewind button and go visiting the banks of the Sea of Galilee three and a half years earlier, when the Saviour called these ordinary, unschooled fishermen to be His disciples and ‘fishers of men’ (Matt.4:18-21).

What did Jesus see in these men, which the world did not? Amazing potential waiting to be tapped – one that would acquire the shape of unbridled devotion to the Master’s cause, willing even to be martyred, without ever seeking any self-glory!

Fellow sojourner, cheer up if the unchanging Jesus (Heb.13:7) has selected you. He is not the one who would leave any work half done. Claim the promise of Philippians 1:6 in your life, “God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace until His task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.”

Hey, He is crafting you into ‘a Mauna Kea’ – whether the world is able to see that or not. Hallelujah!

Editorial: DEMOCRACY - Jacob Ninan

CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS IN CRISIS - Jamila Koshy

BUT IF NOT…! - Vimal R. Ram

DRAMATIC AND TRAUMATIC MIRACLES - J. N. Manokaran

GRACE - IS IT A LICENCE TO SIN? - Lily Abraham

OF MOUNT EVEREST AND MAUNA KEA - Suresh Manoharan

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