Maybe you read it in the news. A massive granite head was found in the sands of Egypt. The statue represented Amenhotep III. The eight foot tall head was intact except for the ceremonial beard which was broken off. Archaeologists hope to find it buried in the sands of Luxor.
I’ve had the privilege of seeing some of the great monuments of Egypt including colossus statues of pharaohs. They are impressive sights even when broken and lying on their sides. But this find reminds me of the poem, Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
I met a traveller 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”.
Ozymandias is but another transliteration from Greek of the name Ramesses who was pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty of Egypt. Both archaeologist and poet remind us of the decay of human endeavors even while attempting to leave a lasting name.
Is it worth it to build buildings, create art, to invent and strive? I think the answer must be yes. These impulses are God-given, but we must view such things through a lens of humility. The things of this world decay, and we must give glory to God. Otherwise, we are but attempting to build the Tower of Babel all over again crying out to one another, “Let us make a name for ourselves.” The Tower of Babel and the lines from Ozymandias are but different verses of the same rebellious song.
To have a lasting name is to have one’s name written in the book of life (Revelation 3:5). To build for eternity is to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). If these things be true, then let us create and build. The decay of this world doesn’t matter, because it is God who gives us a lasting name.