The young man is graduating from college without the Pomp and Circumstance of Sir Edward Elgar’s stirring march, originally used for the coronation of King Edward VII. The title came from a line in Shakespeare’s Othello – “Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war.” Proof of a solid education, one wag claims, hinges on the student’s ability to distinguish between quotes from the Bible and from the Bard. “Eat, drink, and be merry” sounds like the latter, but is the Preacher’s advice in Ecclesiastes 8:15.
Who knows what qualifies for a “glorious war”? It is certainly not the one waged against the Corona Virus pandemic, that has dealt the death knell to traditional graduation exercises all across our nation. Even so, I was heartened by the godly young man’s announcement that came in the mail. For years his return address label has had the same superscription printed on it, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” Does he now wonder, I ask myself, what it is, given this season of general groaning that seems reflected in Romans 8:22-26?
Rebellious grumbling was habitual when Moses marched God’s chosen people from Egypt’s captivity toward Canaan’s prosperity. When He fed them with bread from heaven, they rather insolently asked, “Manna,” meaning “What is it?” Would Moses have been able to articulate his God-appointed “purpose”? What about David who penned Psalm 138? He started out as an unloved son herding sheep, and wound up being illustrious king over his nation. Moses was raised as a beloved prince of mighty Egypt, and wound up tending sheep in Midian. Read his prayer in Psalm 90 and notice how both he, the “friend of God,” and David, “the man after God’s own heart,” conclude their testimony with the same plea, namely for Him to perfect His work in our lives.
Of course, it is not wrong to envision God’s purpose in terms of a vocation, but the current job situation might stifle both ambition and hope for our graduates. Why not boldly borrow prayer prompters from David and Moses, asking God to shape them into men and women after His own heart, being dear to Him as friends? The gold standard for clarifying the nature of His purpose might be found in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” It is actually verse 29 that unlocks the mystery: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…” If we carefully back up to verse 21, we discover the pride, peace and circumstance of “glorious liberty.” Isn’t that music to our collective ears?