When I went through Army basic training my eyes were opened to how much of an idealist I am. My view of people in general is that we all want the best and do our best and have the best intentions for ourselves and for others. Throughout my life I have started with that assumption until given a reason to think otherwise about an individual. I still think that, as a rule, it’s a good way to approach things.
But in the military, especially in a basic training environment, people are under a lot of stress and one’s true character becomes apparent very quickly. I learned fast that many of my comrades were self-centered, uncooperative, and swift to run towards evil. And I know that much of the world is in the same place.
Isaiah says, “The fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lord, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink. As for the scoundrel – his devices are evil; he plans wicked schemes to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right.” (Isaiah 32:6-7, ESV)
There have always been such people – only interested in themselves and willing to hurt and even destroy anyone else as long as they get what they want.
But Isaiah also says there is another kind of person: “But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands.” (Isaiah 32:8, ESV)
Those who consider themselves sophisticated are often filled with cynicism. They believe that virtually everyone is like the fool and the scoundrel and that a truly noble person is rare almost beyond imagining. Is there really anyone whose heart is pure? One who plans good things, noble things? And who builds his life only on that which is good?
The Bible shows us several, I think. King David in II Samuel 7 had a noble plan. He wanted to build a house for the Lord to be worshipped in. He thought it was unfitting that a mere human being should dwell in a mansion, “a house of cedar”, while the house of God was a mere tent. And even though God assigned the task of building the temple to David’s son, David spent years of his life planning for, designing, and setting aside the resources to build the temple. The house Solomon built was very much the result of David’s noble plan.
I think, too, of Joseph in Genesis 39. Although he was a young man with the normal passions and desires of a young man, we see him able to steadfastly resist the advances of Potiphar’s wife, even when refusing her cost him dearly. How was he able to do that? So many, young and old, today claim that sexual urges are so powerful and uncontrollable that they just can’t help but give in to temptation when the moment comes. Again, how did Joseph do it? Well, he had a noble plan and was standing on nobler things than momentary physical pleasure. I wish more of us were like Joseph – I wish that more of us thought more of ourselves and of our purpose in this world than to yield ourselves up to immorality.
Paul says, “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ… … that I may know Him and the power of His resurrections, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11) What a noble plan! What a noble deed! Can we say that, honestly, to ourselves and one another? Can we say that we will pay any price, lose any physical benefit, and throw away the pleasures and profits of this world, if only we can really know Jesus and be like Him? Can we say to ourselves that there is nothing worth more than that to us? Is it true that we will do anything it takes to attain eternal life, the resurrection of the dead? And how much different would your life be if that were true?
He who is noble plans noble things. And on noble things he stands.