So let’s say my name is Marcellus.
I build roads…
…for the Roman Empire.
The Empire hearts its roads.
The roads I build are one of the reasons there are so many letters making up the New Testament. Because of them a first century letter could get from Spain to Jerusalem in a matter of a few days…
hence, the majority of the New Testament.
The roads are constructed for military use – to get the army from here to there in the shortest amount of time. So, as much as possible Rome demands straight lines.
A straight flying eagle arrives quicker than a wriggling inchworm.
If a mountain stands in the way of the line, I go around it.
But what of a hill?
they get leveled.
The Greek word for this is
pronounced “ta-pay-nah-oh” with emphasis on the second to last syllable, and spoken like a Greek chef.
It’s the word used in Luke 3:5. The words are about John the Baptist. They could just as well have been the words of our Roman engineer – both had the same goal – to clear the way.
Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.
and in Philippians 4:12 Paul uses the word, but I read all of the different translation of this verse and I lose sight of the “leveling”:
I know what it is to be in need… (NIV)
I know how to get along with humble means… (NASB)
I know how to be humble… (ISV)
I know how to be abased… (KJV)
I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances… (NAB)
only in the ESV do I see it:
I know how to be brought low…
It’s not that the other translations are bad. The humbling is the thing to get across, and they all do that.
What gets lost is the nuance…
the nuance of being humbled…
the heights razed because the lower is needed…
because only the lower and straighter will do.
Paul uses the word in the infinitive form, and the middle (passive) voice. This means that Paul’s humbling wasn’t something he did. He didn’t level himself – it was done for him – to him. Paul was “leveled”.
I know what that’s like Paul. You think you’re God’s gift. You think God “needs” you. You’re on the fast track to becoming the Pharisee of Pharisees and you are going to use this new movement in the Jewish faith, the one following that false Messiah, as a stepping stone.
What can stand in your way?
You’re highly educated,
have great connections,
everything is blooming daisies and roses.
Who wouldn’t think themselves a mountain…
and lose sight that they’re just the hill in front?
But then you find yourself on one of those Roman roads…
and something happened…
you got “leveled”.
I’m considering “humility” for the second week now along with Ann Voskamp.
part two is over on Deep into Love today…
would you consider scooting over there for it?