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'Them That Honour Me,i Will Honour'

These words, spoken to Eli by an anonymous 'man of God' (1 Sam. 2:30), achieved great notoriety when quoted in the epic film about the Paris Olympics 'Chariots of Fire' - Eric Liddell, a born-again believer who subsequently spent his life on the mission fields of China, was chosen to represent his country in the 100m sprint. Discovering that the heats were to be run on a Sunday, he withdrew. Despite enormous pressure from his team coach and other British Olympic officials, he stuck to his guns and his principles and refused to race on the Lord's Day. An amazingly altruistic gesture by a colleague - who had already won a medal - enabled him to enter the 400m, in which he reached the final. As he lined up for the start, an American rival for the title handed him a piece of paper on which was written this wonderful promise: 'them that honour me, I will honour'. Liddell emerged with his faith vindicated, his principles intact - and a gold medal!

A man of principle

About two and a half millennia earlier, a similar man of principle had his faith challenged even more severely. His very life, not just the fulfilment of his life's ambition, was under threat. And not his life alone, but that of his whole nation. Mordecai was a remarkable man whose only crime - apart from his Jewish nationality - was to refuse to bow down to the egotistical Chief Minister of King Ahasuerus. Space precludes re-telling the story so graphically portrayed in the Book of Esther. Suffice it to say that Esther agreed, at no little risk to herself, to seek salvation for her people at the king's hand. Concurrently Ahasuerus was reminded of a hitherto unremarked action by Mordecai in which he had alerted the monarch to a plot to overthrow him: the king decided to make amends for his earlier lack of recognition. With exquisite irony he sought the advice of his Chief Minister: 'What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour?' he asked.

Whilst Ahasuerus clearly felt a pang of conscience over his earlier lack of acknowledgement for a service performed by a loyal subject, this was not a question asked grudgingly, or from a sense of duty alone. No! The key word here is 'delighteth'. To honour Mordecai, now that the king had been reminded of his outstanding loyalty, was something he genuinely wanted to do.

We too, have a King who 'delights to honour' the unsung heroes of His kingdom; the subjects who serve Him well and faithfully. He will always fulfil His promise of honouring those who honour Him. And, as with Ahasuerus, our King also honours us royally - always granting us 'exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think' (Eph. 3:20).

Honour the Lord

Another great king - Solomon - reminds us in the book of Proverbs of some of the many ways in which we can honour our Lord:

with our substance (3:9);

by showing mercy to the needy (14:31);

by pursuit of righteousness (21:21);

by displaying humility and fear of the Lord (22:4).

All actions that should come spontaneously to true disciples.

Gifts richly bestowed

As Solomon's father - King David - reminds us: 'all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee' (1 Chr. 29:14). Honouring Him with our substance, is thus no more than putting to use in His service and to His glory those gifts which He has so richly bestowed upon us in the first place. By the same token, showing kindness to others - the pure charity displayed in the gift of a cup of cold water 'unto one of these... least' (Mat. 25:40) - should hardly pose a problem for a Christian! As the Lord reminded His disciples, such acts are done 'as unto Him'. Whilst it is unthinkable that any of us would have ignored the Lord had He walked among us, are we not all at times in danger of ignoring the empty mouths and outstretched hands of the world's 'least' that surround us on every side?

Similarly, the humble pursuit of righteousness coupled with a true fear of the Lord will undoubtedly bring Him honour. But, sadly, we can just as easily dishonour His Name and Person if our behaviour and walk are not that which is expected of those who call themselves Christians. The words to Eli went beyond the phrase quoted in our title: 'they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed'. Solemn words indeed, but such a possibility is too sad to contemplate.

The King who delights to honour

Instead, let us return to the thought of the King who delights to honour His subjects. David reminds us of another of our King's delights': 'He delivered me, because he delighted in me' (2 Sam. 22:20). The Psalmist, in turn, had his own delights:

in the law of the LORD (Ps. 1:2);

in keeping his commandments (Ps. 119:35).

So it was with Paul (Rom. 7:22); and so it should be with us. But above all we have the perfect example of our Lord Himself. David is surely speaking as much for his Messiah as for himself when he says, 'I delight to do thy will, O my God?' (Ps. 40:8). Delighting to please and obey His Father even when it led to the agonies of Calvary. Would that our desire to do His will, to honour Him in our lives, could be as single-minded! Let us draw encouragement from the modest surprise of Mordecai, the humble, unsung hero 'whom the king delighted to honour'.