Such Is Fame Psalm 74:5

A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.—Psa_74:5 (AV).

If you looked up the Revised Version of the Bible you would find that this verse was quite turned round and that the sense was entirely altered. And if you looked up any other version of the Psalms you would probably find yet another rendering. The truth is that this is one of the places in the Bible where the Hebrew is very difficult to translate. Some men have said that it should be rendered one way, some another, and most of them are agreed that the translation that is given here is quite wrong. However, we are not going to bother ourselves today about Hebrew and translations. We are going to take the words just as they stand in English and we are going to find out what they teach us.

1. I expect most of you, some time or other, have had dreams of becoming famous. Perhaps you paint nicely, and you picture to yourself how you will become a celebrated artist; or you possess a good voice, and you make up your mind that one day you will be a great singer; or you play a sport well, and you think that one day your name will be known the world over as a professional ball player.
Now I think it is a very good thing to have these dreams, because, even though we may never realize them, they help us to work a great deal harder at the subjects in which we excel. And so we become much better artists, or singers, or cricketers than we should otherwise have been. But remember that to work for fame just for its own sake—just for the applause or the notice it brings—is a very poor thing indeed.

At Ephesus in Asia Minor there once stood the stately temple of the goddess Diana. It was a magnificent building and it contained vast treasures. The roof was supported by one hundred and twenty- seven columns, each of which was the gift of a king.

One night it was reported that the temple of Diana was on fire. People rushed out into the streets, but nothing could be done to save it, and very soon it was a mere heap of ruins. Then a man named Eratostratus calmly announced that he had set the building on fire. And why do you think he had done it? Not out of religious zeal: not because he knew Diana to be a false goddess: simply that his name might be remembered. He wanted to become famous.

2. Our text tells us that “a man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.” That was an odd kind of fame, was it not? But it is the kind of fame that many people still seek after— the fame of strength. That is the fame that savage races prize above all others, and it is the fame that is often very much coveted by schoolboys.

Well now, that is a good kind of fame. It is very fine to have a strong body, to be able to run faster and swim farther than others, to excel at games, to have every muscle and every limb perfectly developed. That is a good sort of fame so far as it goes. But don’t stop there. You will be only a splendid young animal if you do. There are higher and better kinds of fame.

Some people seek after the fame of cleverness or skill. They aim at excelling in the things that their hands or their brains produce. They want to paint a great picture, or compose a magnificent piece of music, or write a book. And if they are using their gifts in a noble way, if they are creating good things, if they are striving to make the world better and happier, then that is a good kind of fame.
But after all, few of us can become famous in this way, and although it is a good way, it is not the highest of all.

There are others who have become famous because of their wealth or their position; and if these things are used to benefit others they can be made splendid gifts. But not many of us are rich and very few indeed have high position. And these gifts have often made men poorer rather than richer—poorer in character, poorer in real happiness.

There is a kind of fame that is within the reach of all of us and it is the best and highest of all. Would you like to know its name? It is the fame of goodness. And that means the fame of a kind heart, the fame of unselfish, and helpful, and sympathetic lives.

This fame is best because we can all have it, it is best because it does most good, it is best because it is most enduring.

When Sir Walter Scott lay dying he said to Lockhart, his son-in-law, who afterwards wrote his Life, “Be a good man—be virtuous—be religious—be a good man. Nothing else will give you any comfort when you come to lie here.”

And, boys and girls, when we come to the end of our journey, it won’t matter at all how clever we have been, or how rich, or how important. The only thing that will matter will be that we have been good, that we have helped somebody else to be a little happier, a little better, a little nearer God.