Yardsticks were the light saber, fighting staff, walking stick, and ultimate measuring tool of my youth. Mom hid them to keep them intact. When I began to learn the metric system, I was amazed at how confusing it seemed. And Bible cubits…no. The next two poems in Herbert’s Temple collection reflect on the relationship of humans to Jesus, now that we have seen His intense love for us. And how do you measure something like that?
In The Agony, Herbert pointed out that while humans have tried to measure everything from the heights of mountains to the influence of a king, there are two very important things that people neglect: sin and love.
How do you measure sin? Look at Luke 22, and Jesus preparing to bear the weight of sin on the Mount of Olives. He sweated blood. And love? Luke 22 also includes Jesus’ instructions about the supper we know as Communion. He gave His blood for us, took all the sin on Himself, and died for us. And that is how we measure love.
The Sinner contains more references to the understanding of astronomy in the day.
The spirit and good extract of my heart
Comes to about the many hundredth part.
If you are using a measuring stick, there are many, many lines you can use to get precise distances. But Herbert recognizes that the amount of good in his heart is embarrassingly small.
Yet, Lord, restore thine image, heare my call :
And though my hard heart scarce to thee can grone,
Remember that thou once didst write in stone.
This is an interesting twist on the famous passage in Ezekiel 36 that speaks of God taking hearts of stone and turning them into hearts of flesh, willing to bend and listen. Herbert uses the idea of God writing the Ten Commandments in tablets of stone for Moses (Exodus 31). And even in a hard heart, God can still penetrate and move.
God, thank You for not measuring us by Your perfect standard and giving up on us. Thank You that You pursued us with such a love that Paul prayed, “17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19). God, please help me to see how short my contribution is, and rejoice in how much You have given me. Your will be done in me, Amen.