In 1817 Percy Bysshe Shelley penned the classic poem Ozymandias after he and his friend Horace Smith decided to have a competition in writing a sonnet. Both decided to use the partially shattered statue of Rameses II (Ozymandias) as inspiration.
It was a colossal figure that weighs approximately 7.25 tons.[i]
The poem was written to warn those arrogant despots against believing the false notion that their earthly kingdoms will last until the end of time. The fact is, the mightiest of all empires will one day be brought back to the ground – destined to decay and oblivion. Nothing will last forever.
The Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans – the grandeur and the vestiges of power – all have come to a bitter end, their empires shattered without the hope of restoration. Only the ruins can be seen on what was once a magnificent kingdom. Is Ozymandias the king of kings? No he’s not. He is just another man trying to make his way in this great contest called life. He can win the match but he may not receive his reward.
Here’s the poem:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
However, against the backdrop of such hopeless redemption, the prophet Isaiah who lived in the 8th century B.C. has this to say:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end (emphasis added). He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever (emphasis added). The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this”. Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV
The fact is: Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords (1Timothy 6:14-15; cf. Revelation 19:16). As this Davidic ruler sits on the throne, his kingdom is established and shall have no end.
Kingdoms and empires are constantly redrawn, kings and rulers will come and go but only one thing in this world will never end – the kingdom of God.