Isaiah 40:6-8 “The voice said, “Cry out!”
And he said, “What shall I cry?”
“All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”
A recent tragedy occurred that took the life of a young man. Strong, the man was a military hero who had served his country faithfully, he was young with a full life awaiting him, the abrupt end brings a reminder of how fragile we really are.
When the Lord reminds His people of the brevity of life He likens us to grass that grows in season, produces seed, then withers and falls to the ground in what seems like an instant. What if that man had lived to the ripe old age of 80 or 90 years? Would the loss seem as great? Many resolve that by the time people reach an average length of age the expectation of death is more palpable, the loss is more bearable since most feel that age brings a fullness to life.
Whether we live to be 30 or 101, the brevity of life is compounded when placed in an eternal perspective….an eternal perspective is what God maintains.
When events occur that challenge our expectations for length of life, we often argue with God as if we have a right to live as long as possible. The shock of a life threatening disease or a person who is critically injured turns into prayers for healing, then attempts to draw more people into prayer, bargaining with God, then if a loved one doesn’t survive…despair turns into anger and often depression.
Why do we think we have any rights at all?
What qualifies us to insist that God heals us, or that we live a long life?
Job 14:1,2 “Man who is born of woman
Is of few days and full of trouble.
He comes forth like a flower and fades away;
He flees like a shadow and does not continue.”
The perspective of life and death varies greatly for the believer and unbeliever.
“Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all; out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal—a body that death cannot touch; that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.”D.L. Moody
A Believers Life
What does a person who has the eternal God indwelling within them have to look forward to?
The answer is: Everything.
For those who lived before Christ, the expectation of God’s wrath was clear and evident. Sin is an egregious offense toward God and without the grace of the cross, those who lived previously could only wait for the promised Messiah.
Job recognized that the grave was his expectation until God’s wrath was appeased by the sacrifice of Jesus.
Job 14:13,14 “Oh, that You would hide me in the grave,
That You would conceal me until Your wrath is past,
That You would appoint me a set time, and remember me!
If a man dies, shall he live again?
All the days of my hard service I will wait,
Till my change comes.”
The change that occurred was mankind’s position as sinners before a Just and Holy God. For those who had a hopeful expectation for a coming Messiah, they were released from Sheol and brought into the presence of God, awaiting their new bodies at the end of the age.
David also knew that his soul would dwell in Sheol until the Savior released him from his shame.
Acts 2:15-18 “For David says concerning Him:
‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face,
For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;
Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’
So whether the believer was waiting for the Savior or lived after the dispensation of grace, the believer has hope in Christ alone. The hope is that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough for our redemption.
Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
An Unbelievers Life
For those who have rejected the hope of salvation, their expectation will be founded on what they consider ‘good works’. The uncertainty of the hereafter becomes an act of desperation to stay alive as long as possible since the knowledge of what lies ahead is obscure. The atheist follows the path of expected oblivion. Even though the prospect of complete annihilation is a somber thought, they hold onto this hope to relieve the worry about a coming judgement for sin. If a criminal doesn’t have to pay for his/her crimes, it’s a better prospect than an eternity in Hell.
Revelation 21:6-8 “And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
A couple years ago a friend of mine died from an overdose. His determination to ‘enjoy’ the freedom of homelessness became a desperate struggle against depression and substance abuse. His belief in Christ was evident in his testimony and by his love for others, he just couldn’t shake the baggage of his youth and the anger that continually surfaced.
I was asked to speak at his memorial and his entire family was present. I considered it a great honor because I knew he would want me to share the gospel with those he had tried himself so many times.
I spoke to those people as if my friend was speaking in my place, I held nothing back. I had one opportunity to bring the gospel and I did it to the best of my ability.
When death occurs around us, people are reminded that life has an end, it isn’t one continuous party nor does your strength continue indefinitely. The days of our lives may seem to extend long but before we know it, 5 years goes by, then 10, then 20, then 50….before you know it your inevitable end becomes more apparent.
We have to have the knowledge of the gospel so that we can share it with others. Death is a good time to speak of what lies ahead, we must be prepared to answer tough questions when a loved one has died in their sin. I have found that if I share the law and grace, people recognize what the conclusion is for an unbelieving loved one, I don’t have to tell them. If someone pushes me for an answer I just tell them that it isn’t up to me to decide, the Lord will decide in judgement, we just need to make sure that our position is secure in Christ.
The brevity of life can surprise us, especially when it strikes close to home. We must seize every opportunity God gives us and remember that we too will join those who have gone before and be held accountable for how we lived.
Psalm 43:5 “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”