Monday, March 28, 2011

Death from a Different Perspective

On Wednesday, March 23, 2011, a bomb went off at a bus station in Jerusalem.  Among the victims was a British woman named Mary Gardner.  What you may not know about Ms. Gardner is that she was a Wycliffe Bible Translator who had lived in Togo, West Africa for the last 20 years translating the New Testament into the local Ife language.  See this link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/24/jerusalem-victim-british-bible-translator By Divine providence she was in Jerusalem for six months learning Hebrew so she could start on the Old Testament translation; and, yes, by Divine providence she was also at the bus station in Jerusalem when the bomb went off. 

When something like this happens to others, Christian or non, it is too easy for us to quote Psalm 139:16"...And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them."  Although Mary was never married and had no children, she did have family and friends that were left to mourn her loss; and death for both the Christian family and the non-Christian family is a tragedy.  Death itself is the enemy of man and we have been dealing with its awful consequences since Adam and Eve.  Death plays no favorites.  It brings its suffering to us all. 

However, those of us who are Christians can look at death from a different perspective, God's perspective; and gain insight and comfort from how He views it, and how He works it for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  I would like to give three ways for a Christian to look at death.

Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones (His saints). Italics mine.
The word for precious in the Hebrew is yaqar, and it means precious because of its value or its worth.  As saints our death is precious to God because of the price He paid for us in the death of His Son (I Peter 1:18-19).  You always know the value or preciousness of an object by what a person is willing to pay for it.  God has rescued us from death, through His Son, so that we can spend eternity with Him and He with us (Ephesians 2:4-8, Revelation 21:3-4).  Also, our death is precious and valuable to God, because we will be with Him from that moment on throughout eternity. We are no longer separated from Him, but are with Him forever, and our fellowship with Him is completely restored and will be forever unbroken.

Philippians 1:21,23 "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.  II Corinthians 5:6,8 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord...we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord."  For the Christian death is the door that opens into the arms of Christ; and for those who belong to Him He is waiting to receive them to Himself.  First of all, what joy it must be for Him to receive into His arms those for whom He died, to receive unto Himself those whom had been given to Him by the Father in eternity past; and to be with them and to recieve their joy at their being with Him face to face.  Secondly, for the saint, what a joy it will be to be face to face with the One whom we have loved, the One who gave His life for us to ransom us from the dominion of sin and death, and to finally see His face and hear His voice and experience Him fully; for then we shall know fully, just as we have been fully known (I Corinthians 13:12)

Isaiah 57:1-2 "The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; and devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil, He enters into peace; they rest in their beds, each one who walked in his upright way."  When I read this verse, the verse about Lot's righteous soul being tormented day after day by the sin around him comes to mind.  For the believer, death takes us away from all evil into the peace of righteousness; it takes us from being surrounded by evil on every side to the very presence of righteousness incarnate; it takes us out of this body of flesh, in which sin, filthiness, and wickedness remain, to a state of awaiting our glorified bodies; it takes us from a state of torment because of the overwhelming presence and dominion of sin in this world to a state of bliss and blessedness because of the ubiquitous and all encompassing presence of righteousness.  For the saint God turns the horrors of death into a blessing, and it is His way of taking us away from evil to experience it no more.  It is the rest from the weariness of fighting against the sin that is in our own lives and the world around us.  It liberates us from the oppressive presence of sin, and transports us into the freedom of righteousness.

Well done, Mary Gardner, faithful to the end.  You have entered into the joy of your Master, you have been received into the bosom of Your Savior.  You have entered into the rest from your striving against sin, both yours and the world's.  You have entered into the eternal peace of righteousness.  Rest well precious saint.

Father, we come to you with a sober joy and a full heart.  There are so many times when what we have in our heart and our spirit is unspeakable, and we are thankful that not only do You know all things, but You send Your Spirit to intercede for us with utterings and groanings too deep for words. Thank you for redeeming death for us through the death and resurrection of Your Son, and therefore denying  sin and death their victory.  Thank You for laying claim on us.  Only You could do this, only You would do this. 
O how great a love you have bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God.  Bless Your name forever and ever.  Amen.

1 comment:

Richard Lundstrom said...

Truth for the believer to cherish and cling to!