THE LAST ENEMY – Thoughts from Psalm 39
We often glibly say: “You can always be sure of two things – death & taxes!” Well, because of the impact this virus has had on people’s lives and the economy, the deadline for filing our taxes has been postponed. We can be sure, however, that the government will still expect our compliance. Death is even more sure. At some time, all of us will pass from this life to another. The cruel nature of covid-19 has brought the thought of death front and center in the world’s consciousness. The result? Heightened anxiety and an underlying fear of this “enemy”.
No doubt you have had family members or friends who have died, maybe even recently. My first experience with death involved a close relative, my grandfather. He was a farmer in central Saskatchewan, Canada (yes, my wife and I hail from Canada), older in years, but he still helped on the farm while his son, my uncle, did most of the work on the land he had inherited. We all loved him. His death was unexpected; he was sick but not severely so. He had worked hard; he was well respected; he was a spiritual example and a leader in our church; he helped people; he was a champion of youth. All this was said at his funeral. But, the one reflection on his life, repeated by many, was that he was ready to die; he had a strong faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior!!
Psalm 39:4, 5 are thoughts of a man who was dying. He knows his life is ending. It has been so short, so fleeting. It has gone by so fast!
“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.”
James 4:14 – “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
The word pictures the psalmist and James use are sobering but realistic. Compared to historical time or to eternity, our days on this earth are but a handbreadth, a breath, a mist. If our life is so short, it is critical that we give our energies to things that are important, especially what will affect our life after we die!
Most of us would admit that we are anxious, if not afraid, of death. In verses 2 and 3, the psalmist experienced the same emotions.
“So I remained utterly silent, not even saying anything good. But my anguish increased; my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned…”
I love the honesty of the writers of Scripture! This was how I felt as a young man discovering a lump in my neck. It was how I felt when I was diagnosed twice with cancer. I’ll admit, I called out to the Lord: “Why me? Is this my time? I’m young. What about my wife, my children? I tended to draw into myself in silent anxiety.”
It gives us comfort that we can complain to the Lord. He gives us permission to tell Him our discouragements, our anxieties, our deepest fears. God knows about it anyway; He just wants us to admit it…to Him. The Apostle Peter understood this. In his first letter where he encourages his readers to “Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”
The writer of Psalm 39 experienced the same comfort. As he understood the brevity of life; as fear and doubt arose inside…he turned to the only answer he knew. Verses 7 and 8 are emphatic: “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools.” He knew his life, his death, and eternity were securely in the hands of God. He cries out to Him as his only hope…to save him from his sins – those thoughts and deeds that separated him from a holy and righteous God. Yet, he knew God was merciful, gracious, and forgiving to all who cry out to Him for forgiveness. He was his only hope!
I trust you have settled this question. In Whom does your hope lies for your life after death? It can’t be in the good things that you do; or the evil things you don’t do. Our hope for eternal life with God does not lie in going to church. It does not lie in your family’s faith legacy. It is grounded only in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we celebrate this weekend. God’s judgement on sin was satisfied when Jesus died in our place. And, He rose again in triumph over sin and this last “enemy” – death! Now He promises the transfer of His righteousness on to our account, when we in simple faith declare our trust in what Christ has done for us. We affirm that our only hope from now on is in what Christ accomplished on the cross for us. We accept His forgiveness, the promise of eternal life, and His leadership in this life. I trust you have made this critical decision.
John 3:16-17 – These well-known words of Jesus still ring true: “For God so loved the world (you/me) that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes (trusts Him fully) in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
Why talk about death while the approaching Spring speaks of new life? Because…only when you are prepared to die, are you ready to really live! Live with the confidence that your hope is anchored in Christ, that He represents you before Almighty God; that your eternity with Him is secure.