29 June 2020 – If a man dies will he live again?

In life there are a lot of things that are uncertain. This is particularly true at the present time since the emergence of the Covid-19 virus pandemic. Our daily routines are in large measure so different to what we would have done at this time last year, for example.

Even those of us who have had the opportunity to continue working throughout this time have experienced some major changes to how we sought to carry out the responsibilities entrusted to us. What about the future? How certain is that? Who could say for definite when the lockdown measures will have been lifted for good? When will a successful vaccine be produced that will be available for all human beings on the planet?

The honest answer is that we don’t know the answer to these and many more questions. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), one of the most famous American statesmen of his era once made this remark: ‘Only two things are certain in life, death and taxes’. I would be hesitant to disagree with someone so famous, but can we really be sure that in every human society since the first human beings walked this earth that there was some equivalent form of taxation imposed on human communities?

However, his second certainty was ‘death’. Here we have to conclude that on this point he certainly was correct, whether in his generation or ours today. We may live a relatively short time or to a good age, but our expectation is that one day it will be reported that we have died.    

1. The fact we must face

In past generations up to and including the Victorian age, death was a reality which the vast majority of people faced openly and experienced regularly throughout their lives. Many children died in infancy or in their early years; others in a wide variety of circumstances in adult life, but few would have lived to what we would call the age of retirement. For the majority of people living with virtually no modern medical care there was an acknowledgement that if a major illness or pandemic entered their communities the death rate would be by our standards and expectations alarmingly high.

We have such high expectations of what the doctors and nurses and other medical staff can accomplish on our behalf today that we can be quite disappointed if even very seriously ill people don’t get better after a time in hospital. The Bible makes it very clear in Hebrews 9:27: …each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment… What does this statement mean? It means when we die we will stand before the Lord Jesus to give an account of our lives. Each of us needs to be ready for when our time comes.

2. The fears we may have

In Job 14:10-12, Job describes what happens at the end of our earthly lives. But a man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more. 11 As the water of a lake dries up or a river bed becomes parched and dry, 12 so he lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, people will not awake or be roused from their sleep. 

No matter how he softens the blow with the language used, the finality of death with respect to this life is abundantly clear. We get one turn to live. We have one opportunity to make the best of the circumstances we are born into somewhere on planet earth. Job makes reference to nature and highlights how plants and trees that appear to die can produce new shoots and gain a new life. But human beings show no signs of new life once we enter the grave.

Therefore, Job asked this urgent question in Job 14:14: If a man dies will he live again? Is this a question you have asked as well? If death is it and our existence is over then it is a difficult fact to accept, but it is only one of many tough things we have to face up to in life. However, although Job asked this open question there are plenty of indications in the book of Job that for the vast majority of his life he would have given a confident ‘yes’, had he been asked this question. What is your answer to this question? 

3. The faith we should exercise

Later this week we will look at one of the passages that clearly indicate Job’s convictions about life after death; however, for now we have to accept that with the trauma Job had gone through he experienced times of doubt and uncertainty. It was not a sign that he had lost his faith, far from it, even the most holy and spiritual of people have bad days or may be afflicted with depressive illness. Job’s answer would be ‘yes’ to the question we are reflecting on today. He was not alone in the Old Testament in holding this view. David, the great King of Israel 3,000 years ago wrote in Psalm 16:9-10a: Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead.

Asaph, a prominent worship leader in the Jerusalem Temple at a similar time to David, wrote in Psalm 73:24: You guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards You will take me into glory.  Isaiah, a leading Old Testament prophet wrote two centuries later these words in Isaiah 26:19: But your dead will live, Lord;   their bodies will rise – let those who dwell in the dust    wake up and shout for joy –Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. The witness of these leading witnesses of faith is clear: YES we will live again! However, acknowledging this truth has implications for our lives. We are accountable to God for our lives and will give an account to Him. He has asked us to put our faith in His Son Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour- have you taken that step? If not – can I encourage you to take it today, for Jesus’ sake Amen.

Our song for reflection is: ‘Because He lives (God sent His Son)’

Brian Talbot