Reading through the Bible together
What greater comfort could there be for those whose loved ones have been snatched away by the great enemy, Death, than we find here in vv.1,2 of this chapter! Death is never random. The Sovereign of the Universe is fully in control of life and death at all times: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…” (Eccl 3:1). What is more, God’s children never die alone and their death is never meaningless. At the right time God Himself comes to fetch them to spare them from some nameless evil; something that might have proved to be more than they could bear. He takes them out of the “now but not yet” kingdom of this world with its sin and suffering and agony. As their Creator and Redeemer He holds them close and takes back the breath of life He gave them at birth. They sleep peacefully until they are awakened to see their Lord coming in the clouds of heaven to usher in the long-awaited Kingdom of Glory. What hope! What comfort for God’s people!
How different is the experience of death for those who reject God. Verses 3-13a show that those who do reject Him, do so with calculated defiance. Their lives are marked by pride and arrogance. They are restless and become progressively more immoral and heartless. They don’t seem to care how their behavior affects their children and the generations to follow (5b). In a modern context, it would seem that many are climbing the social ladder (the high places, v.7) and gaining worldly recognition, but more often than not, they find themselves emotionally bankrupt, helpless and forsaken by God and man (v 10-13a). Lives like this lead inevitably down to despair and eventually to the dark loneliness of a godless grave (hell, v.9).
In contrast, the lives of God’s people are marked by contrition and humility, qualities that are essential for healing and wholeness; contrition opens the way for justification and humility marks the way of sanctification. People with these characteristics are considered by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount to be “blessed” and are portrayed as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, His righteous ones. “The High and Holy One who inhabits eternity,” stoops low to make His dwelling with people like this (v.15). He builds them up, prepares the way ahead and removes the obstacles from their path (v.14). He heals them, comforts them and guides them on the way through present trials to their final resting-place in the kingdom of God (v.18).
It is not only at the time of death that the ‘righteous’ find peace. The Suffering Servant bestows on them the Covenant of Peace that will never be removed (54:10-13). His Children live in an atmosphere of peace and praise (v.19) that the world cannot give or understand.
It seems incomprehensible that any thinking person would actually choose to live outside of God’s Kingdom of Peace. But, then, sin can and does change people’s thinking!
Partners in Ministry Coordinator
Greater Sydney Conference, Australia