Dealing With Death
March 21, 2019
The Bible confirms that which history has taught mankind since the beginning – life is hard! Life on this planet brings a whirlwind of hardships and challenges. No matter where a person might live, and the type of background a person might have, life is filled with trials and difficulties of various kinds and various magnitudes. The Bible teaches that all things are common in this sense. If nothing else, all people have to deal with the two-fold issues of human nature: an aging body that decays over time, and a corrupted soul that leads us to dark consequences. These things are true for all people, believers and non-believers alike. However, the manner in which believers deal with this truth should be much different than the non-believer. The non-believer deals with these difficulties without hope. When death comes to the non-believer, there is no hope for a better life. There is no hope for a continuing future with more promising circumstances. There is no basis for the thought of things getting better after death to those who don’t believe in the eternal life that comes exclusively by faith in Jesus Christ. This is not the case for the believer though. The believer has the assurance and confidence that the Spirit of God provides. The Holy Spirit provides hope and a confident expectation in eternal life in the presence of the Almighty God. The Holy Spirit confirms the promises that come exclusively by Jesus so that we look forward to the blessings and rewards that come in heaven. Thus, the issues of human nature dealing with death, decay, and difficulty shouldn’t discourage believers because they are not the end of life for those who have faith in Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah.
Though Jesus had not yet come into the world in the flesh, Job understood the eternal nature of God’s promise and hope. The testimony of Job 17:10-16 shows that Job’s perspective on his life might have seemed morbid, but it was still hopeful. Job understood that all good things in this life come to an end. It is the nature of this world. Job understood that life itself has an end and all people have to deal with it at some point. Death doesn’t skip people or play favorites. Yet, these things didn’t scare Job. They didn’t intimidate him. Job felt that death was at his doorstep and believed that his last breath was coming at any moment. Though he was wrong, the manner in which Job dealt with his suffering and the reality of his mortality is encouraging to all those who believe in the Lord’s eternal promises. Death and decay do come to everyone, but that is not something that should cause depression or despair. How can we receive the benefits of God’s eternal promises if we are bound to this corrupted world forever?
In Job 17:10-16 Job criticized the advice and words of his friends again. In Job’s mind, they had proven themselves to be fools. Job told his friends that if they wanted to be helpful, they’d have to leave and come back to him with something better and truer than the things they had said so far. So far, Job’s friends had accused Job of being a hypocrite and condemned him as a heathen. They were wrong and provided no comfort to Job’s suffering with such accusations. On the other hand, Job’s friends also encouraged Job to repent of his hypocrisy and assured Job that repentance would assure him restoration in his life. While it is true that we all need to repent of hypocrisy, it is not true that repentance assures the restoration of certain comforts in this life.
Those who trust in the Lord are not assured material gain or increase. Those who humbly seek the Lord are not guaranteed to be exalted in this life with the removal of problems and the rewards of material goods. It is true that Job was ultimately restored two-fold by God in the end, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that God will do this with everyone. The scriptures prove contrary. Did Abraham see the fruit of the promises God made to him? Did Joseph get to dwell in the Promised Land again? Did the prophet Isaiah see the restoration of Israel that he wrote of? Did the apostles die as rich men in the comforts of their beds? Clearly God’s focus is on eternal things. His aim is not to build up His people in this life, especially at the expense of His eternal promises. His aim is to use this life to prepare us to receive the benefits of eternal life. If certain individuals can benefit the eternal nature of God’s promises by receiving increase, then God will provide that restoration. If certain individuals will not benefit the eternal nature of God’s promises through increase, then God will not provide that restoration.
The point is that, God alone is wise to know who will be restored and who will not. Job’s friends spoke out of turn. They had no authority or wisdom to know what God would do with Job. They had no ability to ensure or guarantee that God would change Job’s life around for the better according to the way things were. Since this is true, it is important to recognize that it is not good to make these sorts of vain promises to those who are suffering. Do we know what God will do? Can we guarantee that God will make things better? What if God doesn’t; how do our words look then and what does that say of our integrity? Job told his friends to go away and come up with something better than their vain “encouragement” because they couldn’t promise a single thing that they had said – either of condemnation or of full prosperous restoration. God alone knows what He will do with His people. Thus, when seeking to encourage those who are suffering, it is better to speak of things that we can assure, which is the promises of God as declared in the Word. We can speak of His eternal promises that are sure and true; that are guaranteed by His faithfulness and His Spirit. We can speak of that which He has already spoken and declared as true.
Since Job didn’t know what God would do, he assumed that the end of his life was near. He couldn’t imagine a scenario where God would restore and replenish the things of Job’s life as they were before. Though Job was wrong, it was good that Job had peace with the finality of this life. Job felt that his days were done, so much so, that they were past as if he was living on borrowed time. His good days were certainly gone in his mind, but his days altogether seemed to be ticking away quickly. For that reason, Job felt that his purposes were cut off and broken off. The things that filled his heart when he had health and prosperity were not in his heart anymore. The things concerning his family were gone because they were gone and he would soon be too. The things concerning his material increase, purchases, gains, and comforts were gone from his heart since suffering consumed him and death was so near in his mind. The things concerning ministry, helping the poor, providing wise counsel, and aiding others in need were no longer in his heart since he could no longer provide service to himself let alone others. That which defined his life from within him was gone. This is a truth that all people have to deal with as morbid as it seems. At some point, the ability and desire to dream and plan will be gone. If our hopes and dreams are limited to the things of this life, the end of this life will be filled with darkness and emptiness unto condemnation. If our hopes and dreams are focused on the eternal purposes of God, then when death comes near, our end will be filled with anticipation and peace.
Job explained that the desires of his heart were changing his worldview. To him, night was changing into day. Recall that Job originally complained about how his life was without rest and how he longed for night while also despising it because he couldn’t get rest. Night was the time when people stopped their labor; when they could lay down to relax. Job didn’t have that luxury at night or day. He always labored in pain because of his sores and his losses. In this way, his night (time of rest) was turned to day (time of labor). In another sense, Job explained that the light is near in the face of darkness. This refers to the fact that because his days were numbered in this life and soon coming to an end, the “nighttime” of his suffering would soon be over. He figured that the season of his misery would soon come to an end by his death, at which point he would be able to receive the rest that he longed for. This shows that Job didn’t fear death, but figured it to be a means to receive the hope of the promise for rest and peace.
Job was so comfortable with death that he considered the grave to be his house, and his bed to be in darkness. Job was comfortable dwelling in death. Job was comfortable resting in the grave. He wasn’t afraid. To him, death at that point was far better than the suffering he was experiencing. This is because Job had a clear understanding about his nature. He confessed that his “father” was corruption, and that his “mother and sister” were worms. This refers to the fact that Job understood the weakness of his humanity. He knew that his body was corrupt and failing like all human bodies. As we age, things break down. The consequences of sin have made it so that the bodies God gave us are now built to fail. We may have a time we call “our prime,” but that time comes and then goes. From then on, the body slows down and breaks down. People think themselves wise to do things to slow this process, but there is nothing to be done to stop this process. Job was at peace with that. Job was formed from the dust of the earth and was content to return to his original nature – as dust with the worms.
Again, these statements might seem morbid to some, but to the believer, they are just the facts of life that need to be dealt with. Job was not concerned or hurt by these truths because of the hope he had for eternity. In Job 17:10-16 Job plainly said, “Where then is my hope? As for my hope, who can see it?” In other words, Job’s hope was not a hope that could be seen. His hope was for things unseen. His hope was in the things of God in eternity, which are unknown to this life and cannot be viewed with the eyes we have now. Job didn’t care about death because his hope was never built on the things of this world. This is how God’s people should consider death, especially since it comes at a day and hour that no one can predict. Not that we should keep our minds fixated on death, but instead, on the glory of God’s promises for eternal life. When our hope is in the assurance of that which cannot be corrupted, does not decay, where thieves cannot break in and steal, and where the benefits of our hope have no end or measure, then the concerns of this life – including death – seem smaller and more manageable. Can death swallow up eternity? Jesus already answered that question by the resurrection.