Living Every Day With Death Looking Over Your Shoulder
Are you living every day with death looking over your shoulder?
Morbid! That is the sense one gets from this title. The young particularly think little, if at all, of death. Even vigorous middle age folks do not expect a fatal heart attack will strike in the next moment. The elderly know it is on its way; just not today. I have been doing my daily worship lately in a nice copy of the 1853 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. Every page of the text is encompassed with beautiful “illuminations from woodcuts by Durer, Holbein, and others in imitation of Queen Elizabeth’s (the 1st) Book of Christian prayers, to aid in devotion as one reads the Word and the collected prayers therein. One section of the book takes you through the Psalms in the course of a month, reading some on each day as Morning Prayer and others each evening as Evening Prayer. The illustrations around the text on every page immediately caught my eye. They are of individual people from every station, class, and age in life, of both sexes; and in each there is a skeleton, representing death, clinging to them, looking over their shoulder so to speak.
At first it is quite an unexpected sight. But it definitely gets you thinking biblically. The Word of God does not avoid the subject of death. In fact, its very purpose is to prepare one for death; even to explain why death is, what it is, and what to do about it. If death is such a prominent subject on practically every page of the Bible, why not visually illustrate it to vividly remind one of its nearness? Nevertheless, our fallen nature is to avoid the very thought of our death or a loved one’s in any way we can. Hence we surmise it is “morbid thinking, when it is actually righteous, truthful, sanctified thinking. When the Psalmist wrote about God, “He will preserve my going out and my coming in forevermore, he knew well it did not mean he or his would avoid the experience of death, or that tomorrow on this earth is promised any of us. The “sting of death of which the Scripture speaks encompasses a number of truths, one of which, it is a subject we steer clear of as we would an oncoming car, or falling off a cliff. We naturally avoid things that will hurt or damage our bodies or separate us from those we love and for whom we care; we are sure it will cause great pain (sting)! And death is, at least this side of the divide, in the estimation of most, painful!
Paul quoted a verse of Psalm 44 in Romans 8, “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. This certainly speaks of dying to self so you might live now to Christ and serve others today for His sake. It also means that the thought of death in serving Christ and others, doing your duty as one whom Christ has purchased with His own blood, causes you to look death in the face without fear, no matter when God has planned it for you. And it means we are often to consider the potential nearness of our death, even as the Judge is near, right at your door (James 5:9). The intent is the powerful perspective of your death being near should cause you to daily reorder your priorities in a right direction, and live with those around you in an increasingly sanctified manner; being more intentional of soon standing in the presence of your Savior. Such thinking is not morbid! It is living in freedom; not fearing the bonds or the sting of death.
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