Life is serious and challenging. We have a real sense that something is very broken, and that this can’t be the end of our story. But without the revelation of God telling us what we could not possibly figure out by our own observing and thinking, we are left wondering whether we have any firm foundation for hope. And what would a good ending be to the eternal plans of God, anyway? Through much of life we ignore these kinds of big questions, but tragedy may insist that we search more fervently for a satisfying answer.
Job has certainly felt serious trouble. He feels the brevity of a life that can at the same time suddenly feel far too long. Others have died too soon. Must we live on in pain for many more years? Their lives were too short. Ours may feel like they will never end. But when it is all over, it is shown to be a very brief life, and since the fall of Adam, it is certainly full of trouble.
Will God judge man? How can we live for even a moment in His presence? There is simply no comparison between man and God. He is from forever and is unto forever by His very nature, and we seem to be a mist. That’s the wisdom that comes to us from honest observation. Precious people come and go. God has numbered the days of mankind, not just in general, but the specific number of days for every individual. He is truly the Almighty One.
If we are to compare our holiness and purity with His, the contest is laughable. Job asks for what any sensible person should request if he knows of God’s glory and cannot see a way to rightly be in His presence: “Look away from me and leave me alone.” How many people have gone far enough in their spiritual thinking to reach this point, but have seen nothing else that makes sense beyond it? They rightly sense the unbounded greatness of the Lord, and they see their own limits like a prisoner in a cell. The cell has some fascinating entertainments, but it is still a cell. The bars are there. There are limits beyond which a man cannot pass. With this kind of insight, it is easy to imagine a person’s desire to be left alone to eat his bread in whatever peace can be his.
It’s different for a tree. A new shoot can somehow sprout from a dead stump. How many times can that tree seem to pull new life out of the jaws of death? No one knows. A little sunlight and water, and suddenly there may be a bud, and then a branch, and a new fresh beginning. But man has too much in him that does not appear to be a continuously renewable resource. Where is the courage of youth? Even if someone finds courage, eventually he may not know where to find the energy he needs to do something good with the courage he has. Eventually he dies, and then what? Where do we see resurrections happening? We don’t see them. People can say what they want to about souls, but we can’t see them either. This is all very distressing and depressing.
The worshiper hopes for something more than this. Because he knows of the greatness of God and the love of the Lord, he reasons that tragedy and death must give way somehow to a better day. He may be afraid to say it, but he has a longing to be concealed by God from the waves of death that seem inevitable. He wants to live again, but in a place of renewal and relief. He is happy to serve now in the land of death, if only a reasonable hope could be discovered. He will not be satisfied with a myth. There must be a real basis for the heaven he desires, a world where people live again. He will wait for the call of God, bringing him up to that higher ground, but is there any fact that establishes the undeniable reality of what he longs for? Is there some way to remove our transgressions so that we can have life forever with God?
The righteous man scans the earth and the skies for that one fact of hope, and he sees instead much evidence of decay. Mountains crumble and even solid rock does not last forever. Is there a fact of hope that can stand? Death is everywhere.
Jesus Christ is the one fact we seek. In Him we have a rational basis for the joy of heaven. Job longed for Jesus, for His provision of the solid ground of God-satisfying justice and man-loving salvation. In His cross we have a rock. In His resurrection we have solid evidence for a wonderful and full hope.
Even before the fact of Christ was revealed to man, true servants of the Lord hoped in God. The answer for us is not a denial of the futility of this world, but an honest and true consideration of an end that would be worthy of the glory of our great God. In Christ we have the ground of our every hope and the perfect display of the glory of God now revealed for man to see and even to worship.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father God, our lives on this earth are brief. You have appointed our limits. The fact of death is all around us. What will come of us when we are laid low? Thank You for the great fact of resurrection. Thank You for the clarity of the age to come that has been displayed for us in Jesus Christ, risen from the grave. Despite our suffering, we cling to this hope, that as He is, so shall we be. There is life beyond mourning. Help us to see this in our darkest hour.