Isaiah 57:1-2 The righteous perish,
and no one ponders it in his heart;
devout men are taken away,
and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
to be spared from evil.
Those who walk uprightly
enter into peace; they
find rest as they lie in death.
Death isn’t always a tragedy. Sometimes it’s a reward! This passage brings to mind the story in 1 Kings 14, where King Jeroboam’s son died young, precisely “because he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the Lord, the God of Israel, has found anything good.” (1 Kings 14:13) We have a lot of trouble with that idea, because we are so fixated on this life. I think the NIV got it right here, even though the Japanese tries to avoid the idea of death and says, “They are able to rest on their own beds.” This may not be a full-blown concept of heaven, but it certainly says that there can be things better than continuing to live on this earth. Tradition tells us that Isaiah himself was killed by being sawed into pieces, which is certainly a rough way to go, but it probably wasn’t long before he lost consciousness, and the rest of it didn’t matter to him. I think of this often as I hear of people being martyred today in many parts of the world. Those left behind have it worse! We are to be good stewards of however much time the Lord gives us on this earth, but for those who are in Christ, the next step is far better. The verses following this talk about a sexualized idolatry that sacrifices children. That could certainly be a description of modern society! The absolute panic of so many people that abortion might be restricted is tragic to the point of absurdity. America currently has a former porn actress who celebrates having had an abortion, running for congress! The lines are being drawn ever more clearly, and those who know God cannot stand on the sidelines and pretend it doesn’t matter. Our reward for standing for truth might even be death in the short term, but those who are in Christ know that’s no big deal!
I have always felt that my father’s death at 64 was a reward to him for his faithfulness. He was facing retirement at 65 and being forced by the mission board to leave Japan, and he dreaded that. The surgery from which he woke up in heaven was actually in the US, but his grave is here, in the land to which he was committed. My mother also graduated at 72, in the US but buried here. I am honored to be their son, and am now 73 myself. Death has no fears for me! I am aware that, with high probability, either my wife or I will go first, rather than its being simultaneous, and that idea bothers me a bit, but even there I know that our Lord’s grace is sufficient for us, and I have peace. The physical deterioration of age can be bothersome, but that too is ultimately no big deal. We’ve got resurrection bodies in store! As long as we are here, we are to keep speaking the truth in love, serving our Lord through serving those around us, so that as many as will may encounter Him and repent and believe, for their own eternal salvation.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me live today and every day in Christ, resting in Him and actively obeying the Holy Spirit, so that all of Your purposes for me may be accomplished on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!