The righteous perish, and no-one takes it to heart; the devout 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.
Isaiah 57:1-2 (NIV)
Read: Isaiah 57:1-21
Consider: Today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah opens with words that should bring comfort to us when a beloved Christian brother or sister dies. Sometimes we face the death of a fellow believer when they are young and we find it difficult to understand why they have been taken away, when they have their whole life ahead of them. Isaiah gives us the reason why and it is that in death they are being spared seeing the evil in the world and that in death they find rest and peace. This should encourage us as Christians not to see the death of anyone as untimely or even accidental, but as taking place at the time set by God and for reasons he alone fully understands.
The Apostle Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth, when speaking of death said: When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). This reminds me of the words of the hymn ‘Thine be the Glory’, written by Edmund Budry:
Lo, Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb.
Lovingly He greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let His church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,
for the Lord now liveth; death hath lost its sting.
Thine be the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
endless is the vict’ry Thou o’er death hast won.
Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, victory over death has been won for us. When we come to the point of physical death, only then will we fully adopt what this means for our perishable body being clothed with the imperishable. Until that time we have the promise of immortality, a promise that is guaranteed to be fulfilled if we are in Christ.
Death should not be seen as the end, but as a transition into a state of entering God’s peace and rest. I attended a humanist funeral recently and it was obvious that the celebrant had no sense of eternity and the hope that Christians have about the future after they die. It was all the more incongruous because there was a large wooden cross behind the coffin. As I sat there the following verses came to mind: Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)
Pray: Father, while death might seem to the world like a formidable obstacle placed before all mankind, we know that in Christ we will one day be clothed with our imperishable body to spend eternity with you. Amen
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