Destroys Death in ChristĒ
31, 2003 and January 1, 2004
wrote the first five books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch or the
Torah. He was the most
important prophet of the Old Testament.
What is not commonly known is that he also wrote the psalm we
just heard. It is the
oldest Psalm in the Psalter. David,
the author of most of the psalms, lived four hundred years after Moses.
doubt that this psalm is your favorite.
In fact, it is rather depressing.
Its emphasis is on our mortality.
All of us will die. The
psalm doesnít portray death as a friend or as a peaceful release from
this worldís troubles. Instead,
death is the exclamation point emphasizing Godís fierce anger against
sinners. Of course, this is
what we would expect from Moses. He
knew Godís law.
man presided over thousands and thousands of funerals.
Almost all of those that delivered out of Egyptian slavery died
in the Sinai desert. Moses
recorded manís fall into sin and Godís very sincere threat that
death would surely follow sin. He
recounted the generations of Adam in Genesis 5, and after each name
concluded with the words, ďand he died.Ē
Moses understood human mortality.
He was no Greek philosopher, Buddhist monk or New Age enthusiast,
imagining that death is sweet release from bondage to this material
world. He understood death. How
well do we understand death?
we are to understand death we must first understand life, and for that,
we need to look at God himself. This
Psalm shows us Godís eternity. ďBefore
the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and
the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.Ē God is uncreated; the only one who is uncreated.
He had no beginning and He has no end.
He has always been who and what He is now and He will always
remain what He has always been. He is the living God. From
Godís nature we learn that true life is eternal.
True life does not end. We
donít learn this from nature because nature itself is under the curse
of sin, which is death. We
learn this only from God. When
God breathed into Adamís nostrils the breath of life he became a
living soul, not a dying one.
made us: body and soul. God
made us to live forever in both body and soul.
He did not create us to die.
It was not His intention for those made in the image of the
immortal God to become mortal. Death
was not Godís original design; it came into this world through sin.
It is easy enough for people to become philosophical about
disease, death and decay. Most
folks think this is the way things were meant to be.
When they see physical death, they assume that this is simply
Godís way of bringing us into the spiritual realm where all people
will enjoy a release from physical life.
They donít understand death at all.
It is Godís curse! It
is Godís wrath! It is
Godís judgment! It is
being consumed by Godís anger! Every
single death of every single man, woman or child is another hammer blow
from Godís law which indicts, tries and convicts the whole world and
leaves us helpless before its verdict.
Death is not a warm fuzzy friend to be embraced.
He is the enemy. The
poet, Dillon Thomas, showed an understanding of the nature of death when
he wrote, ďDo not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage against
the dying of the light.Ē
all our efforts against it are futile.
Time catches up with us. Time
marches on, and life with it. Time,
which to us leaves generations dead and forgotten, is to the eternal
God, like yesterday, like a watch in the night.
like an ever-rolling stream,
remember the lives of our loved ones, we pass on memories of them, and
we try to keep those memories alive in the hearts of our children and
grandchildren. But it is
all to no avail. Most of us
wonít even be an obscure footnote in any written history, and even if
we were, what difference would it make?
Time marches on, and we die.
ďVanity of vanities, everything is vanity.Ē
This is the teaching of the Preacher, the author of Ecclesiastes.
Or as the hymnist puts it, ďWhat at last does this world leave
us, but a hand full of sand or some loss to grieve us?Ē
God that Moses does not end this psalm until the law has given way to
the gospel. Moses, like
every faithful prophet and preacher, preached Godís law for the sake
of Godís gospel. ďTeach
us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.Ē
The biblical use of the word wisdom is very important.
A heart of wisdom is not simply a matter of maturing in our
understanding as we grow older. And
Moses is not talking about the collective wisdom of the great thinkers,
philosophers, and wise men of this world.
The heart of wisdom of which Moses speaks is the heart that
is our wisdom. Christ is
Godís compassion on us. He
is Godís mercy. He is
Godís glory and beauty. And
He has joined us. He became
a baby in the Virginís womb. God
is our Brother. As we sang
harm can sin and death then do?
God becomes a man He becomes an immortal man because God is immortal.
But this immortal God become man did not come only to live among
us. He came to die for us.
When the immortal God dies for mortal man, mortal man gains
immortality. At the age of
eight days He first shed His blood for us.
He was the holy God become flesh and for His own sake He had no
need to submit Himself to any law. His very nature is to do in purity and perfection what His
law demanded of us. But he
was not incarnate for His own sake.
He became a man for us. When
He submitted Himself to circumcision He signified thereby that He would
obey the whole law and thereby to fulfill it with finality so that that
law could no longer condemn us to death.
But more than that, by shedding His blood as an infant and
redeeming all infants from sin and sanctifying Holy Baptism for their
regeneration, He thereby promised to shed His blood as a man for all
men, women, and children ever to be born into this world.
The circumcision of Jesus was a public event.
It proclaimed then and there and to us today that the God-man
would take away the curse of the law against us both by His obedience to
it and by His suffering the judgment of it.
Jesus who joined us has remained with us.
He was there when we were baptized.
He was there when we were instructed in the holy Christian faith.
He was there when we communed at Godís altar.
He was also there when the cancer struck, when the child was
killed, and when the mother died. He
was there when every tragedy occurred and every loss was sustained.
He was there, and He never left us.
As we clung in vain hope to what was passing away, to what was
dying and decaying, Christ, the living Christ was there, gently turning
our eyes away from death to the life he came to bring.
ďLook,Ē He told us, ďLook to the manger and see that it is
I, come to join you in your weakness.
See that I shed my blood for you as an infant and know that I
have come to fulfill the law for you.
Look to my obedience and see your righteousness.
Look to my cross, and see that I am dying your death, I am
bearing in both body and soul the source of all your misery, for I have
chosen to be numbered with sinners in order to remove their sin and
swallow up their death. Look
at the empty tomb, My resurrection, and know beyond any doubt that it is
the guarantee of your resurrection to eternal life on the last day.
came from eternity and broke into our time.
He descended into our death to destroy it. He came with life to give and he has given it to us.
So we defy death as we watch time fly away and the hour of our
death approaching. We see
those whom we love leave us behind, and we continue to rejoice in life.
In Jesusí name we will live and do our work.
In Jesusí name we will face death without fear.
Jesus faced the death we could not face and defeated the enemy
who held us under his bondage. He
joined us in our sin and removed it by his precious blood.
He gives us new beginnings, not just each new year, but every day
as he keeps us by the power of his name in the saving faith.
So we can say with confidence in the words of Kingoís Gradual:
Jesusí name we live and we will die;
Rev. Rolf D. Preus