|Volume 19 Number 5 May 2017||
During the month of April 2017, for the first time this writer experienced losing two members of our congregation on the same day. These faithful sisters took their heavenly journey within hours of each other. It left us reeling because one was “expected,” but the other was not.
Death is the great equalizer. It happens every few seconds all over the planet. Yet, it is a subject some of us will do almost anything to avoid talking about and facing that irrevocable new reality. Our lives are never the same; perhaps that is why denial seems the only way we are able to cope. Funerals, memorials, graveside services and scattering of ashes are the ways the majority of us have chosen to deal with saying our final and formal goodbyes.
One of the most detailed accounts of a funeral and a burial was the death of Jacob as recorded in Genesis 49:28-50:1-14. Shortly before his death, Genesis 49:1-2 records, “And Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days: Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel your father.” In Genesis 49:3-27, Jacob pronounced his individual blessing upon each of his 12 sons. Verse 28 records, “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them. And he blessed them; he blessed each one according to his own blessing.”
In Genesis 49:29-30, Jacob instructed his sons to bury him in the field of Machpelah which Abraham had bought in the land of Canaan. Jacob says in verse 31, “There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah.” Chapter 49 ends stating, “And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.”
Genesis 50:1 reads, “Then Joseph fell on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him.” Verses 2-3 record the details of Jacob’s 40-day embalming followed by the 70 days of mourning. Joseph had asked permission from Pharaoh to bury his father as he had sworn; Pharaoh granted Joseph’s request. This funeral procession was massive! Genesis 50:7-10 records:
So Joseph went up to bury his father; and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the house of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s house. Only their little ones, their flocks, and their herds they left in the land of Goshen. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen, and it was a very great gathering. Then they came to the threshing floor…and they mourned there with a great and very solemn lamentation. He observed seven days of mourning for his father.
Jacob’s sons did for him as he had commanded them. They carried Jacob to Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah that Abraham had bought as property for a burial place. Genesis 50:14 records, “And after he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers and all who went up with him to bury his father.”
Other Old Testament accounts of public grief and mourning were at the deaths of Aaron, Moses, Samuel, King Saul, his son Jonathan and Abner.
In 2 Samuel 1:17-27, King David wept and mourned over the deaths of Saul and his son Jonathan. “How the mighty have fallen!” David stated this three times in his eulogy. “Then David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son.” “The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen!” (19). “From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, and the sword of Saul did not return empty. Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions” (22-23). “O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with luxury; who put ornaments of gold on your apparel” (24). “How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan was slain in your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me; your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women. How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!” (25-27).
In his tribute, David had spoken very highly of Abner. Then all the people came to persuade him to eat while it was still day, but he refused. Verses 35-39 read:
David took an oath, saying, “God do so to me, and more also, if I taste bread or anything else till the sun goes down!” Now all the people took note of it, and it pleased them, since whatever the king did pleased all the people. For all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the king’s intent to kill Abner the son of Ner. Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? And I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too harsh for me. The Lord shall repay the evildoer according to his wickedness.”
Two noteworthy examples of lives well lived in the New Testament were Stephen and Dorcas. Stephen was one of the seven men appointed to care for widows who were being neglected in the daily distribution (Acts 6:1-6). Stephen’s address before the council is recorded in Acts 7, which caused him to be stoned to death. Acts 8:2 reads, “And devout men carried Stephen to his burial and made great lamentation over him.”
Acts 9:36-43 records the account of a woman named Dorcas, a woman full of good works and charitable deeds, but she became sick and died. Two men from Joppa went to nearby Lydda and urgently pleaded with the apostle Peter to come with them. Verse 39 reads, “Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them.” Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed, and she was raised! Verse 42 states, “And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord.”
This well-known hymn states the thoughts very well of how funerals speak to the lives we have touched.
May the Work I’ve
Done Speak for Me!
May the work I’ve done speak for me!
When I’m resting in my grave,
There is nothing that can be said.
May the work I’ve done speak for me!
May the life I live speak for me!
When the best I try to live,
My mistakes He will forgive.
May the life I live speak for me!
May the service I give speak for me!
When I’ve done the best I can,
And my friends don’t understand.
May the service I’ve given speak for me!
All that I’ve done,
The service I have given,
And the life I have lived,
May all seem small,
But when I stand before my God,
I want to hear Him say, “Well done.”
May the life I live speak for me!
Revelation 14:13 proclaims, “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’”
Martha Lynn Rushmore
“If” is such a small word, but it is one of the biggest words in the English language. “If” is such a big word because of the consequences that may follow our decisions and actions. We must really think before opening our mouths. Sometimes we say things we do not really mean, but depending on with whom we may be, we go ahead and do what we have said just to save face in front of peers. We surely do not want to be made fun of by our equals or our friends.
Another thing we do with the word “if” is that we go back in time and wonder if I had done this or if I had done that, things might have been different in our lives. They may have been different, but these same things we are talking about might have come out a whole lot worse. Sometimes we as parents say, “I wish I could go back and do things differently with rearing my children.” Would we really want to go back in time? We probably would have made the same mistakes that we made the first time.
We hear people say all the time, “If I only had a million dollars, I would do this or that.” Why can we not do some little thing to do good? Why does it always have to be a great thing to help those in need? Jesus said that just a cup of water in His name is a worthwhile deed (Matthew 10:42).
Are we like Naaman in 2 Kings 5:1-19? He had leprosy, and the little maid told him of Elisha, the prophet of God in Samaria. So, Naaman got ready and left for Samaria. He must have thought Elisha would have him do something great. Elisha sent his servant to Naaman and told him to go dip in the Jordan River seven times. This was upsetting to Naaman because he said, “Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” The Scripture tells us that he turned and went away in a rage.
One of Naaman’s servants said to him, “If you had been told something great, would you not have done it immediately?” Therefore, Naaman went to the Jordan and dipped seven times as he had been instructed. When he did what he was told to do, he was healed of his leprosy.
There are many things we can do that are small and not very meaningful to us, but to God and those receiving the help they are very important. We could help one homeless person or someone who needs help in some other way. If we have enough money to go out to eat or go out to places for recreation, just maybe we could or should use a little for others. Sometimes, just a few dollars can do much for someone in need.
In a congregation of which I was a member, Christians come together every Monday night to feed the homeless a hot meal. Some also take their young children to help with this project. They are learning how to give of their time to the Lord by doing good deeds.
While working to feed the hungry and those who are less fortunate than we are, one of the ladies came up with the idea to make lunches so the homeless can have another meal on another day. It would put no one in the poor house if we would all just donate one or two nonperishable items for the lunches or prepare food for the hot meal to help needy people.
Cards and tracts are placed in the sacks. It is our job to provide the lost with the information on how to become Christians and then continue to teach how to remain faithful and grow stronger in the Lord. The Lord said, “Go” in Mark 16:16; He did not tell us how to go, and this is one way to obey our Lord. Our job is to provide the lost with the Word, and it is their responsibility to do what they will with the information.
When we send our bill payments out in the mail or hand deliver them, we can put a tract with the payment. There are so many ways in which we can be useful servants of Jesus Christ, “if” we will only act out our Christianity in some meaningful way that is visible to or by which we interact with the world around us (Matthew 5:13-16).