3 Thou turnest man to destruction [enosh to dakka (dust)]; and sayest, Return, ye children of men [Shuvu, ye Bnei Adam].
So teach us to number our days
The remembrance of death as the certain issue of all our matters now in hand, has a wonderful power in it to make man more humble, more merciful, more wise. Most men prefer to forget it, and to indulge in those excitements and associations that will keep them in forgetfulness. They live in a state of insensibility to the meaning of life while it lasts, and then go frantic when death delivers his summons, whether on board of a sinking ship or in the quiet of the bedchamber.
They are happy who look the subject well in the face beforehand, and adapt themselves to wisdom's behest. To such, the subject is delivered from all its gloom, and is even invested with a certain degree of attractiveness. It is seen in its true place in human history, and the comfort it yields is in more directions than one. Death is not a pure evil when taken with its surroundings.
By itself, it would be nothing but evil; but it cannot be taken by itself. It is a part of a system of things, and can only be estimated rightly when taken in connection with the whole.
It has been spoken of as a punishment. It is more than this: it is also a remedy-a remedy for an evil which would be much sorer without it. It is God's prevention against the development of permanent evil in the universe. When we look round on the evil that now prevails, we can say, how much worse it would be were there no death. How awful would be the lot of a man if his life of frailty, fatigue, and weariness-exertion, struggle and competition; ignorance, baseness and malice; ingratitude, hatred and blasphemy; stupidity, pride, and arrogance-were everlasting.
How maddening if there were none of the alleviation that comes by death to this madhouse of sinners. How dreadful that the earth should thus be filled for ever with devilry as waters cover the sea.
Death is not only a punishment: it is the cure of sin-a negative cure truly, but still a cure-an arrangement by which sin is prevented from getting the upper hand in the long run, by which we might say the situation is kept clear for the purpose that God has of causing good to gloriously triumph at the last.
Seasons 2: 15.
4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
A Small Moment
"The Lord is at hand" (Phil. iv. 5).
-"The night is far spent, the day is at hand" (Rom. xiii. 12)-
"Surely I come quickly" (Rev. xxii. 20).
There are some who would impeach the veracity of these statements, because eighteen hundred years have passed and they still remain unfulfilled. Evidently there is ground for the cavil, but let us look at the declarations from the Spirit's standpoint and the difficulty will vanish.
The Spirit's standpoint is Eternity. It is written that with God a thousand years are but as "A watch in the night" (Psalm xc. 4) that eighteen hundred and more are but as "A small moment" (Isaiah liv. 7).
Recognise this, and the truth and force of the statements in question will be seen. But why does not the Spirit in addressing man speak in accordance with man's computation of time? There is an explanation. Those to whom God speaks stands related to Eternity. The faithful are taught to regard immortality as certain of attainment-they are told that death is theirs (2 Cor. iii. 22)-that they have passed (relatively and prospectively) from "death unto life" (Jno. v. 24).
Looking at the subject in this way-estimating the present from the standpoint of an eternal future-how beautiful is the Divine way of speaking.
"Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Heb. x. 37.)
The Christadelphian, Sept 1887
12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
This measuring of our days - this endeavouring to withstand the deceptive impressions of sense and to penetrate through all the appearances and the feelings of life to the naked fact that we are all the time on the brink of existence, as it were, and may at any moment disappear from the land of the living and the realm of being, as completely as the collapsing bubble on the water, is certainly calculated to lead us to "apply our hearts unto wisdom."
The people around us are busy applying their hearts - but not to wisdom. They apply them to everything but this. Wisdom is with them either a matter of aversion or a matter of scorn. We are liable to be carried away with the prevailing taste. It is a broad stream on which the world is drifting to destruction. We are here to resist the flood so far as we are concerned. We come to the Table of the Lord to apply our hearts to wisdom. We do so in recalling the meanings and associations of "the bread which we break," and "the wine which we bless."
We do so in the reading of the Oracles of God. They are a continual call of wisdom to us. They are God's written voice, by which alone we have access in our day to His mind. There is no truth less appreciated by the mass of mankind than this. There is none in such danger of disappearing from the practical recognitions of the educated. We have recently had to insist on it with a special emphasis. We cling to it as to a lifebuoy in the surging waters.
In the whole of the Scriptures - in every part in Genesis as in the Prophets - in the Psalms as in the Apocalypse - we are in contact with the authorised expression of the mind of God in some phase or other. Consequently, as we listen, whatever part is being read, we are "applying our hearts" to that wisdom which purifies the present, gives stability and comfort to the remainder of our mortal days, few or many; and enriches for us the future with an exhaustless inheritance of well-being and joy.
Bro Roberts - Applying our hearts unto wisdom
13 Return, O Yahweh, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.
14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
'...we have been reminded that we are waiting for the Lord's return. There is an aspect of this which grows more and more powerful with my mind the longer I live. It is perhaps a little difficult to express. It is this-that we are nearer to the Lord's coming than we may be in the habit of thinking. We think of the Lord's coming in connection with the signs of the times - which is right, because the Lord's coming is connected with signs, and the signs are visible: but these signs take longer to unfold than we expect in our first fresh ardour; and there is apt to creep over the mind a sort of feeling that many things may yet divide us from the coming of the Lord.
We look back to the destruction of Jerusalem, and to the long-drawn, weary, complicated programme of events that has filled up the time since. And we are liable to look forward to the future with a sense of the ages that are behind us, as if the future acted on the past as a mirror acts on what is behind a person as he walks towards it. Now, there is in all this a good deal of what we might call spontaneous fallacy or self deception.
The fact is-and we do wisely to familiarise our minds with the fact-that the interval that yet lies between us and the Lord's coming may have no existence for us, or at all events a very brief existence indeed. Death will destroy that interval for us as effectually as if the angel of the Lord appeared to us suddenly in the midst of our occupations to tell us the Lord had come.
We may assent to this without feeling its full force. There is great power in it when realised. We miss the power of it through thinking that death will be a long time in coming to us. It may, but it may not. We presume on the average of human life, but that average may not be ours.
A comparatively young brother (only 27) died over a week ago, who had every prospect within four days of his death that he would have a long and healthy career. A little internal trouble, that might occur to any of us, and of which within five minutes of his death he thought he was getting better, suddenly ended his useful days-for he was very useful in the little ecclesia of which he was a member.
What has happened to him might happen to any of us; and it would mean that in a moment we would be wafted away from the midst of our mortal cares and occupations into the presence of the solemn, though glorious realities that are associated with Christ at his coming. It would seem to us a momentary, an instantaneous transition.
Of course, it would not be really so in relation to the progress of events in the universe, but it would be really so in relation to our own feelings, which in this sense are everything to each of us. We will be out of the grave before ever we are aware that we have gone in. In this case, the signs of the times and the weary evolution, it may be, of our own anxious lives, will be stopped and abolished in a moment.
Is it not wise and helpful to carry about with us a sense of this imminent possibility? The power of the idea will be instinctively felt by every one, and its value also as a corrective of life in all its relations. We can imagine, for example, how powerfully up-borne in a spiritual direction our deceased young brother would have felt during the month before his death if he had known that in four weeks, his course would be finished.
The advantage of exercising our thoughts in this way lies in the similar stimulus it will impart to us if we realise that we may but a short time have to do with the circumstances of life as it now is, and may in a brief period of time stand face to face with the Lord Jesus who was alive ages before we were born, and will live for ever, whatever may become of us. If men could carry this thought of common sense more constantly and vividly about with them than is commonly the case, things would be different with them on many points. Many things would receive a less anxious attention, and some things would be better attended to than they are.
Exhort 176, TC 03/1887