Daily D – Psalm 39:6-7
We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. (NLT) PSALM 39:6, 7
And so news arrived yesterday that a friend’s friend died from COVID-19. He was all alone because of his quarantine. No relatives were at his side as he struggled and succumbed. News reports bear the same ill tidings. Social media stories of a like nature pop up on our timelines. Men, women, and children — the first recorded death in the USA of a child under a year old came yesterday — are dying in greater numbers.
There are times and seasons when we ponder the brevity of life. The ancient Stoics had a practice that has returned in vogue in our days called Memento Mori. It is a call to remember that we are mortal. The stoics pondered death so that they would value life and their season of vitality. The practice likely goes back to Socrates who said the proper practice of philosophy is about nothing else but dying and being dead. He sounds like a fun guy to invite to a party, huh?
Seneca put it this way:
“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”
(See The Daily Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for Everyday Life, dailystoic.com)
There is some measure of wisdom here in these thoughts. Some people act as if they will live forever as self-focused adolescents in perfectly preserved and functioning bodies. What a shock they are in for, eh?
King David is more helpful than Socrates, Seneca, or celebrities. Listen to his thoughts on this matter:
LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.
(vv. 4, 5)
At first glance, this does not sound much different from the aforementioned philosophers. That is, unless we keep reading.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.
Our days, no matter their number, are meaningful to the degree that we remember that we do not live unto ourselves alone. We are not here to grab all the gusto we can, as the old beer commercial use to say. Have you ever wondered about Old Gusto Guy? He was probably in his thirties in 1970 when those commercials were filmed. That was fifty years ago. If Gusto Guy is still alive, he’s around eighty years old. I wonder what grabbing all the gusto looks like for him today?
King David — Lion Tamer, Bear Basher, Giant Killer — learned that virility and stateliness do not last forever. Age brought him greater perspective about the same time he realized he could no longer stand toe to toe with a foe all day.
Where do we go when our strength begins to wane? Where do we place our hope when we are no longer able to lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps? Where do we go when we are suddenly closer to the end than the beginning of our stories?
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.
The only hope we have now is the only hope we have ever had. The sooner we realize life is not all about us, the sooner we realize what ultimately matters, the sooner we can get on with honoring God, serving others, and leaving the results with him.
In his advanced years, King David remembered what he had learned as a shepherd boy. He, beloved of God, who faced Goliath “in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Sam. 17:45), faced life’s ultimate enemy still beloved of God, still in his strength, still in living hope.
His only hope was in God. That was all the hope he needed. That is all the hope any of us need for life, for death, for COVID-19, for anything and everything that comes. That living hope knows that the worst thing that could happen to us here and now leads to the best thing that will ever happen to us. Death is not the end of the story for those who know Jesus as Savior. It is a giant leap beyond stoicism and its mortal ponderings. It is walking with God in his home where “there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever,” (Rev. 21:4).
Ponder that day by day.
For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
(1 Cor. 15:53-55)
Death, too, has an expiration date.
I will ponder life transformed and life eternal.
Our Father, we are mortal. It is appointed to us that we die once and then face judgment. You grant eternal life to all who trust Jesus as Savior during our mortal days. Remind us day by day to ponder that state of immortality which begins when we receive your gift of grace. Remind us to do your will in your way so that your kingdom increases to include all people everywhere. Replace our morose pondering of death with joyful contemplation of immortality. Amen.
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Daily D – Psalm 143:8-10
Psalm 143:8-10 Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord; I run to you to hide me. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.
Daily D – Psalm 142:5
Psalm 142:5 Then I pray to you, O Lord. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.”
Daily D – Ezra 3:11-13
Ezra 3:11-13 With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord: “He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!” Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid. But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.
Daily D – 2 Chronicles 35:22-25
2 Chronicles 35:22-25 After Josiah had finished restoring the Temple, King Neco of Egypt led his army up from Egypt to do battle at Carchemish on the Euphrates River, and Josiah and his army marched out to fight him. But King Neco sent messengers to Josiah with this message: “What do you want with me, king of Judah? I have no quarrel with you today! I am on my way to fight another nation, and God has told me to hurry! Do not interfere with God, who is with me, or he will destroy you.” But Josiah refused to listen to Neco, to whom God had indeed spoken, and he would not turn back. Instead, he disguised himself and led his army into battle on the plain of Megiddo. But the enemy archers hit King Josiah with their arrows and wounded him. He cried out to his men, “Take me from the battle, for I am badly wounded!”
Daily D – 2 Chronicles 32:31
2 Chronicles 32:31 However, when ambassadors arrived from Babylon to ask about the remarkable events that had taken place in the land, God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart.