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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Isaiah 30:18 Therefore the LORD is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the LORD is a just God. All who wait patiently for him are happy. (CSB)
Matthew 14:29 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter answered him, “command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. (CSB)
Matthew 14:19, 20 Then he commanded the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish, looking up to heaven, he blessed them. He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. Everyone ate and was satisfied. They picked up twelve baskets full of leftover pieces. (CSB)