The night after we heard that our friend’s son had died in a tragic accident at the age of twenty-five, I had trouble sleeping, thinking of his grieving parents. How can one not shed a few tears for someone struggling to understand why such a loss would occur? I spent those restless hours in prayer, mostly, remembering several people that are grieving this summer. I underlined these words of King David in my Bible, which were in my scripture reading the first thing in the morning:
Through the night my soul longs for you. Deep from within me my spirit reaches out to you. — Isaiah 26:9a [MSG]
As I reached out to God, seeking to understand and find comfort, He gave me the exact words I needed to hear. I didn’t go looking for scriptures on life and death — they were right there in my assigned reading of the day. I knew this was not only for me, but also for sharing with the family.
But friends, your dead corpses will get to their feet. All you dead and buried, wake up! Sing! Your dew is morning dew catching the first rays of sun. The earth bursting with life, giving birth to the dead. — Isaiah 26:19 [MSG]
That verse had specific significance to me, as the young man who died was a great musician and performer. Here, God was telling me that the first thing Dylan will do when he comes back to life, when Christ returns, is sing!
Here is the other verse of comfort that God gave me early that morning:
And here on this mountain, God will banish the pall of doom hanging over all peoples, the shadow of doom darkening all nations. Yes. he’ll banish death forever. And God will wipe the tears from every face. — Isaiah 25:7-8a [MSG]
This particular verse was equally important and specific — Dylan’s father lives on the mountain, and part of his son’s ashes would be scattered there as well, but notice this in the verse above — death clearly does not have the last word.
I also gained much insight from these thoughts from Eugene H. Peterson early that morning:
Isaiah saw the nations of the world under a pall or funeral shroud, and suddenly God entered and ripped it away. The reason he did it was because death was over. He swallowed it up, and he wipes away all the tears from our faces.
One of the interesting things about the Hebrew view of death is that they were so uninterested in it. In contrast, the Egyptians used all their energy to prepare for it. They had elaborate mythologies to explain the afterlife and meticulous practices dealing with the rituals of death. As a result, death dominated their lives. This was also true of the Babylonians in the east and the Hittites to the north. The Hebrews were an exception to all this. They didn’t construct elaborate tombs like these nations did, because they weren’t all that concerned about death.
The Hebrews were much more concerned about God. Their stories had to do with the action of God in this life, not the next. They saw God acting in the present, speaking here and now — which is an important example for us. Our relationship is to a living God who has defeated death through the work of Christ on the cross. For the Christian, that means death has lost its power. It’s not something we have to be concerned about, let alone worried about. — Eugene H. Peterson, Conversations, pg. 1068
The point of this post is not that I believe in eternal life (though I do), but that I believe in a living God Himself, as Peterson said, “acting in the present, speaking here and now” — personal, real, present, sufficient! He meets my specific needs every single day, and for that I am eternally grateful.