We just had a funeral service here at my church. Therefore, these two thoughts from Spurgeon have been rolling over in my mind since I came across them yesterday in a devotional called "Beside Still Waters - Words of Comfort for the Soul."
They were spoken in the mid-1850's and thus they reflect a slightly different view of death than we tend to have today. Yet they align perfectly with Scripture -- especially verses like Isaiah 57:1-2: "The righteous perish, and no one ponders in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to spare them from evil."
Or Psalm 139:16: "All the days ordained for me were written in Your Book before any one of them came to be." If you keep those thoughts in mind as you read these selections, it will help you understand death as Spurgeon does -- as one who is ever-conscious of looking at it through the lens of a God who is sovereign over all, knows all, and deals with His children as a loving Father. Enjoy.
"The Lord Gives and the Lord takes away..." (Job 1:21)
"Some of us have suffered great physical pain that bites into our spirits and causes depression. Others have suffered heavy financial losses and been deprived even to the point of extreme hardship. Are you complaining against the Lord for this? I pray not. The Lord has been pruning you, cutting off your best branches; you seem to be continually tormented with the knife.
Just suppose that your loving Lord has caused this; suppose that from His own hand all your grief has come -- every cut and gash. If this is true, put your finger to your lips and be quiet until from your heart you are able to say, 'The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
Recently I sat in the garden with my friend. We were in perfect health, rejoicing in the Lord's goodness. We were happy as we sat there reading the Word of God and meditating. Dare we think of being so happy? Within five days I was stricken with disabling pain (a crippling case of gout), and worse, far worse, he was called upon to lose his wife.
Yet here is our comfort: The Lord has done it. The best rose in the garden is gone. Who has taken it? The Gardener. He planted it, and watched over it, and now He has taken it. Does anyone weep because of that? Everyone knows it is the best that He should come and gather from His gardens finest.
Are you troubled by the loss of your loved one? Remember, the next time the Lord comes to your part of the garden, He will only gather His flowers. Would your prevent Him from doing this, even if you could?"
"A time to live and a time to die." (Ecclesiastes 3:2)
"God has fixed the time of our death (Job 7:1). It is useless to dream of living here forever. A time of departure must come unless the Lord returns... Here diseases wait in ambush, eager to slay. But, 'He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge... You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near to you' (Psalm 91:4-7).
We are immortal until our work is done. Once that has been completed, we shall receive our summons home. Thus, if duty calls you into danger, if you have to nurse the contagious sick, do not hold back. You will not die by a stray arrow from death's quiver. Only God can take your breath. Your death is not left to chance. It is determined by a heavenly Father's gracious will. Therefore, do not be afraid. Now, do not be reckless and rush into danger without reason, for that is madness. Yet never fear to face death when God's voice calls you into danger.
Here is comfort: If the Father of our Lord Jesus arranges all, then our friends do not die untimely deaths. Believers are not cut off before their time. God has appointed a time to harvest His fruit. Some are sweet even in early spring, and He gathers them. Others, like baskets of summer fruit, are taken while the year is young. Yet some remain until autumn mellows them. But be sure of this, each will be gathered in its season. God has appointed the commencement, the continuation, and the conclusion of your mortal life."
I personally enjoyed these thoughts. They give a refreshing perspective on the death of God's saints. The Church is God's garden (I Cor. 3:9), and by the grace of the Holy Spirit each believer has been planted in it (and watered and fertilized and weeded by that same Spirit), and at a certain day in the history of our lives (which has already been determined by God) He will come to glean us as flowers, picked from His garden, and to be displayed in heaven as the purchase of redemption, and the "riches of HIS glorious inheritance in the saints" (Eph. 1:18).
"Here is our comfort: The Lord has done it. The best rose in the garden is gone. Who has taken it? The Gardener. He planted it and watched over it, and now He has taken it. Does anyone weep because of that? Everyone knows it is the best that He should come and gather from His gardens finest."
In the Bonds of Confident Gospel Hope,