My days are like a lengthened shadow, and I wither away like grass. But You, O Lord, abide forever, and Your Name to all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion; for it is time to be gracious to her, for the appointed time has come (Ps.102:11-13).
Funerals are good things to go to. The circumstances aren’t always joyful, depending on the deceased person, and our relationship with them. But each funeral we attend, we realise we are another step closer to our own. They should cause us to reflect on our life, what we’re doing, and the things we think we should do before we die.
The Psalmist knows his days are numbered, and don’t we all? We know that human existence is transitory, and the implication of this passage is that he feels as though he’s not far from the end.
But he’s not depressed, but has confidence in the Lord that His work will go on, far beyond his own lifetime. “To all generations…” means that while there are people on this planet, God will be at work amongst His people, accomplishing His plan.
This should encourage us today. We don’t deny the painful things of life for they are here, they are real, and God has permitted them to be with us.
But the Psalmist has an utter confidence in God working out His plan. And not only that, but he understands that Zion (which the New Testament writers interpret as speaking of the church today –see Heb.12:22) is the central place of God’s purpose.
This means that the central place of God’s work is the church, and He’s building it up and purifying it, so that it will be strong to accomplish His purpose in the earth.
How do I know this will happen? Well, Jesus said that
I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it (Mat.16:18).
And Paul explained that God’s purpose is that
… the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places (Eph.3:10).
Having said that, I’m under no illusions about the state of the church today. The world is the way it is today, because of the poor state of the church. When the church is in decline, it offers little true salt and light to the world, so the world continues downhill morally and ethically. I think that’s the best explanation for how the West has been in decline morally and ethically, at least as far back as Darwin.
But God said through Zechariah, “Who has despised the day of small things?” (Zech.4:10) When God wanted to redeem the world, He started the process with a virgin conceiving. A grand and glorious process, began with what? Something microscopic, but the fulfilment of scripture.
Why should it be any different today? He began the process 2,000 years ago, and He’ll continue the process, through the quiet and steady obedience of God’s people, all over the world.
Are you discouraged today?
Remember that God wants to use the church in every society, and the future of every society is contingent on the health and vitality of the church. So, it needs God’s people to be tithing, and willing to play their part in the reconstruction of the church, “… which is His body” (Eph.1:23). And believe me, there is a lot of reconstruction to be done.
The judgements of the Lord are in the church, and they always have been, ever since He judged Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). But we have to remember He is at work to be gracious and compassionate to His people too. He takes away the dross and the refuse, with a view to establishing the church on a firmer foundation. The “taking away” part can be painful, but it’s necessary, for He won’t tolerate sin in His house, and elders have to be resolute in dealing with any rotten timbers in the basement, which have to be removed and replaced to ensure the building continues to stand.
There may not initially be a lot of joy in this, just a determination to get the job done. The scripture speaks of this when Jesus made a scourge of cords, and drove the money changers from the temple, while He overturned their tables.
His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume Me” (Jn.2:17).
The fact is, zeal for God’s house should consume us too. It should challenge us to pray for the church, both all over the nation and the world, and right where we are. And it should challenge us to be active to be doing and pursuing the will of God, amongst our family, and in the local church.
And we have to remember this: I can’t change something I’m not a part of. Being a part of a church means we have to put up with some people, and things that are a long way from perfect, But other people too have to put up with us, and our imperfections. So, it’s a two way street, and that should keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves.
When Nehemiah came to Jerusalem, it wasn’t a pretty sight, but he wasn’t deterred by it’s state. He was determined with others to start to set things right, and he did. His opposition soon came, first from without, and secondly from within. That seems to be the normal procedure.
Paul warned the Ephesians that,
…After my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert… (Acts 20:29-31).
Of course it’s discouraging when the church is in a poor state. It’s not glorifying to the Lord, and we are made to be a laughingstock before the world. But this is what the Reformers confronted in the 1500’s: a church dominated by corruption and the traditions of men, and hostility to those who wanted to bring change.
But they decided to give their lives in the cause of reform, even if they died doing it. What makes us think we have the right to do anything different?
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever (Ps.131:3).