Psalm 73:24-26 (NIV): You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
In this psalm the writer gets a good dose of reality therapy – and it’s almost too much reality. We confess with him that at times it’s almost too much for us. The world is a place of wearing down, running down, breaking down. It is a world of all to apparent mortality. A world where life is limited and restricted. A world of continuing and increasing losses in spite of our best efforts to stem the tide. Finally, all the lifts, tucks, repairs, reconstructions, and best efforts of medical science are to no avail. Finally, we all lose the battle.
The psalmist confesses: My flesh and my heart may fail…. Meaning, they will. But strangely enough, his reality therapy includes another reality, a larger reality than the one seen with the unaided eye. His other overarching reality: God is the strength of my heart. Literally: God is the rock of my heart. Or as someone has rephrased it: When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful.
But I believe the psalmist says much more. I firmly believe that he takes a quantum leap beyond the current idea in his time of a place called sheol. His confession of faith is: You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Some see in this verse an allusion to Enoch and Elijah (Genesis 5:24; 2 Kings 2:11) who were taken by God without going through the gate called death.
I don’t remember where I first heard it, but I do remember the story based on the verse of scripture: Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him (Genesis 5:24). The story goes that God and Enoch used to take long walks together. One day they walked much further than usual. God said to Enoch, “The sun is going down and it’s very late. Why don’t you just go home with me?” And he did.
Finally, hope is in the one who is not subject to change and decay. The one is from everlasting to everlasting. The one whose home is not made with bricks and mortar. The only answer to a diminishing life in a diminishing world is the answer in the last verse of Psalm 73: But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge…. In this life and in what is to follow. For our hope is not immortality of the soul but resurrection and a home in the Father’s house.
I often ask, “When you do the mathematics of the next life, what sign do you use? - or = or +? Is the next life less than this one, equal to this one, or more than this one?” Almost always the answer is, “More.” In quoting from Isaiah (64:4) Paul hints at just how much more: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him (NLT). Which means: beyond your highest expectation, beyond your wildest imagination, beyond your most fantastic dreams.
There is an old Broadway play, later made into a movie, with the title “You Can’t Take It With You.” But you can. I am firmly and biblically convinced that when we leave this world we take all that we are; we take all that is within us. Our hearts, our spirits, our minds, our gifts. Would God toss away what he has encouraged and enabled us to develop over a lifetime?
Nothing is ever lost or in vain. Every good word, every good deed is remembered eternally. Paul puts it like this in one of his letters to the Corinthians: So my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (I Corinthians 15:44, NLT). That word translated as useless is a rich word. We can also translate: Nothing you do for the Lord is in vain, it is never empty, it is never lost.
Which means that we all live in the light of eternity. We are making friendships for eternity. We are learning how to love for eternity. We are learning and growing for eternity. In fact, someone has rephrased Paul’s advice this way: Throw yourself into life because nothing will ever be lost or ever be in vain. You are children of eternity.
Children of eternity because the God of eternity is our strength, our rock, our portion forever. Our confidence for C.B. and for ourselves is expressed in these lines:
The light of God surrounds us,
The love of God enfolds us,
The power of God protects us,
The presence of God watches over us;
Where we are, God is.
I add: this day and every eternal day, through Jesus Christ our Lord.