Memento Mori

“O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Psalm 39:4

Thinking of one’s own death can often seem an unhealthy and morbid thing to do, when in reality, there is Biblical wisdom to be found in “remembering your mortality.” I was thinking about this while running this morning, having just read Psalm 39, and thinking about the genuine benefits from remembering that all will die (there are times when I’m running that I’m pretty sure I going to die). Here are some of the thoughts I came up with:

  1. Remembering your own mortality is a healthy reminder that this life will come to an end and one day all will stand before the throne of God to be judged according to His righteous decree. Some may achieve great things in this life, others may simply fade in obscurity, but all will die. Rich and poor, righteous and wicked, all will one day lay down this life. The natural course of events is to move from birth to death, and with each day there will be evidence of what is to come; fading ability and failing health. While we certainly shouldn’t live recklessly, tempting death and rushing to a quick end, neither should we become so obsessed with health and youth and vitality that we deny the reality of death.
  2. Remembering our own mortality also serves as a call to action. We’ve all played the game: IF YOU KNEW THE WORLD WOULD END TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO TODAY? If this were my last post, what would I want you to know. If this Sunday were my last sermon, what would I want to say? If this were the last time you had to speak with your parents, your spouse, your children, what needs to be said? Often, so many live with regret over things they wanted to say but never had the opportunity.
    This is your chance. David prayed in the Psalm that God would help him to measure his days, so that he could live accordingly, making the best use of the time given. There is no time like the present to forgive and be forgiven, to love and be loved, to heal and be healed.
  3. Remembering our own mortality also points us to greater spirituals realities. “In Adam all die,” Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 15:22. The death that comes through Adam is both physical and spiritual. In sin, we are dead to God and unable to do that which would please Him or even bring us to life. More important that a reminder that we will one day lay down this mortal body is the knowledge that, even though we may live and breath, apart from Christ we are dead in our trespasses and sins. In our death, we need one who would come and give us life, breathing new life within us, and enabling us to live in righteousness before God.
    Praise God that He has given us this One, Jesus Christ, through whom we have died to sin and have been raised to new life by the power of His Holy Spirit. Because our sinless savior died, we who are hidden in Him by faith, may now live, and live for forever more. And though we may sleep at the end of this life, laying down this mortal body, we will be raised when the trumpet sounds, and we will take up that which is immortal, so that we may be with Him forever.

Memento Mori, remember you will die, remember that in sin you were dead, remember the One who died, remember that death has lost its victory and sting, remember that you have died to sin, and live in the light of Christ now forever more!


Bound to Love and Truth

Reading through Proverbs 3 today I was struck by a passage that I (sorry to say) usually overlook. When I hear someone refer to Proverbs 3, my mind is usually drawn to verses 5 & 6:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

I’ve taught this passage so many times. There are songs to help you memorize it. The verse is underlined, highlighted, emboldened, so much so that it dwarfs the rest of the chapter.

And it shouldn’t.

I was particularly struck in today’s reading by the immediately preceding verses 3 & 4:

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.”

The word for “steadfast love” in this text is none other than הסד, pronounced “chesed,” which refers to the faithful covenant love of God for His people. Likewise, “faithfulness” is from the Hebrew, אמת, pronounced “emet,” which can also be translated as “truth,” and is expressive of God’s covenant keeping.

Just sitting and reading this passage, “do not let steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you” makes us think that this is something we need to do. Without digging deeper into this passage, we might glance at it and think, Well, I better try to be more loving and faithful in order to find favor and good success in the eyes of God and man.

But that’s not the case.

The author of Proverbs here is calling us to mindfulness. He’s not talking about our steadfast love and faithfulness, but God’s. It is God who is steadfast in His covenanted love for His people, and faithful and sure to keep all His promises. The point of this passage is not to try harder, but to remember the covenant keeping nature of our great God.

God has promised to save, and has saved mightily in Jesus Christ. When we were dead in our sins and trespasses, God, in His love and mercy, did send His Son who would take our guilt, our shame, bearing our sins upon His cross, so that we might, by His grace receive forgiveness and the promise of everlasting life. We receive all this, not through our own effort, but through faith in Jesus Christ, resting in and receiving Him as He is revealed in God’s Word. This is the blessing of God’s covenanted love and faithfulness.

So when we are called to bind steadfast love and faithfulness around our necks and to write it upon our hearts, it’s not our own, but God’s love and faithfulness.

The promise given here, that we would find favor and success, are also magnified in the Hebrew. “Favor” here is the Hebrew word הן, pronounced “hen,” which is usually translated as “grace,” or “gift.” And “success” here is from שכל, sekel, which is elsewhere translated as “discernment, understanding.”

We are to set this truth of who God is and what He has done so close to us, that they reshape us, they reform us, they help us to see everything through the lens of God’s love and truth.

What a promise for God’s people! If we would keep before us the love and faithfulness of God, bind them around our necks, write them on our hearts, so that we would continually be reminded of all that God has done, and is doing for us in Christ Jesus, how we would grow in the grace and knowledge of God.