“Man, who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers. He flees like a shadow and continues not.”
Our brother Norm was like all men. In this life, we do not last forever. In his prime, Norm was a strong man able to do difficult tasks of building and construction to help people. But later in life, the body wears out. Strength diminishes. We get weaker and weaker, until we die.
That is the way of this mortal flesh. This is the wages of sin. We cannot last forever.
In this life, we are not like a tree. A tree, if you cut it down, is likely to sprout up again, and a new tree eventually will stand where the old one was. We do not grow back like a tree.
Yet we are planted like a seed nonetheless. A time comes when we do spring up again. But it is not in this life.
The words of Job in our reading sometimes sound bitter. He suffered many things that we will never have to experience. He lost all his children in one day. He lost his property in different disasters that all struck at the same time. Then his body became afflicted by a horrible disease.
Because of these things, Job felt like God was persecuting him. He felt that God was picking on him for every little sin he had done. Job complains, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean thing?” He means that God should not harshly judge people by nitpicking every sinful detail in their lives. Job also says to God, “Look away from him and leave him alone.” Job wanted God to stop finding fault with him and stop afflicting him.
We might feel that way. We might complain to God that he sends us too much trouble.
Norm had his share of sorrows: the loss of his wife and health difficulties and decreased strength and, finally, death. But Norm had faith in God. He knew that God still loved him. He knew that whatever troubles he had to carry in life, he was a forgiven child of God, saved by a loving Lord who gave His life for him. Norm knew that after this life would follow resurrection and eternal life.
Even Job eventually remembered that he had a Redeemer who would raise him from the dead. Job remembered that God’s final Word to his saints is not trouble, but life. He says as much in our Reading: “A man lies down and rises not again, till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep.” So while this earth endures, the dead remain in the ground. But a day comes when this earth and the heavens above will be no more. Then there will be a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. Then the dead will rise, and all who trust in Christ will enter their eternal reward with no sin or death, nor sorrow or pain, no sickness or loss, ever again.
On that day, the Lord will call, and Norm will answer. Then Norm will stand tall and strong. He will never suffer weakness again. He will be raised from the grave as surely as the Lord Jesus Christ was raised. Norm will be like the risen Lord: perfect and incorruptible, never to die again. Death will have no power over any of God’s saints any more than it has power over the Lord.
All this is because the Lord has hidden away Norm’s sins from him. As Job says, the Lord does not keep watch over his sin, and his transgression is sealed up in a bag, and God has covered over his iniquity. How is it covered up? By the Blood of the Son of God, shed for Norm and for all of us.
God does not cover up sin the way we do. We try to hide sin so that no one will notice. We think if no one sees the things we do wrong, then we can protect our reputation or avoid punishment.
But God works differently. He covers up sin by paying the atonement price. This means that the Lord suffered in our place so that we would not have to. He shed His precious Blood on the Cross so that we are rescued from sin and death and hell.
Since all our sins are atoned for, then the sting of death is removed. The worst part of death is the threat of punishment and the separation from the presence of God. But those things are no threat because we are completely forgiven of all our sins by the death of Christ the Lord.
How do we know that Norm was forgiven? The Lord gave signs to confirm it. He washed Norm in the washing of regeneration and rebirth in the Holy Spirit, which we call Baptism. He forgave Norm’s sins by the sure and certain Word of the Gospel. He fed Norm His own Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Altar, which is the seal of Christ’s New Testament of grace and forgiveness.
God is not even close to being a mean-spirited tormentor who picks on people. Instead, He is a merciful and loving God who wants only to forgive our sins and give us eternal life. Christ the Son of God was willing to suffer untold agony, more than Job or anyone could suffer in this life, so that Norm and all His saints can look forward to resurrection and eternal life.
For now, Norm is hidden in Sheol, which is the grave. His body rests here below, while his soul is with Christ in Paradise. Norm has left behind all the troubles and sorrows of this life. But we cannot see or talk to Norm now, since he is concealed from us with God.
That causes much of the pain for us, that we are parted from loved ones. We miss them and wish they were here. We want to see and speak with them as we used to. But we must wait.
Yet we know the ending. We have an appointed time, which is the resurrection. Then the Lord will remember and raise the bodies of all his saints whom He has forgiven.
So we wait until the last day, which will be a day of joyful reunions and the removal of all sorrows. For now, we continue in this vale of tears, comforted by our Lord’s promises, as Norm also was comforted. He trusted to the end that all would be made right by His loving Lord, and so it will be. All things will be set right at last, as we enter the new heaven and the new earth that the Lord has prepared for us to live in forever. Amen.
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