The Land of the Dying


“It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the Judgement”
(Hebrews 9:27).

When I was attending Bible college, one of my Old Testament professor’s off-the-cuff remarks was that we deceived ourselves by thinking we were in the land of the living—we were really in the land of the dying. I didn’t like her talking about death. She was old: it was natural for her to think about dying. I was young: why burden me with her anxiety?

She was right, of course. It was really I who wasn’t coming to grips with natural law.

God told Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil “lest you die” (Genesis 3:3). They did eat, and death was the result, though it did not come immediately.

In those days it did not rain (2:5). “There went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground” (2:6). In this misty environment people lived hundreds of years.

Only after the Flood, when it rained for the first time (7:4), did God fix a limit on age. A man’s “days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (6:3).

Even then, the lives of the Patriarchs were extended. God rejuvenated the body of Abraham so that, after Sarah died, he had five additional sons and lived to be 175 years old (25:2, 7). His son Isaac lived to 180 years (35:28). When Jacob met Pharaoh in Egypt, he regretted to tell him that he was only 130 years and had not attained to the age of his father and grandfather (47:9). Jacob died at age 147 (47:28); his son Joseph, at age 110 (50:26).

Centuries later God recalibrated the lifespan of man and fixed it at “threescore and ten” (Psalm 90:10), or 70 years. “And if by reason of strength the years be fourscore,” or 80 years, “yet is their strength labor and sorrow.” In other words, we cannot escape the curse that God placed on Adam and Eve in the Garden.

That passage, Psalm 90, by the way, was written by Moses, not David. God blessed Moses, as He had blessed Abraham, to live beyond his natural lifespan. “Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (Deuteronomy 34:7).

From the time of the Pentateuch, and on, the age of a human being has not exceeded 70-120 years. People still die. Barring the Rapture, we will all die.

That is one reason that excessive concern for our health is so ridiculous. Yes, we need good food, sleep, and exercise, but taking good care of this physical body will not prolong its days much more than not taking good care of this physical body. Even fat people can live to old age. Though surely uncomfortably.

And excessive concern for our health will not make us enjoy life any more. Many people living on bean sprouts, tofu, flax seed, celery, and endive are so hungry they could wolf down a stuffed pig or a standing rib roast; they appear as gaunt as concentration camp victims, are being medically treated for depression, and are perhaps seeing a psychotherapist trying to discover what’s wrong with them. What couldn’t a rotisserie chicken, grilled steak, baby back ribs, mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits, and apple pie do for their morale? (Of course, they are probably so starved they’d upchuck.)

Several of my forebears, in-laws, and friends have lived to a ripe old age, approaching the century mark, without paying a whit of attention to what they ate and without darkening the door of a nursing home. One of my nonagenarian friends believes nothing can take you before your time, as if all your days have already been numbered (cf Psalm 90:12). So she eats anything she wants, even cooks her own food, rocks on her own porch, and passes her time hugging her grandchildren and laughing with friends. She’s blooming, but she’s as old as Billy Graham and looks as young as Diane Lane. She’s jovial, happy, and contented. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

You cannot escape death. All you can do is enjoy living. Doesn’t the quality of life mean anything anymore? So all the hullabaloo about inspecting school lunches against the food pyramid chart, getting an annual physical, and requiring health care insurance, as if medical care—really pharmaceutical care—was a necessity, especially for seniors, is nonsense. No matter how healthy you live, no matter how many pills you take, no matter how much you try to ignore it, you are going to die. It’s just a matter of time.

What is more important than health food and health insurance is preparation for eternity. This life is nothing but an anteroom or vestibule; real life is life eternal (John 17:3); it is something we enter into (Matthew 18:8, 9; 19:17) by giving our heart to Jesus. “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or what shall we wear? … But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).

“Doubt discovers difficulties which it never solves; it creates hesitancy, despondency, despair. Its progress is the decay of comfort, the death of peace. Believe! is the word that speaks life into a man, but doubt nails down his coffin.” ~Charles H Spurgeon

Copyright © 2013 Alexandra Lee

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1 thought on “The Land of the Dying

  1. Pingback: Forks Over Knives: An Analysis | Temporal Living

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