A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

alternate textDeath is a subject that many people try to avoid as much as possible.  Many of us prefer not to think about death any more that what is absolutely necessary.  Maybe it is the finality of death, maybe it is the unknown that lies beyond death, maybe it is the unspoken fear of not making it into life after death – there is SOMETHING about the reality of death that brings about a great deal of uneasiness to people.  And, of course, when it does happen – when death does come upon a family or a community, it often leaves behind a trail of separation and grief and sadness, and in some cases, even deep, emotional scars.

I had to go to a funeral this past week and as I watched the men of the family digging back the soil into the open grave afterwards, I realized once again that death is very much a part of life.  It is not a subject that we should try to avoid.  We should not avoid talking about it and preparing for it, before it happens.  And we should also not avoid the tears and the mourning and the time off, within reasonable limits, after it happens!  Because death is as much a part of our lives, as birth is a part of our lives.  As a matter of fact, in Scriptural times, the day that was remembered and dotted down and taken up in the annals and the history records that were kept from generation to generation, was NOT a person’s date of birth, but his date of death!

We are once again approaching that time of the year when “Christmas” is on everybody’s mind – the centre of many people’s planning and preparations towards the end of the year.  There are so many reasons why we as believers who want to follow Scriptures, and Scriptures alone, should not be taking part in the celebration of Christmas.  The most important of these being the fact that the 25th of December was not the date of Y’shua’s birth, but rather a date that was earlier celebrated as part of the pagan sun-worship and as the so-called birth of the sun!  But today is not the time and place to go into all of these reasons.  The fact is, here we have one more reason why we should not take too much notice of the hype surrounding Christmas.  It is not a Scriptural pattern to celebrate or commemorate someone’s birthday and nowhere in Scriptures is there a single command or even a suggestion that the Messiah’s birthday should be celebrated from year to year, let alone promoting it to the status of official annual feast day, at the expense of other feast days that are directly commanded in Scriptures!

The Parashah (or Torah Portion) for this week begins with the words: “And Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years, the years of the life of Sarah” (Gen 23:1).  This portion is called “Chayei Sarah”, which means “The Life of Sarah”.  The words, “the life of Sarah”, actually appears twice in this verse – in the beginning (literally:  “The life of Sarah was 127 years”) and at the end (“the years of the life of Sarah”).  It is generally believed that the name of each Torah portion is a very good indication (and a summary) of the contents of the portion, as a whole.  The only problem is that, in this case, Sarah dies in the second verse!  Why would the portion be called “The Life of Sarah”, when this very person, Sarah, dies in the second verse of the portion:  “And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba, that is Chevron, in the land of Kenaán, and Avraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her”?

This is where we need to align our own thinking with the Scriptural way of thinking.  The Life of Sarah includes the death of Sarah.  And not only that, it also includes those things that took place as a result of the life of Sarah, even after her death.  The legacy that she had left behind, the example that he had set, for others to follow, the impact that she had had on the lives of those  around her, the values that she had installed in the minds and the hearts of her deared ones.  Many commentators have questioned the specific wording of the first verse of this portion.  Why did the writer find it necessary to repeat the first part of the verse?  Would it not have been enough if the verse just stated: The life of Sarah was 127 years?  Why the addition: “The years of the life of Sarah”?  Some of the old Jewish commentators have come up with this explanation:  The first half of the verse is about the quantity (the number) of her years.  The second half is about the quality – the lasting impression, the legacy, the memorial that will live on in the hearts of others – even after she had passed away.

Another peculiarity of the opening verse of this Parashah is the way in which the age that Sarah had reached, is expressed.  It does not simply say: Sarah was 127 years old, when she died.  Literally, it says: Sarah was 100 years and 20 years and 7 years.  And then she died.  Many explanations for this unusual way of stating someone’s age have been given.  Some say that this verse is telling us that at 100 Sarah was as strong as she was at 20 and at 20 she was as pure as she was at 7.  Others put it somewhat differently.  They say at 7 Sarah was like age 20 in intelligence and at 20 she was like age 100 in righteousness.  All of this, of course, is pure speculation.  Based on what Scriptures are teaching, we know:  To reach 70 or 80 or even 100 years of age, is pure blessedness and favour received from the hand of Yahweh.  If, after that, another 20 years is added to your life, it just means that you have been blessed even more – not only more than average, but more than what you have already thought was sufficient.  And if, after those added 20 or 15 or 10 years, you are granted the privilege of living for 7 more years (7 being the number of completeness and fullness), then it almost becomes impossible to express the measure of favour that Yahweh had bestowed upon you.  This is what it means to live one’s life with a mindset of belief:  To look carefully for, and to recognize and to be exceedingly grateful for Yahweh’s hand of favour upon your entire life – not only when it comes to the AGE that you reach at the end of your life, but also with regards to blessings and gifts and even the smallest of privileges in other areas of life.

We’ve already referred to the importance of commemorating the death of Messiah, rather than his birth (not because his birth was not important, but because of the Scriptural command – not only via the Torah, commanding us to keep the Pesach or Passover from year to year, but also Messiah Himself who commanded his followers to think about the giving up of his life and the shedding of his blood, every time they come together for the Feast of Pesach).  But we should not only remember the fact of Y’shua’s death.  We should also take seriously what He said about death and how death relates to living.  Y’shua never avoided the subject of death and the things He taught will help us to gain a much better understanding of this very important aspect of our existence here on earth.

Mat 10:37-39 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take up his stake and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he that has lost his life for My sake shall find it.  LIFE IS NOT SO MUCH ABOUT FINDING THINGS, AS IT IS ABOUT FOLLOWING A PERSON.

Mar 10:29-31 Y’shua said, Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for the sake of Me and the Good News, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come, everlasting life. But many who are first shall be last, and the last first.  LIFE WITH SHORTAGE AND LOSS, DOES NOT NECESSARY MEAN THE LOSS OF LIFE.

 Luk 12:22-24 And He said to His taught ones, For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you shall eat; nor about the body, what you shall put on. The life is more than the food, and the body is more than the clothing. Look at the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor granary, and Elohim feeds them. How much more valuable are you than the birds?  LIFE IS INFINITELY MORE THAN FOOD AND CLOTHING AND STOREHOUSES.

Joh 5:24-26 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me possesses everlasting life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.  Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of Elohim. And those having heard shall live.  For as the Father possesses life in Himself, so He gave also to the Son to possess life in Himself.  OUR FOCUS IN LIFE SHOULD NOT BE ON THOSE WHO POSSESS THINGS BUT ON HIM WHO POSSESSES LIFE IN ITSELF.

Joh 14:3-6 I go and prepare a place for you and shall come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, you might be too. And where I go you know, and the way you know. Taoma said to Him, we do not know where You are going, and how are we able to know the way? Y’shua said to him, I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW WHERE THEY ARE GOING IN LIFE, Y’SHUA IS THE WAY AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.