All the Good Things
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Death is an experience common to the children of men who must go “the way of all the earth,” as Joshua said. As surely as we came into this world by birth, so we will leave it by death. Death is the great equalizer. Death knows neither rich nor poor, neither male nor female, neither young nor old. As surely as man is born into this world, so must he also die. And the man who is prepared, when the voice of the Lord calls him from this life, is one who possesses a wisdom that surpasses all the wisdom of this earth. He will then close his eyes for the last time on the things of this world, things that are temporary and earth-bound, and will awaken in Jesus Christ to the heavenly joy that a gracious and loving God alone can give.
Don lived a very long life on this earth, well past the Biblical reckoning of “three score and ten.” He had his troubles. When Job said, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away. He flees like a shadow and does not continue,” Don understood what that meant—especially after the death of his beloved son. But he had many, many joys in this life. He was a man who was devoted to his family and, in fact, to anyone around him. He was a man of profound integrity; his word was always good. He was a very wise man, a man of many talents. And above all, he was devoted to His Lord. He was always happy to hear the Word of God, especially those words which reminded him of the love and mercy of the Savior, Jesus Christ. He rejoiced with every opportunity to confess his sin and to hear the words of absolution, and then to have those words made full in the receiving of the Savior’s very body and blood, given and shed for the remission of his sins. And so, just as Job did, Don could confess with supreme confidence, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” To Don has now been granted that greatest desire that rests in the heart of a Christian: the desire to be reunited with the Lord, to be face to face with Him who not only gave him life, but also gave Him the new and everlasting life in Holy Baptism.
Joshua was an old man when he spoke the words of our text, and he knew that he must very soon, as he said, “go the way of all the earth.” But, before the Lord called him out of this life, he had something to say to the people of God. He reminded them to remember the mercies of God and that God always keeps His promises. He admonished them to walk in the ways of the Lord and to remain faithful to Him. Because of the faithfulness of this man of God in remaining loyal to God, his words speak with as much conviction today as they did then.
Joshua knew that the day of his death would be his great day. This great day comes for each of the faithful of the Lord. When that day comes, you too will go “the way of all the earth.” Even when you live as long Don did, earthly life is still brief. We bide our time here until the Lord calls us to rest. Life on this earth is the life of the stranger, always away from his real home. Yet that life is filled with promise. As God never failed Joshua, He also never failed Don. Indeed, He will never fail those who put their trust in Him and His promises—above all, in the saving life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The promises of God are many. There is no way to number them. But all of His promises are good, for they never fail. The sure promises of God are like the stars in the sky, like the sands on the seashore. It is impossible to measure the goodness of a merciful God who remembers His faithful children. But at this moment, the greatest of all of God’s promises are those which make us certain of His peace and comfort that comes to those who trust and die in the name of the Lord, and for those who remain behind, awaiting their own day of deliverance from this life.
Just a few days ago we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord. After His bitter suffering and death, and after being laid away in the tomb for three days of rest, our Lord Jesus Christ came forth alive. His resurrection tells us that if any of us truly live with Him now, we will live with Him forever. This is the greatest of all of God’s promises. Don believed this promise. He rejoiced in all the good things God had promised him, but above all he rejoiced in the Savior who redeemed him from sin, from death, and from the power of the devil. He knew of the heavenly home that comes to all who, in Christ, must go “the way of all the earth.” He knew that God would keep every promise. And now, in the presence of Christ, Don is living the fulfillment of these promises in the fullness of their heavenly glory. Those same promises are for you. God grant you the same confidence of faith, even as He now gives you the comfort of the Holy Spirit in your grief. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.