How Long, O Lord?

   In some fifty-three passages of Scripture, the phrase “How long” appears; at least sixteen of these passages request God’s answer to the question of “How long?” These occasions always indicated times of trouble and an ardent desire to see the ending of these troubles and calmness returned to the soul. Often, these requests were fulfilled in the reality of death: for the righteous a blessed release, but the wicked, a torment without end.

   All of us have recognized the reality of death, but not all are ready to accept the reality. The very subject of death is considered “taboo” in some circles. The negativity against death is frequently uttered after the fact. For example, the NYPD offices that were recently ambushed were 27 and 22, respectively. Of them both, the utterances of “That’s much too young to die” were heard. Similarly, of one soul near eighty, it was said, “Seems he was just getting to enjoy his life.” Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment.” We simply are not informed as to the length of our years before that appointed time arrives!

   Psalm 90:10 states, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” The statement is neither “absolute” nor “inaccurate.” It is simply an “average” if you will. For generations, man lived for hundreds of years (see the early chapters of Genesis). When God determined to destroy the earth with the wicked (Genesis 6: 5 – 7), He said, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” This is when God changed the limitation of man’s years upon the earth. Yes, Noah and many others after the flood exceeded 120 years of earth life, but the average was reduced considerably. By the time of psalm 90, the lifespan of man was severely less than 120 as an average. Historians relate that during the first century C.E. sixty years was considered “aged” and eighty virtually unknown. Yet, think of the tremendous advancements in medicine within the past century alone! My uncle was one of the first to receive “opened heart surgery” in Cleveland Clinic in 1961. While he died on the table (he was only the sixth in the world to receive the “new” procedure), heart valve replacement, insertion of stints and even heart transplants are now “commonplace.” Treatments of cancers, cataracts, kidney malfunctions, lung damages, and even joint replacements are considered “life-extending surgeries” that less than fifty years ago were simply considered “impossible.” Yet, there remains death. That is one thing that is truly unstoppable for “it is appointed unto man once to die.”

   Yes, we are grateful for extensions to life. But there remain two critical questions for us to consider: 1) FOR JUST HOW LONG SHOULD WE EXTEND LIFE? and 2) ARE WE READY TO DIE REGARDLESS OF LENGTH OF LIFE?

   First, in some cases, it might not be as “joyful” to extend life as many might think. Those who have reached their “three score years and ten” or even their “fourscore years” might be much like the apostle Paul who realizing the time of his departure was at hand said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) While various drugs and machinery could keep us alive in a “technical” sense, without the quality of life in which we’ve served God, is it a blessing to extend that life? Even for much more youthful bodies, such a decision is not an easy one to make, and one no one envies the necessity!

   But the second question is of greater importance, for it applies to all ages who know the difference between right and wrong (James 4:17). From our youth, we should have been learning and obeying the gospel of Christ (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15). Some never learned the gospel in their youth, and therefore are thankful life was extended to them that they could learn and obey it for the sake of their eternity! While the child is safe with Christ (Matt. 18: 1-6) the older we get, the more accountable we are to God (Rom. 14:12); therefore, the greater necessity of being prepared to die.

   The difference is where we die. It is not about the home, the hospital, the city, etc. It is about the location of the soul! Note: “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” (Rev. 14:13) If not in the Lord, the only alternative is OUTSIDE of Him. The only way INTO Him is baptism (Gal. 3:27). Have you obeyed Him? If not, why not?

   None of us are condemned for asking, “How long, Lord?” We all would like to know … but we are never told! Therefore, the best alternative is BE PREPARED NOW … for we simply do not know “how long” it will be for us. Wouldn’t it be much better to have what time we may have left lived IN Christ rather than OUT of Him? After all, we are still asking, “How long, O Lord?”