Dear radio friends,
The celebrations of a world apart from Jesus Christ at the end of the year are the vain celebrations of a fool attempting to escape reality. The passing of another year tells every human being that he is just that much closer to the moment when he must stand before the living God. It brings the reality of death, the loss of things, everything of this life. And it brings the reality of judgment, and, if one is yet in his sins, of condemnation before a holy God. The drunkenness and the partying of a New Year’s Eve is that of a fool hiding from reality. It were better for men and women to make their way to the house of God, for their neighbors to be invited with them, on such a night in order that, coming to God’s house, they might consider their latter end, and might learn to count their days, to apply their hearts unto the wisdom that is to be found alone in Jesus Christ.
As the people of God, will we join the world in their celebrations? No. Well, then, are we a bunch of morbid people, with a sourpuss religion? No. As the year comes to its close, we celebrate. We celebrate God’s glorious promises. We celebrate the wonderful thing it is to belong to Him in life and death. And we come to God’s house to celebrate. Not to bring the offering of a fool but truly to rejoice and to praise God for His grace.
What would we celebrate at the close of a year as people of God? Well, we would celebrate God’s faithfulness. You may look back over the 365 days of this past year—its sorrows, shame, and weariness—and you must say this concerning those days: “God was faithful. There was no shadow of turning with the Almighty. He was ever faithful, ever true.”
Still more. We celebrate the fact that we are closer to the moment when we shall see Him face to face. Our glorification is now closer than it was a year ago. We are closer to home.
Still more. We celebrate the purposes of God that have been accomplished. There have been no setbacks in His kingdom, no failures, no shortfalls of expectations. But God again has performed all His good pleasure.
Still more. We celebrate at the end of the year our hope, which is the day of the Lord Jesus Christ, when the heavens shall be parted and the Lord shall descend and we shall see Him and we will be with Him and be like Him.
It is to the hope of the return of Jesus Christ and the victory that is in Christ that the words of Job long ago pointed. Our text today is found in the book of Job, chapter 14:14, where he says under inspiration of the Spirit, “all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” Job, in the Bible, was the man who suffered. He was a tall cedar tree of faith for sure. But he grew by the riverside of tears. He had an unusual and humanly unbearable load of trouble and pain—the death of his ten children, and horrible pain in every part of his body, going down into the depths of his soul. His sufferings brought him to the reality of the brevity and the frailty of life. He says in chapter 14:1, 2 that “man that is born of a woman is…full of trouble…. He fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.” He says again in verse 7 of the 14th chapter: “There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.” Yet, of man, he says in verse 10, “But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?”
But in the midst of those sufferings that were sharp and painful, Job had hope. He had a hope that would never make him ashamed. He was remarkable. Job had full knowledge of the resurrection of the body in the final day. He says in chapter 19 that he will see his Redeemer in the final day in his flesh. He had a sure hope. He had a hope of the resurrection unto eternal life in Jesus Christ the Lord. He knew that he would be changed. He is not referring in our text today (14:14) to a change to a more prosperous earthly condition. He is not talking about coming out of ruin to success, out of sickness to health. But he shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, when the trumpet shall sound. He knew he would be changed when Jesus returned—changed from death to glory, changed in the last day to a body like unto the Lord’s glorious body. In that hope he lived. In that hope he waited. And in that hope he had the victory. And so do we.
He says, “All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” We are appointed or allotted by God the exact amount of time we will live on this earth. In His book, God has set the moment of your death. He has determined how far your life will run. Job says in verse 5 of the 14th chapter: “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.” We read in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” God is God. Nothing can change that. Your days are measured by the Creator. Our time, not known to us, is known to God.
There is something very beautiful about that, for us as children of God. In Psalm 31:15 the psalmist sees the beauty of it and he says, “My times are in thy hand.” The amount of time each one of us is given is determined by the wisdom of God. And that amount of time always corresponds in God’s wisdom to what is necessary to prepare us for glory. God does not simply give us length of days, as if days and time on this earth are in themselves a blessing. No, God measures days in terms of accomplishing what His wisdom requires to be performed in our life. And then, when the perfect measure that God has infinitely decreed for us is full, then God comes and He says, “It’s time. Come! Come to be with Me.” Even as Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father in John 17, “Father, I will that they be with me where I am, that they might behold my glory.” That time for our life may be one month. It may be two years. It may be ten years or twelve. It may be sixteen, seventy-five, or ninety-two.
Notice that we are told two things about the allotted time that each one of us is given as a child of God. First of all, God measures it in days. God does not count time in years, months, or decades, but in days. He says in Deuter-onomy, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” In Psalm 90, we are taught to pray, “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” You may look this up for yourself. You will find that always the Bible emphasizes the day of life. So does Job in this chapter. In verse 1 he says, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days.” Again, in verse 5 he says, “Seeing his days are determined.” And in verse 6: “Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day.”
Have you already counted the coming year as yours? Are you looking five years ahead? God counts in days. That teaches us the shortness of our human life, especially as it is compared to glory and eternity. Human life is short. Man thinks that he is forever ( Ps. 49), he believes that his houses are for aye, that his dwelling places are for generations. He builds for years. But it is a day. Infancy is daybreak; youth is sunrise; adult-life is noonday; sickness and arthritis are sunset; old age is evening. It is but a day.
And as a day, our human life now constitutes many different changes. How much can come in a day? In weather—in the morning it may be clear; at noon clouds. How sudden can the change come from health to sickness, from peace to worry, from prosperity to adversity. And we are of limited strength. You go about a day and that is it, you need rest from God.
The second thing that Job teaches us about our life is that our present time is a time of warfare. In the Hebrew we could translate the verse this way: “Till all the days of my appointed warfare I will wait.” “My appointed warfare”—meaning that, although we have the victory in Jesus Christ and eternal life in Him, nevertheless this present life is a time of war for the child of God. Ever since the fall into sin, time has been in turmoil, turmoil because of sin. Not turmoil in heaven. Not turmoil before the throne of God. But upon earth, for us, it is now turmoil time. And you cannot get away from it. That is true of the Christian. That is true of the life that is in Jesus Christ. That is true for all those who are in Christ. Now is the time of hardship, of watchfulness, of combat. Christ does not dress you in silk right now. He does not seat you on a throne today. In Christ you are in battle fatigues. You fight against sin. You are to endure hardship for Jesus’ sake. And you are to stay awake and fight the good fight of faith.
That earthly life of warfare for the child of God, as to its length, is determined exactly by God. Do not say, as men do, “I cheated the guy with the black hood and the sickle. I cheated death. I’m a good driver.” God, who numbers the hairs on your head, numbered also your days—how long and how many they shall be. And you shall not live one minute longer than He has willed. Do not say that a person died before his time. Ecclesiastes 7:17, “Be not over much wicked…why shouldest thou die before thy time?” That verse does not mean that the moment of death is changeable. But it looks at death from our point of view. We live so many years. And the Bible says that if you are grossly wicked, if you are reckless, if you give yourself over to the vials of sin, then from a human point of view you may well die sooner. But still God has appointed our time. He has appointed the time when we shall die.
God tells us that for a reason. He tells us, Do not live thinking that you will always have time—time for this spiritual deed, time to develop this spiritual discipline. But use each moment in service to God, to do what is pleasing in His sight.
I was once told that a good musician learns to go for something on each note. It is not just a note. But he makes each note that he plays clear, distinct, the very best that he can make it. Child of God, you must go for something in each moment—God, His glory, and His service. Do not put off repentance. Do not say, “Tomorrow, tomorrow.” The Word of God says, “Turn now.” Your breath goes out. You do not know if you will draw another breath after the one you have. The great enemies to the Christian are sloth, carelessness, indifference, and apathy. These are awful sins. And they are the sins of presumption—that we think that we have time to begin daily personal prayer life; that we have time to begin daily Bible reading; that we have time to perform those deeds of humble service in the church. Death may be sent to you at any time, as far as you know. Knowing that your time is appointed by God, be diligent now to use that time.
God says that there will come a great change. The words of Job, “All the days of my appointed warfare, I will wait until my change comes.” There will be a great change. From time to eternity; from turmoil and battle to calm and peace; from struggle and weariness to everlasting joy and praise; from this short life to unending full glory. Death will make the change. In death God makes my change. Plainly Job is thinking of death as marking the end of his earthly time and the beginning of a great change in him. He did not see death as the end. But he saw it as a change from one life to another. He saw that death is indeed unavoidable. Death makes an unalterable change. Our time on earth is over. We never get it back. We never go back. It is finished. But we are brought to another life, a life that the apostle Paul says, for the believer, is far better. A great change comes to all men and women when their appointed time of life is over and death puts them before the face of God. The eyes close in death, maybe suddenly. Or, maybe, it was expected. But when physical death comes and the breath is gone from the body and the mind stops and the blood does not flow and the body becomes cold and then stiff, a change takes place. We enter into another place. We come before God.
For the wicked it is dreadful. It brings them down to hell. Jesus says there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. There shall be a flame that does not die. And the fire is not quenched. There will be chains of darkness forever. And the words from the throne of God: Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting darkness reserved for the devil and his angels. In a moment the wicked are cast down. Will it be tonight? When they are laughing and drinking and cursing and defying God will they be called from this life? No tears can quench these fires. No time can finish its punishment. Death is terrible to the wicked. Flee the wrath that is to come. Repent! Find refuge in Jesus Christ. How terrible it would be to leave this life in wealth and pleasure, with glasses filled to the brim and blasphemy upon your lips and your heart not changed!
Change will come to the believer. Psalm 17, “When I in glorious righteousness shall see thee as thou art; thy likeness, Lord, when I awake, will satisfy my heart.” What beauty! How shall I describe it? The angels, on the first day of creation, worshiped when the light appeared out of the darkness, and when on the second day the clouds and the atmospheres hung over the earth. And on the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth days the angels stood in awe and worshiped before God. There is something marvelous about a sunrise. It captures your soul.
But now, think of this. There comes a time when we shall no more see through a glass darkly but we shall see face to face, when sorrow and sighing and death and sin and tears will vanish and we will behold the King in His glory. All the burdens and all the sorrows of this life will fall away. What a change! Ushered, by Christ the King, to stand before the throne of God in Paradise, to be forever in the presence of God in His eternal love and peace. We will be brought from the earthly house of this body to a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. We will be made perfectly righteous. A change is coming! I know it is coming. For it has happened already in our Lord Jesus Christ. He has entered into glory for us. He is changed. And through His merits, our change will also come. Death will be swallowed up in victory. Yes, you must go through the rough door of death. Yes, the awful sorrows of death may fall upon your heart in this present world. Now you may bear those sorrows. It may come at the time when your loved one will leave you. And no human hand can hold us as we go through death. We must leave this life.
And we see now, from this side, only the body changed. The loved one does not hear, does not talk, does not respond. The body decays, and we must bury our dead. Death is horrible. All of man’s beauty is consumed away.
But faith in Jesus Christ sees and knows: I shall be changed; I will see Him; I will awake in righteousness; I will enter into Father’s house of many mansions; I will be clothed in immortality. Job says in verse 15: “Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.” We shall be changed to glory, to eternal life in the presence of God, to the place of feasting and joy and happiness. And the body, too, will be changed. For at the day of Jesus’ return, in the end of all time, Job says in verse 12: “Man lieth down, and will rise when the heavens are parted.” Jesus Christ will appear on this earth. He will stand before the graves, and the bodies of the saints shall awake and be changed like to the glorious body of Jesus. The Spirit of God shall blow upon our graves. And these bones will live.
All the days of my appointed time, says Job, I will wait till my change comes. Job was resolved to wait, literally hope. He means that his life was determined by God. And when death comes, he will be changed. This truth would sustain him in his troubles. This truth would cheer him in his unutterable sorrows. This truth would guide him each day. It would keep him from making too much of the things of this life. It would keep him from making this life the treasure of his heart. He means that he will be patient. He will wait for God’s time. “Let God do His work in my life. I will wait. And I will ask only that I might obey Him.” Job’s troubles tempted him, pushed him to impatience, to desperation. “The suffering,” he said many times, “must stop. Another moment of this grief is too much.” But then Job said, “No. No. I will plant both of my feet in the promises of God. God rules. God holds my life. God determines the length of my life. I am content in the time that God gives me. And in God’s good time He will change me. At that right and perfect moment, when the work of His hands is complete, I shall be changed.”
That is our hope tonight. Wait a little while. God knows the end of your life. He has arranged the content of your life. He is at work in your life. He is preparing something for another time, for another place. His goal is not here below, but His goal is above. And when He is finished with you, He will come. He will change you.
And you will have all that your heart could imagine of the blessedness of Jesus Christ. And you shall have much more. You will have life eternal. You will be embraced in the bosom of the eternal God. Until then, be patient, be obedient, use the time that God gives you, get ready. Dress yourself each morning in the light of God’s Word. When He shows you your sin, go to the precious blood of Jesus Christ. When you struggle with sin, flee to Him for His strength. When your heart is broken, turn to Him for His matchless love and mercy and celebrate His faithfulness.
As the year ends, this day has drawn closer. As the minutes pass, the time when we shall be changed comes closer.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy precious Word. Bind it to our hearts through Jesus Christ, Amen.