PART 6 The Uncertainty of Death
PART 6 The Uncertainty of Death
The Evil Spirit from God
Following the death of Joshua, who led the Israelites into the Promised Land of Canaan, the nation was ruled by people known as judges. These were men or women appointed by God to deliver up his people when they had fallen into hardship at the hands of their enemies due to worship of false gods. For over a period of about 350 years 15 different judges reigned.
The Lord answered him not
1 Samuel 8:1-3; 1 Samuel 18:8-10a; 28:7, 16, 19
And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba. And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. (1 Samuel 8:1-3)
Both of Samuel’s sons were appointed to be judges. However, it was known throughout the kingdom that they did not walk according to the tenets of the Mosaic Law, but rather had a love for lucre (profit) that was obtained wrongfully through the taking of bribes [to something given or paid to a person (often in secret) in order to encourage him to act the way the giver wants him to act, even if the act is wrong or unjust18]. The people decided it would be better to have a king rule over them like other nations than to be under the leadership of Samuel’s sons. So, God granted their request.
The name of this soon to be king was called Saul. Little did he know that when he and his servant were sent by his father to locate some missing donkeys that they would meet up with the prophet Samuel along the way, whom God informed as to when and where this encounter would take place. As Saul is asking Samuel about the missing donkeys, Samuel told him to not worry about them as they were already found. He proceeded to tell him of the fact that God has chosen him to be the next leader over the nation of Israel. Can you imagine what was going through his mind when he heard this? You believe that I am supposed to be Israel’s king? Samuel shared with him the word of God and then anointed him with oil. Clear instructions were given to Saul as to where he should go after he departed from his presence and what to expect when he got there to which he followed the instructions to the tee.
Lo and behold, Israel has her first king. His reign was marked by military victories over Israel’s enemies, but at times he exhibited character traits that were not of divine orientation. While no one is perfect, it appears he didn’t seem to learn from his decisions that emanated from human viewpoint. One might assume that he didn’t spend time in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) learning and appropriating God’s commands, judgments, testimonies, and statutes.
This was evident in so many instances. In a battle with the Amalekites, Saul was instructed by the prophet/judge Samuel to kill all the people, their king Agag, along with all of the livestock. Saul obeyed this admonition as he saw fit. He spared the king and the choice livestock. In a later encounter with the Philistines, who sent out their champion warrior named Goliath to taunt their army and their God, Saul chose not to inquire of the Lord for guidance. Instead, a shepherd boy named David showed up, who being aware that no one would go out and fight this enemy foe, took the divine initiative to confront and defeat him. After which, Saul rightfully appointed him as commander over the army.
1 Samuel 18:8-10a And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, …
However, Saul became extremely jealous of David when he heard the responses by many of the people of the kingdom who praised his conquest over Goliath above those of Saul. It seems that his incessant jealousy caused him to even imagine that at some point David would attempt to overthrow his kingship. At this point, he was given over by the Lord to walk in this evil mindset instead of God’s Spirit. Eventually, he attempted to kill David either by his own hand when he was in his company or while he was with his army pursuing after him when he decided to flee for his life.
1 Samuel 28:1a, 4-6 And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel… And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams nor by Urim, nor by prophets.
Unfortunately for Saul, his day of reckoning has now arrived. As we have come to realize, he lived for most of his reign relying upon himself for guidance. And now he is in a predicament. A battle between Israel and one of their chief enemies the Philistines is about to take place. Saul went up to a high place and was able to get a good view of their company and realized this was not going to end well. Even though his relationship with God had been nonexistent for a while he sought to inquire counsel from Him through various means (e.g. dreams, prophets, Urim) probably figuring that he had nothing to lose. However, God chose not to provide him with any counsel.
1 Samuel 28:7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.
Being desperate he resorted to seeking out a woman who had a familiar spirit. She was otherwise known as a medium; one who was possessed with an evil spirit. The words “familiar spirit” indicates that she could call up departed spirits to give answers to those who consulted them.19
Just who are these departed spirits? Some say they are the spirits of those, who didn’t believe in God when they lived on earth and subsequently after they died they went to a place in hell called torments. Others believe these are not the spirits of the dead at all, but are demons (fallen angels) who are impersonating the dead.
1 Samuel 28:16, 19 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the Lord also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.
The medium proceeded to ask Saul, who would he like to hear from, and he replied Samuel whom we know as the former prophet/judge of Israel. When she sees Samuel she cries out as if in shock possibly because the scripture tells us that she recognized the person who was asking her to get in touch with him who was actually Saul the king of Israel. Samuel proceeded to asked him why he was summoned. Saul replied because he had attempted to receive direction from the Lord as to the state of affairs relating to the upcoming battle with the Philistines and God chose not to reply to him. Samuel said to him that the reason God had chosen not to confer with him was because of his continual disobedience to His directives. However, He did allow Samuel to give him the bad news. Israel will not only be defeated, but both Saul and his sons will be killed.
Here is a story of someone who was chosen to be the first king of Israel. He seemed to start out well by obeying God’s instructions through the relaying of such by Samuel, but he didn’t grow spiritually. The propensities of his flesh, jealousy, fear, worry were never addressed by him. Instead, his over occupation with these thoughts resulted in an acting out in a manner unbecoming a man of God. As a result, God would not respond to any of his attempts to seek counsel of him when he needed him most which could be attributed to the fact that God knew that even if he had given him an opportunity to repent of his disobedience he would have done it insincerely only to spare his life and not as an indication of changing his thoughts and ways.
I thought of one more story of death which will be presented in the next chapter. This pertains to a king who asked of God to grant him a very unusual request, which believe it or not God granted.
Now on Whom Dost Thou Trust?
I have heard thy prayer
Suggested Reading: 2 Chronicles Chapters 29-32; 2 Kings Chapters 18-20
King Ahaz of the Southern Kingdom of the two tribes of Judah has died. His young son named Hezekiah succeeded him at age 25. Before I present to you what he requested from God near the end of his life in respect to the subject of death, I think it’s important to know a little bit about him as I believe what characterized his life had a lot to do with God granting his prayer request. One thing to keep in mind is that in Hebrew his name means “the Lord strengthens”.
2 Kings 18:5-6 He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses.
His father allowed the worship of Baal to continue throughout the land while the temple at Jerusalem was closed. His son was quite different than his father in terms of his disposition. He was a king who put his trust wholly in God. He clave (adhered faithfully) to the Lord having persevered through the whole of his life.20 This says to me that he not only believed in Him, but learned and appropriated the tenets of the Mosaic Law.
This is evident in that in the first year of his reign he had both the outside and inside of the temple cleansed from idolatrous paraphernalia. Following this cleansing, the doors of the temple were reopened, and the priests and Levites returned to its service. He sent out letters throughout Israel and Judah encouraging the people to come to the temple at Jerusalem and observe the feasts of the Passover and Unleavened bread which had been neglected for some time. Because of this invitation many came and worshipped the Lord. After the days of observing these feasts ended, the people got together and went throughout all the cities in and about Jerusalem destroying anything related to idol worship.
2 Kings 18:11-12 And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes: Because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them.
Unfortunately, over a period of time, the Northern Kingdom of Israel reverted back to idolatry. In the 6th year of the reign of Hezekiah of Judah, the counterpart nation of Israel was invaded by Assyria and taken away into captivity. Eight years later, Sennacherib king of Assyria, has aspirations to invade the Southern Kingdom of Judah. This is an incredible story, one that truly exemplifies Hezekiah’s character.
2 Kings 18:13-15 Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them. And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king's house.
As Hezekiah’s father Ahaz agreed to send Sennacherib tribute money every year in exchange for their safety from his attack so Hezekiah gave him tribute money in order to avoid a confrontation. After the ransom money was paid, Sennacherib was not satisfied. He decided to send a delegation to meet up with a delegation sent by King Hezekiah. They were advised to surrender otherwise they and their city of Jerusalem would be destroyed.
2 Kings 18:31 Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern:
Hindsight is always 20-20. The Mosaic Law strictly forbid the giving of tribute to another nation. It is clear that Hezekiah made a mistake. However, the mark of a humble mature man of God is that they recognize their error, repent, and go forward. Word got back to the king that unless an agreement was reached all would be lost. Upon hearing this did he respond again in fear as he did earlier and give in? No, he went to the temple and prayed to God. He also notified various individuals of the kingdom one of whom was the prophet Isaiah who told the messenger to go back to the king and let him know that God will take care of Sennacherib.
2 Chronicles 32:17 He wrote also letters to rail on the Lord God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver his people out of mine hand.
2 Kings 19:14 And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.
In the meantime, the king of Assyria decided to stoke up the heat. He sent messengers again to Jerusalem with a letter that was only to be given to Hezekiah. In this, he mocks Hezekiah’s God saying that as the gods of other nations could not prevent their invasion so his God will not be unable to protect him. What Hezekiah does next is truly inspiring. He goes to the temple and spreads the letter out before the Lord and prays, reading the content of such out loud. After which, he worships and praises Him and then asks for help.
2 Chronicles 32:21 And the Lord sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he was come into the house of his god, they that came forth of his own bowels slew him there with the sword.
Unbeknownst to him God heard his prayer and gave his answer in respect to it, to the prophet Isaiah, who had the response sent back to Hezekiah. Hezekiah received assurance that the Assyrian army would not enter Jerusalem. God in his unique response sent the angel of the Lord into the Assyrian camp causing about 185,000 men to be killed.
As a result, the Assyrian army decided to withdraw and go back home to the city of Nineveh. Soon after, King Sennacherib decided to enter into the house of Nisroch his god for worship. Little did he know that two of his sons would decide to be with him there and kill him in this very place with the sword.
Now that we have become aware of this king, who while at times deviated from obeying the tenets of the Mosaic Law, he learned the lessons taught, brushed himself off, and changed course. He continually sought the Lord and his prophets as he well should of. God came through and took care of business. But what does all this have to do with the subject of death?
2 Kings 20:1-6a In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, saying, I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years;…
We are told that he was sick to death. The prophet Isaiah came to him and let him know that his life on earth was coming to an end. What do you think his response was? He reminded God as to how he walked with him faithfully during his days as ruler and if so be his will I believe he was asking God to heal him of whatever it was that was going to be the cause of his death. God gave word to Isaiah to tell Hezekiah that he would heal him and as such there will be added unto him fifteen more years of life to live on this earth.
I believe that two things contributed to Hezekiah’s healing. The first was his walk with God. And the second was that he prayed for healing. As we know death is uncertain, but in this case his death was certain in that he knew when it was going to take place. What we now know is that while death is certain it doesn’t have to happen either at the time known because of sickness, persecution, or due to dire circumstances that we find ourselves in.
We have finished this study, and I would like to leave you with some closing thoughts.
Except Ye Repent, Ye Shall All Likewise Perish
I hoped this study helped you to understand the subject of death more fully. If you believe what was written, then you have learned a lot of things about it such as:
- Death is not permanent.
- When someone dies they leave their body behind, and they continue to live on albeit not in the ground or in a tomb.
- There is a resurrection of the dead.
- The timing of someone’s death can be changed.
- Prosperity and adversity happens to everyone whether they are someone who believes in God or not.
- Being righteous or unrighteous doesn’t prevent unexpected calamities which brings death upon those who are unsuspecting of it.
- God is not unjust when divine judgment comes upon an entire nation or individual.
- God can delay or prevent someone’s death based on their walk with him and request for prayer in respect to healing or in respect to deliverance from impending danger.
- Group prayer can free a believer who has been sentenced to death out from a seemingly impenetrable environment because of religious persecution.
- While God knows all things, even people’s evil thoughts and subsequent actions, this doesn’t mean that He will necessarily intervene and prevent these actions from taking place on the intended victims.
As I said to you earlier in this study, Jesus was asked why certain things happened to certain people. Was it because their sin was greater that all others in their periphery? Jesus said no. However, he did say that if you don’t repent you will likewise perish. What did he mean by this? Jesus didn’t say, well like them everyone will die someday. He said unless you repent, you will likewise perish.
Jesus was talking about people’s eternal destiny!
John 11:23-26 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
Do you remember when he was talking to Martha Lazarus sister and he said the dead will rise again? And she replied, I know my brother will rise again in the resurrection. Then Jesus responded to her by saying, whosoever believes in me will never die. This infers three things: that in order for Jesus to say this he had to be more than just a mere man, secondly that something happens to someone who believes in him, and thirdly, that there is a better place waiting for someone after they die physically.
I don’t know what your eternal standing is with God, but if you are someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus then please hear me out. I can’t change your life, but there is one who can and you now know his name. You might have heard of him before. You might have been told that he is only a man. You might have been told that if you believe in someone else, then you will go to a better place when you die.
Well, here is what I have to say to you and that is that I was in your shoes at one point in my life. I attended many faiths and believed in many different gods thinking that when I died I would to go to a better place. But here was the dilemma, there was no proof that I was definitely going to a better place. You might say well you must have faith. I will say back to you that faith in hoping is not enough. There is a way to know for sure that you will go to a better place.
Scriptures state that there is one God who reveals himself to mankind in three persons, those being God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and because of sin all mankind owes God restitution or payment. One of the members of the trinity, Jesus Christ, was sent to be the substitute for us. He came to pay our debt, the entire debt of sin owed to God the Father, which is what he did.
He came to earth being born of a virgin (not having a sin nature), he lived a sinless life, he listen to and obeyed the Father’s directives, he died on a cross having the sins of the world poured upon him, he satisfied God’s justice and rose from the dead after three days, and ascended into heaven. And here is the evidence. If anyone repents of their sins to God the Father and believes in this Jesus we are told they will receive into their life another member of the trinity called the Holy Spirit who will come inside and indwell them. The Holy Spirit is himself the proof that God lives within us and is the evidence that we are now owned by Him and have an eternal dwelling place waiting for us at physical death.
Do you want this verification? If you do, then repeat these words.
God the Father I am a sinner. I believe in your son Jesus who came to earth and died for me on a cross having paid for all of my sins and after three days rose from dead. Now I am eagerly awaiting your response to me which is to send me the indwelling Holy Spirit who is the evidence that I belong to you and have assurance of eternal life.
I would also like to pray for you and say Lord give them evidence of the Spirit who has come into their life to indwell them. And if for some reason you have chosen not to say this prayer remember I am not trying to scare you, but as you know death is uncertain and once it happens unfortunately we don’t get a second try.
I want to say one more thing. If you are a Christian you have an opportunity just like those people who we talked about in this study. If a fellow believer is in prison unjustly you can along with other believers join together in prayer asking God to release them. If you have been unjustly treated for your faith you can respond back to them by witnessing a Godly testimony. If you have friends or family members who are unsaved you can go to God in prayer asking him to open up an avenue so you can share the gospel with them. If you find yourself in a life threatening situation you can pray to God the Father to keep you safe. In this world where death is uncertain you can pray for the safety of your loved ones whether they are saved or not with the hope that the former continue to grow spiritually and the latter have an opportunity to respond to an invitation for salvation.
And lastly, if you have lost a loved one, and I am sorry if this has been the case, you can go to God in prayer letting him know that you thank him for being a God of justice and mercy. Let him know that you understand that you don’t have to wait for the uncertainty of death to happen. You can be proactive by growing spiritually thus imitating the lives of Noah, Hezekiah, and Jehoshaphat knowing that you have a direct connection with God and that through prayer you can ask the God of the universe to intervene and change the course of events that were about to take place while keeping in mind the spiritual purpose for which your request is based upon.
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