This solemn occasion, in which we gather to bury this loved one, brings the age old question to mind: How do we deal with death? To be human is to have pondered this inevitable enigma. The death of someone close to us hurls us into thoughts about our own mortality. Death is that lonely part of the human journey, the ticket to that solitary ride into the mysterious cosmos and the life beyond.
Death, and how to deal with it, is one of the great themes of literature. It is the constant concern that motivates thinkers, writers, and philosophers to dive into the depths of the human condition.
We want to know what follows this fragile earthly existence. What really happens? Not what this man says nor what that group claims, but what really transpires. What is the truth concerning that first step beyond this dimension?
Being Christians, we will look to the bestseller of all time, the Holy Bible. We will look to the ancient Hebrew patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and the Savior Himself for our answers.
What did they say about death? Not what someone said they said, but what words did they actually write down to explain to us about this experience called death? Moses reports to us that the LORD (Yahweh in the Hebrew) said to the fallen Adam, “In the sweat of thy face shall you eat bread, till you return unto the ground, for out of it were you taken. For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3: 19). Later in Genesis, Abraham said, Look at me. Here I am about to speak to Yahweh my Creator, and I am only “dust and ashes” (18: 27). King David says to God, “You have brought me into the dust of death.”
And some say that that is all there is. We are born; we walk around the earth for a moment in time; we laugh; we cry, and then we cease to be. But according to the Hebrew authors of the Bible, that is only half of the story.
Yes, our bodies are composed of dust and ashes. But another very special ingredient must be added. Take the dust, mix it with water, and add the special spark of the spirit through the miracle of the Master’s touch, and you have the human being–what the apostle Paul called, “the glory of God.”
“There is a spirit in man…”
The prophet Job confirms this when he writes, “There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives man understanding” (32: 18). Inside this miraculously fashioned body of dust lies a spirit given to us by our Creator through which He enlightens us. Job goes on and says that God speaks to us “in a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; then God opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction, that God may withdraw man” from his own purpose, and hide pride from man.”
God reaches out to us as we walk “through this valley of the shadow of death.” Job later explains how our “soul draws near to the grave.” Then God says to his messengers, “Deliver them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom.”
God promises to restore us to our youth if we say to our Maker, “I have sinned, and perverted that which is right…then He will deliver us from going to the pit, and his life shall see the light” (Job 33: 15-28).
Hope in the Resurrection
Who will deliver us from the grave? 2,000 years before the Savior walked the streets of Jerusalem, Job wrote, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth,” and though my body be destroyed, “yet in my flesh shall I see God” (18: 25-26).
The prophet Daniel confirmed this hope of life after our earthly body passes away. Michael the archangel told him that the resurrection will take place after the great “time of trouble” that will befall the earth in the latter days. At that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (12: 1-2).
So, there it is. In these few passages, we see a resurrection that will lift us up out of the dust of our graves. The resurrection is our only hope, and that hope hinges on our Redeemer and Savior. Christ said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
It is now left up to us the living to seek out and find our own way with our Maker. It is a personal thing. We all must find the path that leads out of the dust and ashes of death and be reconciled with God. We can help each other, of course, but we cannot “walk that lonesome valley” for someone else.
And so, now, we commend Scott Kenneth Hancock’s spirit back to the Heavenly Father from whence it came, and in fulfillment of scripture, we place his dust and ashes back into the earth from whence it came.
May God’s grace and mercy help us all on our journey back to the heart of God. Amen.
[Remembering my Dad with these words spoken over his grave ten years ago.] Kenneth Wayne Hancock