The other day, I went to a memorial service. It was quite short as there weren’t many people about and the priest decided to give his “standard” service. (I have heard the “extra special” service on a different occasion.
But this one, it kinda stuck to me. Here’s how it went:
He has sought to please God, so God has loved him. He has been taken up, he has been carried off so that evil may not warp his understanding or treachery seduce his soul, for the fascination of evil throws good things into the shade, and the whirlwind of desire corrupts a simple heart.
This sounds amazing. I had to look it up and I found the whole thing in a collection of funeral readings:
A reading from the book of Wisdom 4:7–15
Untarnished life, this is ripe old age.
The virtuous man, though he die before his time, will find rest.
Length of days is not what makes age honourable,
nor number of years the true measure of life;
understanding, this is man’s grey hairs,
untarnished life, this is ripe old age.
He has sought to please God, so God has loved him;
as he was living among sinners, he has been taken up.
He has been carried off so that evil may not warp his understanding
or treachery seduce his soul;
for the fascination of evil throws good things into the shade,
and the whirlwind of desire corrupts a simple heart.
Coming to perfection in so short a while, he achieved long life;
his soul being pleasing to the Lord,
he has taken him quickly from the wickedness around him.
Yet people look on, uncomprehending;
it does not enter their heads
that grace and mercy await the chosen of the Lord,
and protection, his holy ones.
The service continued..
Coming to perfection in so short a time, he achieved long life.
His soul being pleasing to the Lord.
But what is pleasing to God? There are so many sites claiming to know or to interpret the Bible in different ways and some say that having no vices like “dancing” and “playing cards” and “drinking” and “smoking” are pleasing to God, but I say – what if becoming the best version of yourself is the actual way to please Him?
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God
He is taken in quickly from the wickedness around him.
How do you define wickedness? I keep thinking of a person like Cruella from 101 Dalmatians rubbing her hands together like Mr Burns from the Simpsons.
The Hebrew word for wickedness we find in dozens of Scriptures (e.g. used twice in Ezekiel 18:20) in the Old Testament is typically “rish`ah” and means “guilt” and when used as an adjective is “rasha`” which means “criminal” or “guilty one” or “guilty of crime”.
It does not enter their heads that grace and mercy await the chosen of the Lord and protection, his holy ones.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
I’m sure many of you have heard this verse as a benediction at the end of a sermon or a service. And you may think that’s nice that the pastor wants those things for us. Truthfully it is not the pastor, but God who wants all of these things for us. He wants to bless us.