THE END OF DAYS
Lamentations 4:18 “They tracked our steps so that we could not walk in our streets, our end was near; our days were over, for our end had come.”
Throughout the history of mankind there has always been a group of people fascinated with the end of things, the end of days, and with the end of time.
Maybe it is because we experience the death of things on a daily basis, we are not so much aware of it, those of us who live in modern cities that provide us with the comfort of buying things that have already been killed and packaged, but think back to earlier times.
I remember when I was a kid growing up in Cuba,
even though we lived over the ocean waters, for our house was built on stilts, we still raised chickens on the back deck of the house, and every time my mom was going to fix chicken for dinner one of them had to die.
We kept live fish in the well tank of our boat that was tied to the front of the house, and every time that we were going to have fish for dinner, we went to the tank, got the fish out, killed it and cooked it.
We did that with pigs and turkeys that we raised for special occasions as well, I even remember a goat that we raised once, it chewed through the wooden boards on the floor and fell through and ended up hanging itself on the chain that it had tied around its neck while its hind legs were dangling over the water.
So that the experience of the cycles of life and death, beginning and endings, are well seated within our DNA.
But how does the Bible define what we call the end of days, not just generally as of the end of the age, but our personal end as well?
Psalm 39:4 “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.”
David’s prayer gives us great insight as to why we humans are either fascinated, fearful, or willfully indifferent, to the awareness of the end of things as we know them.
How many times are we reminded of our mortality? How many times do we ignore it?
At the heart of David’s prayer was the cognitive reality that to ignore our personal mortality reduces our ability to prepare ourselves, and our posterity, for the end of the age that will one day come upon the final generation of humans that will live to see that day.
David strongly implies that knowing about his personal mortality as well as the duration of his days while here on the earth, would make him more sensitive to the frailty of life.
Now here is the implication, it is extremely hard for us humans to really value human life if we are not fully aware of the value of our own life.
How do we react to news that a flood or a landslide killed hundreds of people on a far away distant land? First thought that comes to mind is, those things are always happening to those people out there.
How do we react when a tragedy like that happens in our own neck of the woods? New York city is still three thousand miles from where I lived in September 11, 2001 and yet I felt, and I still feel, like I was right there when that tragedy happened. Now why is that? Because when we are personally affected by an event that causes many lives to perish, their death becomes more real to us.
And that is the idea that Psalm 39 is trying to convey to us.
Listen to what it was that caused David to ask God to give him the revelation of: Make me to know my end.
Psalm 39:2-3 “I was mute with silence, I held my peace (became indifferent) even from good; and my sorrow was stirred up. My heart was hot within me; while I was musing (just thinking about it), the fire burned. Then I spoke with my tongue (took action).”
Wow! What a powerful description of what moved him.
First David said to himself, I am going to keep my mouth shut, I don’t care if it is good or bad, I’m just going to stay out of it.
Isn’t that what so may of us do today? Society is going to hell in a hand basket all around us, so many are dying of drug overdose, so many others are shot dead on a daily basis, and well, we just feel so helpless that we tell ourselves to ignore it, for after all, there is nothing that we can really do about it, or so we feel.
Then David said that, his sorrow was stirred up, what was it that caused David’s sorrow to be moved? He said that while he was just sitting around thinking about the situation and doing nothing, the fire burned.
There are two ways to interpret that, one is that while we sit around and muse and do nothing, the fire continuous to rage and consume all around us unopposed, inflicting a heavy toll on society.
The other way to interpret that is, that while we are witnessing the heavy toll on life that our indifference is in some way aiding and abetting, it is what causes our inward fire to burn that moves us to do something.
What David did was he prayed. Prayer is recognition that we ourselves are unable to change the situation by our own mortal means.
It is amazing to me that David in his prayer did not ask God to give him strength to deal with the situation that he was too weak to handle, instead he asked God to reveal to him his weaknesses to the utter most, for this is what David say: That I may know how frail I am.
This is so amazing, because it defies human logic. How is me knowing how weak in reality I really am is going to solve the situation?
There is a Scripture parallel that applies here I believe, and it is found in the entire book of the prophet Habakkuk.
Habakkuk 1:2-4 “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ And you will not save. Why do you show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds.”
Habakkuk was a righteous Israelite man who lived among the sinful people of the nation of Israel of that time. He is praying to God and he is asking God why He is not answering his prayer, Habakkuk tells God that he is even pointing out the wrong doing that he sees when he cries out publicly, Violence!
Back in Bible days it was customary to cry out publicly, or to publish, when something bad was happening that could affect those around them.
In the case of a leprous person having to pass near anyone else that was not infected with leprosy, the victims of leprosy were required by law to cry out loudly, Unclean! Unclean! To warn those around then not to come in close contact with them.
In the same manner when a sin was being perpetrated against another in the nation of Israel, it was required of the Israelites to expose the wrong doing publicly, and that is what Habakkuk is saying to God he did, to no avail.
Then Habakkuk says this to God: Why do you show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? Basically Habakkuk is saying, Lord if You are not going to answer my prayer of action against lawlessness, why then do you allow me to witness so much evil? After all, if you do not answer my prayer, there is absolutely nothing that I can do about the wrong that is all around me.
However God is trying to teach Habakkuk what David already knew and was teaching us on Psalm 39.
Habakkuk 1:5 “Look among the nations and watch—be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it was told you.”
So God takes the prophet Habakkuk into a vision of the near future, and reveals to him what dreadful end the nation of Israel has coming because of all their sinfulness that they refused to repent from.
Habakkuk is in shock when he witnesses first hand what the utter devastation of all those around him will be. However what troubles him the most is the way in which God executes judgment on Israel. I guess Habakkuk expected some holy and righteous nation to be used by God to judge his faltering nation, but instead God uses a nation that is far worse, as far as sinfulness and cruelty is, than Israel ever was, to judge them.
This is how God describes the nation that He will use to judge Israel for all their sinfulness that they have committed against Him.
Habakkuk 1:7 “They are terrible and dreadful; their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves.”
So that Habakkuk’s prayer changes in emphasis, instead of saying how bad the Israelites really are that lived all around him, now he is asking God how can you use a nation that is far worse than Israel could have ever been to judge us? And then this is what Habakkuk says:
Habakkuk 2:1 “I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected.”
Then God takes Habakkuk into a vision of the future end of days, when the entire earth, along with all the nations, will be judged by God for all their ungodly acts that they have committed against Him.
The experience is so traumatic that Habakkuk finally realizes that the judgments of God for the end of days are so completely dreadful, that he now understands how frail human life truly is, and instead of feelings of inadequacy and helplessness, or complaining about all the wrong that was all around him, instead he realizes that the only hope for all humans lies in God’s mercy.
Habakkuk 3:2 “O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.”
David’s prayer was: Make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.
Notice how the prayer of Habakkuk mirrors what the prayer of David was, Revive Your work in the midst of the (my) years.
I believe that there are no humans that have ever experienced how dreadful the judgments of the end of days are, and who have not prayed this prayer in earnest:
IN THE DAY OF YOUR WRATH, REMEMBER MERCY!
We are living in the midst of dire and difficult days, to say the least, for lawlessness and perversion are rampant every where we look. But let our prayer emphasis change from, God look at all the evil that is all around us, when are You going to judge it? To the New Testament revelation that says, The more that sins abounds, the more that the grace of God abounds.
Let us see what is going on all around us as an opportunity to usher in the grace of God. And we can pray that prayer "in wrath remember mercy" sincerely, only if we have felt the heart of God in this matter.
For our God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. That is why Jesus went to the cross.