People really haven’t changed much. Their attitudes and behaviors are much the same as they were thousands of years ago. At his core, man wants to direct his own steps. He chafes at the idea of someone telling him what to do. Joshua summed it up well in Joshua 17:6, “in those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” This leader of God’s people could have written those words about our society today.
However, it is ironic that despite his animosity toward God, man still likes to veil himself in a shroud of religion. Like his behavior, this is nothing new. The Lord spoke to the kingdom of Israel through the prophet Amos. He wrote, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” They feasted before the Lord and they came together in holy assemblies before him, but he despised their lives” (Amos 5:21).
God instructed Jeremiah to write a letter of rebuke to the nation of Judah. They heard the letter read on a day of fasting to the Lord (Jeremiah 36:9 — 10). The Lord rebuked their wickedness at the moment of their fast.
Today is a little different. In 1968, the group Blood, Sweat, and Tears recorded a single entitled “And when I die.” It rose to the number two position on the Billboard charts and is the de facto anthem for our world today. Its lyrics contain the line, “I swear there ain’t no heaven and I pray there ain’t no hell.” Is this not how people live today?
A passing observation of most people’s lives reveals that they live without any interest in the divine. As in ancient days, man wants no one telling him what to do. Yet, he will almost certainly have a religious funeral service when that man dies. Before his body is dropped into the ground he tries to curry favor with God. Such an attitude causes one to ponder the case of the rich man in Luke 16. This man lived his life surrounded by the blessings of wealth. Nearby, and certainly within sight of the rich man, was Lazarus. Both died. But their outcomes were vastly different.
One can be sure that the rich man had a grand funeral. There were large crowds, numerous mourners who were well paid, and many speeches from those who fawned over the rich man. But the Bible says that when the rich man opened his eyes on the other side of life, he was in “torments” (Luke 16:23). For all intents and purposes, heaven does not exist for the rich man, for he will never see it. Furthermore, he cannot pray hard enough to eliminate the reality of hell.
We feel relief when a firefighter appears to direct us out of a burning building. No sane person would argue with him. No one would stand before the firefighter to leave him alone. Of course not, it would be foolish. But the creator of all that is, ever was, and ever will be, tells us how to avoid the wrath that is to come. How foolish to tell him not to direct us. The Lord knows what awaits the unrighteous, and he has done all that is possible to lead us away from destruction.
Dr. Thomas B. Warren once commented that this life is a “veil of soul making.” Him that is, this is the time when we prepare our lives for eternity. What a shame to waste the time we have been given. Let us not live like the world, let us live for eternity.