September 9, 2020 | 0 comments
For me, this year began with my mother passing away, and me needing to prepare for her memorial service. A few months ago, I was visiting with my grandfather when he died right in front of me. And just a couple of weeks ago, a wonderful lady in my church went home to be with the Lord, and I had the honor of speaking at her graveside service. Death has been an ever-present companion during 2020, so I can certainly relate to Jacob in Genesis 37.
Please read Genesis 37:34-36.
The fact that his son is still alive is unknown to Jacob, so his reaction to news of Joseph’s death is genuine. He rips off the clothing of a wealthy man, and puts on sackcloth, which was a cheap, durable, ordinary item of clothing. It was dark, so it was proper garb for serious and sober occasions, especially fitting during times of grief and sadness. Jacob wears this sackcloth as an outward testimony to his inward feeling of mourning. He then spends many days mourning his son, in which he is inconsolable. No matter how his family may try to comfort him, Jacob is lost in his mourning, declaring that he will never be cheerful again.
If you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, then maybe you can empathize with Jacob. Even if you haven’t, you can certainly sympathize with him. Rachel was his beloved wife for whom he worked 14 years as a shepherd. She died while giving birth to her second son, Benjamin. And now her oldest son, Joseph, whom Jacob loved with all his heart, has been killed by wild animals (or so he thinks). Joseph has lost the one person in the world who is most precious to him. He doesn’t see any reason to go on living.
Jacob lived during a time where they didn’t have a concrete understanding of the afterlife. Most ancient Jews believed that this life was all there was, which is why God blessed them on this earth for their faithfulness, and cursed them on this earth for their disobedience. Once you left this earth, they believed that you might sleep forever, or maybe go down to Sheol (a kind of resting place that was starting to be understood in Jacob’s day). But, whatever the case may be, you certainly would never experience the joy of life again. With such a belief, no wonder they were distraught when a loved one died.
There is nothing wrong with mourning the death of a loved one. If you believe that this life is all there is, then your mourning will be even greater when someone passes out of this life. And even if you believe in heaven, it’s still natural to mourn when we lose someone close to us. The difference is that, as Christians, we do not mourn like those who have no hope.
Christians understand that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will spend eternity with Him in heaven. In the Lord’s presence, there will be love, joy, peace, rest, healthy work, and new bodies that are free from sin. There will be worship, laughter, feasting, dancing, and leaping for joy. There will be no more sorrow, shame, pain, or suffering. And best of all, believers will be able to see Jesus Christ face to face, to walk with Him, talk with Him, and know Him in a way that is unfathomable to us here on this earth.
Heaven will be amazing! When a believer passes from this earth, they immediately pass into the presence of Jesus in heaven. So, while it is natural for us to mourn their passing because we miss them, the Christian doesn't mourn like Jacob. We don't mourn like one who has no hope. We mourn with joy, knowing that we will see our loved one again, and they are already experiencing that to which we most look forward: the joy of heaven and seeing Jesus face to face.
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