As I read these verses the last verse in the section seems to stand out. Although I have read these words many times, one word stood out and got me thinking. Verse 36 says,
For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption.
A few posts ago I wrote about why it was that James the brother of John was allowed to be put to death by the sword, while The Lord sent his angel to protect Peter and release him from jail. Although I did not phrase the post this way, it was evident that the reason James died was, like David, he had served his purpose for The Lord.
Serving Gods Purpose
This got me thinking about all those other people who died suddenly and apparently at the height of their ministries or work with The Lord. Think of someone like Keith Green as an example. His music and ministry had taken off and was expanding constantly when he died suddenly in an air crash.
When things like this happen the first question people ask is…why? Why would The Lord allow such a thing to happen to someone who was such an ambassador and minister for The Lord and in a position to do such a tremendous work in bringing people to The Lord. Why? And I am sure many people know less well known people who similarly went to The Lord long before people expected they would.
But in this scripture we see the answer to such a conundrum. David was the king and although he was old when he died, he did not pass away until he had, “…served the purpose of God.” And that is the same for every other person. Once they had served God’s purpose they had no further work to do here and they were called home to be with Christ.
Why do they go?
Now this is the interesting question and we see the answer in a number of examples in the bible. Let us look at just two, David the King and the prophet Elijah.
Elijah was prophet and judge over Israel and his servant Elisha followed him and worked with him. When The Lord told Elijah that he would not die but would be taken directly into heaven, we see their discussion in 2 Kings 2:9-10.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” 10 And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.”
Elisha saw The Lord take Elijah in the fiery chariots and as he was taken Elijah dropped his cloak, which Elisha took up. This may be where the saying about taking on another persons mantle came from. What we then see is Elisha took up the “mantle” of Elijah and became prophet in his place.
This is the key to serving the purpose of God. Those who are taken are replaced by someone else who carries on the work and/or takes it to the next level.
Think about David who died and was replaced by Solomon as King over Israel. David had been king for many years and while he was on the throne Israel was at war constantly, which The Lord had allowed because of David’s sin in taking Bathsheba and having her husband Uriah killed in one of the wars. David was also prevented from building a permanent home for the ark of the covenant. It was Solomon who picked up the mantle of David and was permitted to build the first of the temples and who finally ruled Israel in peace as The Lord settled the disputes with the nations around Israel.
Likewise, when Keith Green died his wife picked up the mantle of Keith’s ministry and continued to take it to the world and it has grown. Who knows, perhaps it would not have been as effective and successful if Keith had remained. Maybe his focus would have continued to be on the music whereas his wife focused on the ministry. I have no idea why or what was in the Lord’s mind, but it is evident that Keith had served his purpose and it was time for the next person to take over the mantle of his work.
From these messages we learn a valuable lesson. When The Lord takes someone who is or has been a great minister in the word, it is because the person has served the purpose of The Lord. Their time has come to an end and they are rewarded by going to The Lord and they leave a space for the person or people who follow to pick up the mantle and run with it to the next level.
The greatest example of this principle was when The Lord Jesus died. He established the new covenant in His blood and set up the mechanisms by which the Christian church was to be built. Jesus was and is the foundation stone upon which the church is built, but when He died, the mantle was passed to the twelve chosen disciples to establish and grow the church. It was their work ministering for The Lord that built the church where today there are some two billion people who call themselves Christians.
Recall that when Jesus died his very last words were, “It is finished.” The work He had done was completed and He had fulfilled all the prophecies about himself and so he had completed the purpose of God. It was time to go to leave the next phase of the work to His disciples.
So take comfort knowing that if someone leaves to be with The Lord, it is because their purpose has been completed. They are being given rest from their toils and a reward of life with The Lord. And God will establish their successor so that the work continues and The Lord is glorified.
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