The book of Judges opens with the five most powerful and chilling words of any other book in the Bible: After the death of Joshua… I love it because for many of us, death is a conclusion; however, in this case, death was merely an introduction to God’s continued work. God’s work always outlives His workers. The Bible is full of great little tidbits like this (that we often gloss over) in order to remind us that this book is a story about God, not us. One of the greatest military commanders in the history of Israel has five words written about his death. It’s not even a complete sentence. It’s a transition phrase that merely serves as the backdrop to move us along in the story.
A Sobering Reality
This is the way it’s been (for Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, etc.) and one day the same will be true of you. One day, your name will be preceded by the words “after the death of…” When this happens, there will be people that mourn for you; however, one day (and a lot sooner than you think) the mourning will end, life will go on, but more importantly God will still be hard at work in this world… without you. People will still seek God. If you’re a preacher, people will still be able to hear a “word from God” regardless if you (their favorite preacher) are gone.
A Sobering Relief
While this may sound morbid, it’s really a good thing for at least two reasons. First, there’s great comfort in knowing that God’s work will continue. Regardless of how much people are dependent on you right now, one day they will learn that God’s work is so much bigger than the part that you play in it. If they take God’s work for granted now because they’re enamored with you, we take relief in that one day they’ll see God a little clearer.
Second, this truth enables us to breathe a little freer today, knowing that as sure as God’s work will continue without you one day; even today, success isn’t dependent on your labor. Jesus has already guaranteed that God’s work in the world will be successful (see John 17:1-5). You and I merely get to play a part in it. A part. None of us are Atlas, tasked with the burden of carrying the world on our shoulders. We are free to fail, free to make mistakes, free to play our part in God’s story. Exhale and enjoy your day.
A Sobering Responsibility
If all of this is true, that God’s work will in fact outlive His workers, then our task is to live in light of this truth even today. The one thing that will be common for all of us is that when death knocks on our front door, it’ll feel like the friend that came to pick you up and you just got out of the shower. Very few of us will feel like we’re dressed, ready, and have accomplished everything that was on our plates.
Knowing that this will come soon and our lives will feel like they’re cut short, our responsibility is to prepare those that come behind us for life in this world without us. One day we will go, but people will have the same responsibility to God that we had while living: spending our lives to increase His fame in the world among those who don’t know Him or don’t care to know Him (which is often one in the same). Our lives are best spent preparing those who come behind us for life in the world without us.
In the opening of Judges, the rest of the first sentence is just as powerful as the introduction.
After the death of Joshua… the people of Israel inquired of the Lord.
Joshua was gone, but the people that lived on knew exactly what to do next. How are you doing that today?
Would your kids know how to navigate their relationship with God if today was the last day they had you to show them? How about your roommates? Your friends? Your spouse?
One day, they are going to have to navigate life in this world without you. Will God’s work continue in their lives? I hope that you’ll use today to ensure that it does.