Ground Zero--What No One Said
By John A Carroll
Week 38 in the Word—September 17-23, 2021
Last Saturday morning I flipped on the TV and saw the live broadcast from Ground Zero, the site of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City exactly 20 years ago. The crowd included President and Mrs. Biden along with former US presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and other dignitaries. I watched as speakers came in pairs to the mikes and read the names of the victims. The readers were young and old, men, women, boys, and girls. Every one of them had lost one or more family members or close friends on that Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001. Each reader made a tribute to one of the deceased victims.
There was a pattern to these tributes. After repeating the name of the victim each would speak solemnly to that person about missing them and never forgetting them. There were many tears and several readers had to stop to compose themselves before continuing to read.
Although there was a pattern to the tributes there was one thing I did not hear from any of them—that their loved one no longer existed. Everyone, that I heard, talked as if they were confident that their deceased son, daughter, mother, father, or friend is still somewhere and able to hear what was being said to and about them.
It is popular in some quarters to hold that when you die you no longer exist. I heard an atheist say that when his body flatlines and he dies he is sure that he will be gone forever.
But no one at Ground Zero last Saturday was saying that death is the end of all existence. Somehow, we know intuitively that there must be something after we physically die. Whatever else we believe we resist the hopeless view that there is nothing more.
This week our schedule has us reading Ecclesiastes which gives a somber but realistic view of life and death. The writer tells us,
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 ESV).
We do not prefer to go to the house of mourning or to Ground Zero, but it is there that we gain wisdom to see that death is certain for all of us.
How shall we live in light of the certainty of our demise?
Ecclesiastes concludes with these words, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14).
Final judgment--where every deed and every secret thing is brought to light--sounds terrifying, but if it is true it means that our physical death does not bring the end of our existence, that our present life does have significance in the world to come and that there will ultimately be justice for all.
Solomon, living under the old covenant, did not know that there would be a day when God the Son would live and die for the sins of His people. Old covenant people needed to keep being obedient and trust God for the outcome. The gospel and the new covenant in Jesus’ blood would mean full forgiveness, cleansing from sin, and eternal life for all who believe in Him (Matt. 26:26-28).
For Christians, our hope is in Jesus Christ who rose from the dead. Standing at Lazarus grave, Jesus said to Martha, the broken-hearted sister, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25,26).
Go to the house of mourning, to Ground Zero, and see how much wisdom there is to be found. No one is scoffing in the face of certain death, and some are finding life through Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). I hope you are one of them.
Have a great week in the Word.
Week of September 17-23, 2021
September 17/Day 260 Why Life is Not Vain (Ecclesiastes 1-3; II Corinthians 9)
September 18/Day 261 Faithfulness Pleases God (Ecclesiastes 4-6; II Corinthians 10)
September 19/Day 262 Wisdom: True and False (Ecclesiastes 7-9; II Corinthians 11:1-15)
September 20/Day 263 Escape the Vain Life (Ecclesiastes 10-12; II Corinthians 11:16-33)
September 21/Day 264 Unstoppable Love \ (Song of Solomon 1-3; II Corinthians 12)
September 22/Day 265 The God of Peace and the Peace of God (Song of Solomon 4-5; II Corinthians 13)
September 23/Day 266 Reflections on God’s Love (Song of Solomon 6-8; Galatians 1)
This schedule and devotionals are taken from my book Concealed and Revealed: a year in the old and new testaments. Available here.