1 Chronicles 29:15
For we are strangers before you, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow…
Before "life and immortality" had been "brought to light," the brevity of man's life on the earth seems to have caused much distress, even to godly people. There is a wailing tone about many of the Old Testament references to short life and remorseless death that seem but little in advance of the despairings of the pagan, who cried after his passing friend, "Vale, vale, aeternum vale!" A few specimens may be given. "For what is your life? It is even a valour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field; the grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass." "My days are swifter than a post: they flee away, they see no good. They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey." "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope." "Let me alone; for my days are vanity." There is, happily, another side to the Old Testament representations, and the pious men of the olden times looked away from swift passing life, and from the sorrow of death and separation, to the unchanging stability of the everlasting God, and the high and eternal hopes that rest upon his gracious provisions and promises. Transitoriness is the condition of present being, not for us men only, but also for all the created things with which we have to do. All nature tells of change and passing away; things are here for a little while, and then they vanish away. The winter snow falls lightly, and lies in its white purity - mystic, wonderful - over all the land; but soon it soils and browns and sinks away. The spring flowers that come, responsive to the low sunshine and the gentle breath, are so fragile, and they stay with us but such a little time, and then pass away. The summer blossoms multiply and stand thick over the ground, and they seem strong with their deep rich colouring; and yet they too wither and droop and pass away. The autumn fruits cluster on the tree branches, and grow big, and win their soft rich bloom of ripeness; but they too are plucked in due season, and pass away. The gay dress of varied leafage is soon stripped off by the wild winds; one or two trembling leaves cling long to the outmost boughs, but by-and-by even they fall and pass away. Down every channel of the hillside are borne the crumblings washed from the "everlasting hills," as we call them, that are, nevertheless, fast passing away. All around us is speaking of change and decay. The writing is on wasting rock and crumbling peak, on the old tower and the ivied wall, the flowing stream and the autumn tints, - 'Here is no rest.' Man and his world are but sojourners. Recall Coifi, the ancient Briton's, figure of man's brief life as a bird, coming out of the dark and flying through the lighted hall away out into the dark again; and illustrate and enforce the following points: - The brevity of man's life on the earth is designed to -
I. MAKE SERIOUS THE PRESENT. Its voice is, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. It says:
1. What has to be done should be done quickly.
2. What has to be done must be done earnestly.
3. And seeing the time is so short, and so much has to be accomplished, we need much grace for the doing.
II. GLORIFY THE FUTURE. By giving us the assurance that it is the home where we are to stay.
III. SET THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE IN RIGHT RELATIONS. Convincing us that we are here for some important purpose and mission; and that we are here on our way home, getting ready for the life at home by the experiences of our sojourning-time. Should we then, as Christians, grieve that life is short, and we are only here on earth awhile as the stranger who turns aside to tarry for a night? Surely not, if we keep close home to our hearts the conviction that we are homeward bound. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.