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“. . . because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.”

Ecclesiastes 12:5

When we begin our ministry there are many “firsts.”

The first time we meet with and lead the consistory meeting; our first house visitation; sick visitation; Lord’s Supper; baptism; wedding ceremony; various society meetings; the first time you visit the happy mother and her child in the hospital, etc.

And then there is also the first time we lead a funeral! All the other meetings and visits are nerve wrecking, scary affairs, causing much trembling and embarrassment, but the first funeral . . .

All the other labors carry with them—that is, most of them—a certain amount of pleasure, but the funerals . . .

They are so very sad. It is so very final, especially when we stand at the open grave, yawning to receive its prey. Then also, the crying and weeping of the loved ones.

I have led many funerals, but I still feel trembly.

I had one last week.

And my text is written above this meditation.

Because. . . .

This word connects the text with the preceding.

They are the evil days, and they are the years of which we say, I have no pleasure in them.

They are the years of the old man, the old woman.

The keepers of the house tremble: they are the arms.

The strong men bow themselves: they are the legs.

The grinders cease because they are few: the teeth fell out, and they don’t have bridge-work or plates.

Those that look out of the windows be darkened: the eyes.

The doors shall be shut in the streets: either the ears or the lips, or both.

When the sound of the grinding is low: mastication.

And he shall rise up at the voice of the bird: hush, be still! poor old grandpa.

And all the daughters of music shall be brought low: the vocal cords.

And when they shall be afraid of that which is high: trepidation of old age.

Fears shall be in the way: I remember an old man who begged me to go twenty miles on a 60 mile highway. And even then he sighed a sigh of relief when we drove in his yard.

And the almond tree shall flourish: grey and white locks.

And the grasshopper shall be a burden: the backbone: O, my aching back!

And desire shall fail: utmost sobriety of old age.

Because man goeth to his long home!

Yes, man goeth!

Gradually we become ripe for the harvest of death.

And that is true of everyone. (God is no respecter of persons.

A thousand attempts are made to arrest this process, but all in vain. If you have money enough you can even hire your own personal doctor who is in constant attendance, but it does not really help. “The rich man also died, and was buried.” They all travel this weary way.

A thousand attempts are made to camouflage it, and we become the more ridiculous. Think on the cosmetic industry, face-lifting, plastic surgery, and what have you?

Look about you, look at yourself.

We die by inches, gradually.

Until the day, the hour, the minute, the second approaches, and God says: Return, ye children of men!

And we are dead; we are buried.

Yes, our relatives and friends grow solemn; with serious mien in voice and step and dress we attend the rites, the last rites. They weep a tear or two.

But we are dead.

Yes, it is true for everyone: man goeth.

But I would ask a question here: in what direction?

To find the correct answer to that question we must go to Holy Scripture. No where else can you obtain the correct information. Man has given a thousand answers to that question and they are all wrong. But Holy Scripture is right.

Attend to Prov. 4:18.

“But the path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day!”

Go back if you will to that picture of the old man or woman I started with. And apply the text to them. There are such, you know. I remember many. The last week I spent in Sassenheim such an old man stepped up to me. It was right in front of the Roman Catholic Church. He said: “Gerrit, I hear you are going to America. Remember God there, Gerrit!” That’s all he said. But I never forgot. Another old man I remember. You can apply all the statements of Eccl. 12:3-5 to him too. I saw him every morning and afternoon when going to or coming home from school. And he dropped pearls of wisdom in my heart. I always remember him fondly.

They are the just.

Their way is a shining light. And that light is God. We have a nice word in Holland to characterize such people. We say that they are Godvruchtig. It means that God has a fruit in them.

And the light of the love of God shines more and more in them unto the perfect day. And that day is the Day of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And their opposite is the wicked.

And the Holy Scripture has also a word for them.

It is found in Prov. 4:19.

“The way of the wicked is darkness, they know not at what they stumble.”

But we know. They stumble at the Rock of Offense, and that is Jesus.

You see, Jesus does not leave them alone. It would be more correct to say: God does not leave them alone, for He puts Jesus in their pathway. And they stumble over Him.

Their way is darkness, and that is imagery for all evil. That is their pathway, their life. It is conceived in darkness and it is brought forth in darkness, and it gets darker as they walk this weary way.

That home to which they travel is their home. Note the text: “because man goeth to his long home.”

It is his.

It is his proper home. It belongs to him. What is it? Well, listen to chapter 11:3b: “and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.”

The south? That is heaven. The north? That is hell.Long home? It is eternal.

There you have the homes of men.

Again: his home. That is, the wicked fit in hell. You can see that here when they reveal the spirit of the abyss; Jesus saw it and judged: ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you would do.

God’s people fit in heaven. No, not as they are by nature. Paul would say, We also are children of wrath even as the others.

But as they are God’s people, regenerated of God, converted by God, recipients of the faith of God, justified by God, kept by God, and glorified by God. In short: God dwells in them, and causes them to walk on the pathway of light. Jesus Christ, the Captain of their salvation directs them to their proper home in heaven. “In My Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you! If I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2, 3.

Esau found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. His proper place is hell.

Jacob must go to heaven: God willed it!

O God of eternal miracles! why, why?

Here is the Divine answer: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and whom I will I harden!

Yes, funerals are impressive.

Everybody thinks so. I saw it when I was a little child.

I saw a man dressed in black with “funny clothes and hat” walking like a stiff automaton through our village, stopping at every door. And in somber sounding voice he would tell who died, what off, and at what age, as also the date of the funeral.

He was the mourner.

Yes, the mourners go about the streets.

Sometimes the whole village of five thousand would turn out to mourn with them, that is, if the dead was important or rich enough.

And eight or ten men carried the bier and the dead.

Yes, you better mourn, especially when your dead is a wicked man or woman. Then your mourning is the be ginning of an eternal work. That mourning will go over in shrieks of despair and wailing of the second death. I know so little about that. Jesus speaks of weeping and gnashing of teeth. At another place we read that the smoke of their torment arises forever and ever. O, it must be horrible to die alone, to die without Jesus. And then so long, so very long!

But when the just die, they will feel the hand of Jesus.

Beloved, when and if your just die, do not weep over much.

I heard it often, in my youth and still now when I am old. There is an element of truth in it:

In our sorrows, we rejoice!

O God of eternal miracles! how glorious art Thou! Amen.

—G. Vos