Barzillai: A Lesson from an Old, Rich Guy

The Temporal World

I was reminded this past weekend at a retreat that I don’t have very long to live for the Lord Jesus on this earth.  My time is short, and I guess it is good to live under the realization of this truth.  This was not so easy when I was younger or before being diagnosed with cancer.  But the fact that there is a mere step between death and me is very clear now.  The elderly know this to be true.  If we live with it in mind, we will be better The Temporal World

I was reminded this past weekend at a retreat that I don’t have very long to live for the Lord Jesus on this earth.  My time is short, and I guess it is good to live under the realization of this truth.  This was not so easy when I was younger or before being diagnosed with cancer.  But the fact that there is a mere step between death and me is very clear now.  The elderly know this to be true.  If we live with it in mind, we will be better able to rise above that which is confined by time.

I remember reading The Stranger by Camus.  It’s a French existentialist novel.  The main character was condemned to death and hours away from his execution.  Suppose you were in that situation.  How would you feel about the material world around you?  Would you wonder about the iPhone 8?  Would you catalog all that you own in your mind?  Would you think about re-arranging your investment portfolio?  Probably not.  All the things you considered so important wouldn’t be given a thought in such a scenario.  You’d be focused on your imminent death.  Those close to you would see the dichotomy you faced and would understand how empty and vain living for materialism truly is.

No one can afford to neglect his work, family, education, or even researching the iPhone 8.  We have duties and responsibilities which demand our attention.  However, it’s really all a question of where your affections are (Colossians 3.1-2).  They must not be set upon below-things but above-things.  We cannot be overly-wrought about having the latest and greatest product.  Our sobriety and moderation is what people should note about our character in Christ.

“But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29–31)

The Eternal World

David attempted to show kindness to Barzillai, a very aged man of 80 years old (see 2 Samuel 19.31-39).  He was a very rich man who had supplied David while he faced the rebellion of his son Absalom.  David hoped to reward Barzillai for his kindness by providing for him since he had taken back his throne and was heading back to Jerusalem.

“But Barzillai said to the king, ‘How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? I am today eighty years old. Can I discern between the good and bad? Can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear any longer the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be a further burden to my lord the king? Your servant will go a little way across the Jordan with the king. And why should the king repay me with such a reward? Please let your servant turn back again, that I may die in my own city, near the grave of my father and mother.'” (2 Samuel 19:34–37)

Well, that’s perspective.  In view of eternity, a thousand years is as a day and a day a thousand years.  Nobody really has very long to live.

  1. Since life is short, we must give attention to eternal matters.  The brevity of life reminds us of our daily need of repentance, reconciliation, and revival when it comes to our spiritual lives.  If you are unclear as to whether you are right with your Creator and bound for Heaven, then by all means click here and make peace with Him.  The concerns of time are insignificant when compared to eternity.  Preferring material matters over eternal matters is really a sign of insanity.
  2. Since life is short, we must guard against apathy to eternal matters.  Most of us understand how important these matters are but often we grow apathetic.  Apathy is very displeasing to the Lord Jesus (see Revelation 3.15-16).  Brief flashes of energy for eternal matters shouldn’t be our endgame.  We must diligently work for Christ day by day.  Life is a race (see Hebrews 12.1-3).  We must prepare well and run well with our eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus.  We don’t have time for weights and besetting sin.  What shall we truly give in exchange for our eternal souls …for the eternal life granted to us by Christ?  Will we ever show too much gratitude?  Too much sacrifice?  If you could enjoy your favorite earthly activity for 1,000 years, how could that compare with the joys of Heaven?  Indeed, whatever you hand finds to do for eternity, do it with all your might.

Some are young.  They look forward to the years ahead of them with excitement and anticipation.  They have plans.  They want to experience certain life-events.  But they may be cut down like a flower.  Youthful zeal should be used for heavenly work.  Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.

Some are at the mid-point of life.  You might have accomplished many life-goals.  You might be in a state of crisis as you look back and see the emptiness of what you have accomplished.  That’s the way it will be in all you will yet accomplish.  Temporal matters must be diligently pursued and performed for the glory of God.  But these things cannot compare to living an eternal quality of life.

Still others are elderly or in a precarious health situation which makes death imminent.  That’s the way it was with Barzillai.  You feel old age and illness swallowing you up.  You know that your time is short.  Allow earthly things to simmer on the back burner of life.  Let eternity increase and enlarge in your mind.  Live in light of death and judgment.  Keep pressing forward for the prize of your high calling in Christ.

Wherever you are in the spectrum of life, know and pray these Scriptures.  Make them your own:

“Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.” (Psalm 39:4)

“[Lord,] teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

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