Hezekiah was given this command by the prophet Isaiah when he was “deathly ill.” This must have been shocking news to him! Although God answered Hezekiah’s prayer to prolong his life and added 15 years to his life, we read that ultimately he died as well. “So Hezekiah rested with his fathers, and they buried him in the upper tombs of the sons of David” (2 Chronicles 32:33).
The matter of death and dying is a sensitive topic. Although we know that death is inevitable, we try to postpone it as much as possible. Some prefer to not think about it at all. And yet dying is a reality. Someone once said, “We are born to die.” Many years ago, the wise Solomon wrote these words: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). In the letter to the Hebrews, we read that “it is appointed for men to die once” (Hebrews 9:27). Therefore, we want to think about this in a realistic manner. It is easier to live – and easier to die – when “our house is in order,” or in other words, when we are prepared for our end and everything is looked after. Those who neglect that die unprepared, which can cause a lot of difficulties not only for them but also for those left behind.
“Set your house in order” means that you should take the initiative yourself and ensure everything is in order so that the process before death, while dying, and also after death goes smoothly. In doing so, one should not only think of oneself but also of the relatives (as such, those left behind). What does this planning include? Which areas should be considered? The following points should serve as food for thought: the soul, my interpersonal relationships, the body, the inheritance (what I own), and the funeral.
I. Your soul
In determining the proper sequence of the above points, we give priority to the soul. I think we understand why. The soul (the actual person) is immortal and lives on after death. When the heart has stopped beating and the body is laid “to rest,” the soul has long since left its earthly dwelling. Although all people die, not all people arrive at the same destination. The Bible speaks not only of two paths but also of two destinations: eternal life and eternal damnation. One place should be sought, the other avoided.
In order to die with righteousness, to be with the Lord for eternity, and to arrive at the desired destination, one must have chosen the right pathway. “Enter by the narrow gate…because narrow is the gate, and difficult is the way which leads to life” (Matthew 7:13-14), Jesus said. Whoever wants to be properly prepared to die must have entered this narrow way and also have walked it to the end. Is this the case in our lives? Some questions that might be helpful would be: Am I a child of God? Do I have peace with God? Are my sins forgiven? Do I have the witness of the Holy Spirit? Do I know where I am going when I die? Let me add some personal questions: Have I paid my taxes? Have I given the Lord what belongs to Him? Do I have anything in my possession that does not belong to me (e.g., books)? Are there any unpaid bills, or do I owe anyone anything? Is there anything in my home that I would not want found after I die?
Or is it different in our lives? Perhaps our conscience admonishes us, reminding us of unfinished, unresolved issues. We cannot experience the joy of salvation. The witness of the Spirit mentioned in Scripture is missing. Every day brings us closer to dying. “Set your house in order” are words that go to the heart. Don’t put off this preparation. There is such a thing as “too late.” “Today, if you will hear His voice…” (Hebrews 3:7-8).
II. Interpersonal relationships
This is about our relationship with our fellow human beings. This includes my spouse, children, relatives, neighbors, nursing home staff, fellow brothers and sisters in the church, etc. We have journeyed through life with people. For decades, people have walked beside us. One could also talk about a “togetherness.” We lived together as a family, we sat in the same classroom together, we worked together, we belonged to the same congregation together. As such, there were and continue to be many relationships.
Sometimes we hear of “troubled relationships.” This means that the relationship is not as it should be. This exists at all levels, from children-in-law to caregivers. Or, if you want to draw the circle closer, one can encounter troubled relationships in the family as well, or even within the closest bond there is – marriage. Then we have the spiritual family, our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Over the years, we attended services together, sang together in the choir, worked together for the Lord, worked on projects together. Where people live together, conflicts can occur. Consequently, we understand why the Bible includes thoughts like forgiving one another, respecting and accepting each another. We need this. If something happens, if we have hurt each other or even if injustice has occurred, it needs to be dealt with. I have had to ask for forgiveness in my life, and not just once. On the other hand, I’ve also had to forgive. Jesus’ words about forgiving “seventy times seven times” stand before us as a reminder (Matthew 18:22).
It is important and biblical that “troubled relationships” are dealt with. Jesus also addressed this issue in the Sermon on the Mount. He taught His listeners, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). When this happens, a “troubled relationship” becomes a healed relationship, a relationship that is restored.
If you consider a cross, you will see a vertical beam (from bottom to top) and a horizontal beam (from left to right). We could apply this image in this way: it represents our relationship with God (from the bottom to the top) but also our relationships with our fellow human beings (from left to right). That is why we sometimes talk about the need to maintain our relationships with God and people.
Is it possible that a conversation, a letter, or an email may be appropriate to restore a relationship? Perhaps it would be necessary to approach someone and address (make amends or clarify) issues of the past?
“Set your house in order, for you shall die” are words that go to the heart. They carry weight. That is why we want to take them seriously and do what is necessary.
(To be continued.)