Alistair M Brown

Ecclesiastes 3: 14 (… “from it“)

Psalm 4: 1

Psalm 84: 8 - 10

         I refer to these scriptures, dear friends and brethren, with a view to comfort coming into this meeting, particularly into the heart of our sister with us and our brother’s family, and to all of us, because death is a sobering matter indeed, and it bears on the human spirit.  God knows that and He is able to bring in comfort.  The Scriptures themselves are a comfort.  It speaks of the encouragement or comfort of the Scriptures (Rom 15: 4), and I trust that a few words as to these passages that we have read might bring in comfort.  The Scriptures are the word of God.  They are inspired by the Holy Spirit of God and they speak, every one of them, of the Lord Jesus.  He is the subject of the Scriptures and they therefore could not fail to bring in comfort.  In fact the Scriptures bring in the answer to whatever situation we might find ourselves in.  In sorrow, in the presence of death, the Scriptures bring in comfort.  They bring in what is appropriate in other situations too, but we are here in the presence of death and the Scriptures bring in comfort.  They bring in comfort because they are God’s word and God’s word is unfailing.  You might say, it goes to the heart of the matter.  A feature of the Holy Scriptures is that they do not cover things up; they do not gloss things over.  In dealing with the matter of death, the Scriptures deal with it in all sobriety.  They deal with death from God’s point of view and, as we have heard in prayer, God has His Man, that is, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the One who has conquered death.  He went into it.  He was put to death, but He delivered up His own life - He had the power to do that - and He rose again because death could not hold Him; life is inherent in Him.  The Scriptures speak of One who is living and raised and ascended and triumphant and so there is comfort in the Scriptures. 

         There is comfort generally; but there is also specific comfort.  From this passage we have read in Ecclesiastes I wanted to speak about God’s work because that is what God does: “whatever God doeth, it shall be for ever; there is nothing to be added to it, nor anything to be taken from it”.  That is what the Preacher writes in this book of Ecclesiastes.  God‘s work is remarkable.  You might say we see it in creation, and we do; but we see it in persons that God has worked in, and God worked in our brother.  God had worked in our brother whose body we are burying today.  That work that God has done would start at a very early point in our brother‘s history.  It would start with God‘s initiative.  It started with some stirring in his soul towards the Lord Jesus and it developed.  Then it came to the matter of our brother‘s conversion where he gave his heart to Christ, and it did not stop there; it continued; and in these latter years when some of us have got to know our brother best, it continued to develop.  It was God’s work.  I would just say this for our comfort that that work is indestructible.  “Whatever God doeth, it shall be for ever” and the work that He has done in our brother does not perish with death, far from it.  It is preserved, shining and glorious, for eternity because God will have it for Himself.  “Whatever God doeth, it shall be for ever”.  The physical body, as we know from the scripture in 1 Corinthians, is sown in weakness and dishonour and corruption (chap 15: 42-44) but what God does, morally and spiritually, is indestructible and it is glorious, and it is forever.  I find that a great comfort.  I trust that we all do.

         Now it raises a challenge about God’s work in me, and it might just raise a challenge with every one of us, whether God is working in us.  Have I given God the opportunity to work in me?  Have I opened my heart to Jesus as Saviour as our brother did many years ago?  It is an opportunity open to every one of us, perhaps most of all on this day when our hearts are sobered and softened as being in the presence of death.  May our hearts be opened to receive Christ, that great work that God does!  Scripture says: “For ye are saved by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves; it is God’s gift; not on the principle of works, that no one might boast”, Eph 2: 8, 9.  God works.  May He work in the heart of everyone here for salvation and for comfort!

         These two passages in the Psalms are very much associated in my mind with our beloved brother because he spoke of them often.  He would draw our attention to the fact that in Psalm 4 it is not the pressure that enlarges us, but it is God Himself in the pressure who enlarges the believer.  That is, that God can use even the most trying circumstances - He can even use the sorrow and the pressure of death - to bring about enlargement, enlargement in the knowledge of Himself, enlargement in our appreciation of Christ and of His work and of the fact that what that blessed One has done, He has done for ever.  We are to grow in our appreciation of that work that He wrought on the cross of Calvary, the work of redemption in suffering and weakness, and yet what a powerful work.  That work is forever and, in appreciating that, there is enlargement.  In coming to know the Lord Jesus and, through Him, coming to know God for ourselves, there is great enlargement.  Even in this time of pressure and of sorrow, may there be enlargement, enlargement in the appreciation of divine things, of what the Scriptures speak of, of the work of God, of the love of the Lord Jesus, of His perfection and His beauty.  God would occupy us, even (indeed especially) in a time of sorrow, with the Lord Jesus, with Christ.  He would enlarge us with thoughts of that blessed One.  He is so available: “When I call, answer me, O God of my righteousness: in pressure thou hast enlarged me; be gracious unto me, and hear my prayer”.  I think these were the experiences of our brother.  He went through times of pressure and, you might say that pressure is what narrows us and makes us small.  No!  Our brother proved the enlargement that comes from pressure because he went through the pressure with God and in the pressure God enlarged him.  May He enlarge the hearts of us all here, enlarge our hearts to appreciate His love!  It is in God’s love that our brother has been taken home by Christ.  For the believer in Jesus, that is an action of love.  What a comforting matter that is!  It is available to all of us to be comforted by these things.  May they not be strange to us!  May they be matters that we know about and may Christ be a blessed Man who is real to us, known in our hearts, believed on by us so that we might know comfort and enlargement!

         Well, the last scripture I referred to is in the eighty-fourth Psalm: “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand”.  Our brother often used to refer to this scripture in conversation.  I believe he proved it, proved what it was to spend time in the courts of our God, that is in the presence of God Himself.  That was his privilege as a believer in Jesus; he enjoyed it, and he knew that it was better.  Christianity deals with things that are better, things that are “very much better“, Phil 1: 23.  The lot of our brother now is “very much better“.  We know that because the scripture tells us so, and we might say it is reinforced in the mind of believers by the action of the Holy Spirit there, to know that for our brother it is “very much better”.  It is better to spend one day in the courts of God, than a thousand.  Our brother used to say that someone had asked an old believer, ‘Better than a thousand of what?’ and the answer was, ‘A thousand of anything that you like‘.  In other words, a day spent in the presence of God for those that love Him is better than anything else.  Our brother proved that in his life and he gave testimony to it, and now it will be his unending portion.  He is with Christ now.  How comforting that is!  How available it is to every one of us who believes!  That is our brother‘s portion now.  May we who are left know something of this and lay hold of Christ and lay hold, as believing in Him, on the things that are better.  May the Lord use these words.


21st February 2009


(At the meeting for the burial of Mr Ted Steedman)