While driving to church on Sunday morning I was listening to a sermon on the radio about Psalm 23, “The Shepherd’s Psalm.” Let me post the beautiful, poetic and majestic King James’ Version of that Psalm:,
1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
As I listened to the sermon on this text my mind wandered back to November 2005 when I had flown back to Scotland from Tasmania to be beside my dad who was on his deathbed at age 83. He had his eyes closed but he seemed to be listening intently to me as I told him how much I loved him and how much I appreciated how good a dad he had been to me as I was growing up.
I mentioned to him some of my happy memories, such as him taking us swimming at Dumbarton’s Brock Baths in winter, Craig’s Pool at Glen Fruin, as well as Loch Lomond at Balloch countless times in summer. I held his hand in mine as I spoke softly to him, knowing that these were his very last days on earth. At that moment he was the centre of my universe as I concentrated hard on finding the right words, though the words just seemed to bubble up from somewhere deep within and overflowed like the clear waters of Pappert Well.
Dad had been a committed Communist. (I had asked him point blank one time may years before if he was a Communist and was shocked when he had answered unequivocally in the affirmative!) To me Communism and Atheism were synonymous terms! He had worked in the Glasgow shipyards on the “Red Clydeside” and had mingled with those who wanted the workers of the world to unite! Anyway, I couldn’t understand how he had been happy to attend church on Sunday and even wax eloquent about doing the “reading” in church and telling us that the King James’ Version of the Bible was the most beautiful, noble and poetic of all the versions of the Bible. He was as happy pulling the rope that rang the bell to beckon Sunday-worshippers to Jamestown Parish Church, part of the Church of Scotland.
“Dad, you know Psalm 23? The Lord is my Shepherd? Are you able to say those words – ‘the Lord is MY Shepherd’? Is He YOUR Shepherd? Is Jesus your SHEPHERD? He says He’s the Good Shepherd? Are you trusting in Him even now? ‘Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale, yet will I fear none ill, for Thou art with me; and Thy rod and staff me comfort still.’ Dad, trust Him. Trust Him even now dad. He’ll look after you even now as you go through that dark valley.”
I prayed with my dad, I prayed for him, asking that my God, our God would look after him. Did my dad actually hear me say all of this? I believe so. But more importantly, God heard! I look forward to seeing my dad (and my mum) in glory...
Thank You Lord that I was able to be with my dad just before he died.
Does it matter whether we believe that Jesus is the Son of God or not? Well, it does when you’re on your deathbed. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23. Dying therefore is God giving you the wages for your sin. Death came to the human race through Adam. “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” So, to receive wages is to receive what you have earned, but the Good News is that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Son of God is God’s gift to us. For in Him alone is the gift of salvation. No belief in the Son of God means no life, no everlasting life. It means only death and judgment. “Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about His Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:10-13.
God’s gift of everlasting life is free. We don’t have to work for it, or even try to work for it. It is a gift. Gifts, as you know, are free. God’s gift of eternal life is free because it has been paid for already. If it has been paid for already it means that we cannot do anything to earn it. We can add nothing to Christ’s cross (except our applause)! Will you applaud the Son of God by believing in Him?