I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139.14-16.
How appropriate that God should give me this text this morning. A dear friend of mine who is also a brother in Christ died suddenly of a heart attack yesterday morning, leaving behind his disabled wife who will have great difficulty in coping with life without him; and it is all too easily to think that his death has come at the wrong time … that he should have lived longer.
But there is a reminder here this morning that there are “days ordained” for every human being — days written in “God’s book” even before a person’s birth takes place. As Job says to God: “Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed” (Job 14.5). God’s “ordaining of days” does, of course, take into account all that we do to (as we think) lengthen or shorten their number. I, for instance, have had two “life-saving” operations which God was aware that I would have, even before I was conceived. And the “ordaining of days” even takes into account all that God himself does to lengthen or shorten them. When God delivered me from nicotine addiction in 1995, the prophetic word spoken over me included the words: “God says he has added back onto your life the years you had taken off it by smoking.”
Paul takes the “ordaining of days” thought even further. He tells the Christians at Ephesus: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2.10). For those of us who know Jesus, our whole coming into being includes our doing stuff for him that God has set it up for us to do, even before we were born!
There is surely great comfort in this. The whole psalm is a great song of wonderment and praise for a God who has infinite love and care and concern for human beings as individuals. There is no “one size fits all” about his plans and purposes and provision. The same God who, in his loving purposes, has taken Bernard to be with him at what the psalmist asserts is exactly the right time, will, in those same loving purposes, provide for and sustain and look after Betty.
Here in my study, where I sit at my PC, there are books everywhere, and among them is a huge volume entitled “Distinguished People of Today”. In it, you can look up a person’s name and find out lots about their education, career, publications, interests, family and so on. And I begin to wonder about my entry in this “book” of God that is elsewhere called “the book of life” (Psalm 69.28). What story is being told there? How does my life look to the Father?
One thing I know is that the entry is complete. It was complete before I was born. And another thing I know is that it contains no record of my transgressions for, thank God, they have all been blotted out (Psalm 51.1) by the blood of Jesus.
Thank you, Father, that my birth was no accident and nor will be my death. Thank you that all my days are written in your book. In the power of your Spirit, let each one be lived to your praise and glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.