While I was trying to learn more about ancient Assyria on the internet, I chanced upon reports of a fascinating exhibit that was on display in the British Museum last year. The exhibit centred around the Neo-Assyrian King Ashurbanipal who ruled the Assyrian Empire from 668 to 627 BC. It featured numerous artefacts from his royal palace in Nineveh, Iraq (near modern-day Mosul). He is the grandson of the king Sennacherib who attempted to invade Judah during King Hezekiah’s reign (2 Kings 18-9).
The exhibit featured many slabs of bas relief artwork that once lined Ashurbanipal’s palace walls. Some of them are proud displays of his brutal prowess as a hunter. One bas relief depicts him in close combat with a grown lion. Another depicts him on horseback thrusting a spear into another lion. These are images of Ashurbanipal’s strength and virility, not unlike photos of Vladimir Putin riding a horse bare chested, or Abdullah II of Jordan in full gear on a military transport aircraft. As it was back then, so it is now: to be the autocrat of a nation or an empire requires a ferocious masculinity, an apex predator spirit, “that iron in him,” in order to keep subjects and vassals under control.
There are also vivid images of war and violence artfully depicted on bas relief. Jonathan Jones, the art journalist for The Guardian, has this to say about them: “Assyrian art contains some of the most appalling images ever created. In one scene, tongues are being ripped from the mouths of prisoners. That will mute their screams when, in the next stage of their torture, they are flayed alive. In another relief a surrendering general is about to be beheaded and in a third prisoners have to grind their fathers’ bones before being executed in the streets of Nineveh.”
These were the brutality demonstrated during Ashurbanipal’s reign. His brother had conspired against him and made himself king of Babylon to rival him. Ashurbanipal retaliated by laying siege to Babylon for two years, causing many to die of starvation. Then he entered the city, sacrificed those still alive as funerary offerings, and “fed their dismembered flesh to dogs, pigs, vultures, eagles, birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea.” Thus, is the iron required of a king: the iron of batons to heads, of swords to necks, of torture implements, of chains and shackles, of blood spilled from enemies.
When the Soviet Union began to purge its enemies in the 1920s, an apologist for the Communist regime quipped, “You can’t make an omelette without breaking any eggs.” Si vis pacem, para bellum (“if you want peace prepare for war”), as a similar dictum in Latin goes, but these sort of words are found on the lips of the conqueror, the one who wields the iron over the conquered, the one who gets the full feast of the omelette. Enemies and dissidents are subjugated not just for peace, but for a sumptuous enjoyment of that peace. Like all despots, Ashurbanipal lived in luxury, lapping up the finest that Assyrian art and technology had to offer. He lived in an imposing palace which was built to awe his subjects; his royal gardens were irrigated by canals over fifty kilometres long and contained plants from all over his empire, an architectural and horticultural marvel possibly rivalling The Gardens by The Bay (it has been argued that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were, in fact, in Nineveh where Ashurbanipal resided).
Interestingly, as tyrannical and despotic as he might be, Ashurbanipal was no vulgar brute. He was able to read and write Akkadian and Sumerian cuneiform script, a rarity even for the royalty as most people were illiterate except for the scribal class. Within his personal library, he had more than 30,000 clay tablets of every Mesopotamian literary work, including the great epics of Enuma Elish and Gilgamesh. So, it was no idle boast when he wrote of himself, “I, Ashurbanipal, learned the wisdom of Nabu [the god of writing], laid hold of scribal practices of all the experts, as many as there are, I examined their instructions.” If Solomon was the quintessential Israelite sage-king, then Ashurbanipal would have been his Mesopotamian counterpart.
Ashurbanipal had all that any man could dream of: power, riches, and knowledge. He must have been quite a figure, for even Ezra describes him as a “great and noble” king (Ezra 4.10). Ruling at the pinnacle of Neo-Assyrian ascendancy, he proudly declared in cuneiform writing: “I am Ashurbanipal, great king, mighty king, king of the world, king of Assyria.” That nearly three thousand-year-old cuneiform tablet written in his own hand now sits in the British Museum. In fact, so do most of the bas relief artwork and cuneiform tablets from his palace. Unfortunately, as great as Ashurbanipal was, his empire collapsed shortly after his demise in 627 BC. Rival claimants to the throne embroiled the empire in civil war, giving opportunistic belligerents a chance to invade and sack major Assyrian cities. The glories of Neo-Assyria were thus reduced to burnt and buried material culture for our museums.
It can be said that at around the turn of the millennium, the Jews in Judea expected their coming messiah to be a king like Ashurbanipal. They expected a mighty king to come and purge Jerusalem of Gentiles, shake off the Roman oppression, subjugate the nations of the world, and bring Jerusalem and her temple to a new height of glory. He was to “break [the nations] with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2.9). He was to be a mighty warrior, a veritable king of kings, king of the world, king of Israel. Such Jewish expectations were perfectly reasonable, after all, that was what the prophets prophesied of, and that was what great near eastern kings like Ashurbanipal did.
However, contrary to those expectations, it was a certain Yeshua bar Yosef – Jesus – who would eventually be messiah; the son of a craftsman, born in unfortunate circumstances to insignificant parents resident in an unremarkable location. He had no martial training nor was he schooled in politics. His rag-tag motley crew of disciples who followed him around abandoned him after one of them betrayed him. When he was arrested, tried, and executed, he accepted his fate without retaliation. By worldly standards, the only iron he had in him were the nails in his crucifixion.
Yet, by his resurrection and ascension, God concretely affirmed him to be his messiah, the true king of Israel and of the world. Herein lies the radical subversion in the gospels. God’s king has come, but not as what the world expects of a great ruler – not like Ashurbanipal. Greatness to the world is coming up tops on the food chain, red in tooth and claw. It is about winning the game of nature by being the strongest, the most vicious, the smartest. However, God has redefined greatness in the person of Jesus: to be great is to love by sacrificially giving of oneself. The crucifixion of Jesus brings the world’s idea of greatness into stark contrast with God’s idea of greatness: the self-seeking viciousness and cunning of those who wanted Jesus liquidated for their own sake runs into the selfless sacrificial love of Jesus who dies for the world’s sake.
God’s image of greatness is Jesus’ flayed and bloodied frame nailed high up onto the cross. In this, we must not think that he presents the world with an alternative idea of greatness. Jesus did not come to impart “servant leadership” as an option among the many management/leadership philosophies. Adopting such a philosophy for life merely makes Jesus into yet another method for worldly greatness. No, the crucified Jesus confronts us with a question: would we kneel before such a one who appears utterly unworthy of obeisance? To a world beholden to men like Ashurbanipal, it is foolishness; for them, “servant leadership” remains a technique for personal glory. But to eyes that see, thus is the true king of the world enthroned on high in all his splendour and majesty.
What are the criteria you will look for in a friend? When you look for a friend, you will have your set of criteria in finding a suitable and compatible friend. It is like looking for a life partner. For a life partner, the criteria might be even more stringent! First of all, let us consider these criteria for what we would expect in a friend. We normally look for the outward appearance of a person whether one is appealing to us or not. If the first impression we have received of that person is good, it is likely that we would consider him or her to be our friend. Sometimes, the first impression can be misleading. We would need to explore other options before we can comfortably accept that person as our friend. We may consider the qualifications or credentials of that person. We may even consider the Intelligence Quotient (I.Q.) and the Emotional Quotient (E.Q.) of that individual. In this instance, some may say or think whether that is a fair treatment of that person. We all recognise that each individual is unique and special. We are aware that we cannot judge a book by its cover. That would be discriminating! We might even consider whether that individual is sociable, eloquent and knowledgeable. Besides, we also look for the personalities of the one whom we hope to receive as a friend.
So, a true friend is someone whom we can trust, relate, share and enjoy together. Extracted from https://www.quora.com: “A true friend is someone who has your back when things are going very wrong in your life. A true friend is someone who keeps their promises, and makes you want to keep yours, too. A true friend is someone who neither leads nor follows, but walks with you. You’ll know when you find them.”
How about yourself being a friend to others? How do we prepare our self to be accepted as a friend by others? These require a lot of soul searching and soul transforming! What about being a friend of God? Don’t we want to be a friend of God? What did the Bible say about being a friend of God? Who do we know is such a friend to God? Abraham? Moses? David? Let us search the Bible and find out. The purpose of this pastoral perspective aims to enhance our understanding on how we can be a friend of God.
In James 2:23 ESV, we learn that Abraham was called a friend of God because he believed God and also because of his faith in God that he was counted as righteous before God. In Exodus 33:11 ESV, we learn that God spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks to His friend. In the New Testament, Jesus Himself has taught us how we can be a friend of God. In John 15:14-15, we learn what Jesus our Lord has spoken: “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Basically, to be a friend of God, we need to follow the instructions of Jesus. We need to wholeheartedly follow the ways of Christ. When you do what He commands, you are His friends indeed! The willingness to follow the ways of Christ is the prerequisite of being a friend of God. Placing your trust in Jesus, having believed in Him as your Lord and Saviour, walking with Him wholeheartedly and relating intimately with Him through spending time with Him in Word and prayer strengthen this friendship with God. One of the commandments which Jesus has given us is in John 13:34-35 which states: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” How have we carried out this commandment in our daily Christian life? If we have been obedient to the Word of God, the commands of Jesus in our lives, then we are a friend of God.
So, the hallmarks of being a friend of God are: faith in God, follow His Word closely, focus on being faithful to God and freely loving others just as Christ Jesus has loved us. This is what Hebrews 11:6 conveys to us: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Let us, as children of the living God, longs to be a friend of God. Amen.
In a recent nationwide study of homelessness in Singapore done by Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, it was reported that there are about 1,000 homeless people sleeping on the streets in Singapore. The study also noted that the even though about 40 per cent sought help from a number of places including the Social Service Offices, they still found it hard to break out of their homeless predicament due to the complexity of their problems.
One of the reasons as observed by Abraham Yeo, founder of Homeless Hearts of Singapore (HHS), is that “people become homeless not because they run out of cash, but because they run out of relationships”. Although some may actually own a flat or are renting a place, they do not feel safe enough going back at night to sleep and resort to sleeping rough instead.
Thus, it is heartening to know that over the past two years, the Ministry of Social and Family Development has been stepping up its partnership with community groups to reach out and aid the homeless. One of the initiatives includes bringing together the different groups helping the homeless (eg. Catholic Welfare Services, HSS) and launching the Peers Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers (Peers) Network. In this way, those who shun help from the authorities can still receive the necessary support through the staff and volunteers of the respective charities whom they have built a relationship with over a period of time.
Given the brokenness that the homeless experience, having a stronger community support will undoubtedly go a long way in their societal reintegration. Indeed, if community is the solution, then Christians can certainly play our part as we seek to be a sanctuary of peace and redemption as the church of Christ. If anybody should know what a home and a community should be and feel like, it should be us who have been graciously drawn into a relationship with the Triune God.
Whether we own a physical home ourselves or not, the Bible reminds us that “God have been our dwelling place in all generations” (Ps 90:1). When Moses spoke of this truth, what he had in mind was more than just a splendid building or comfortable shelter that Israel could find rest and seek refuge in. After all, Israel herself would be familiar with the experience of being “homeless” given that having a place to stay in Egypt can hardly be described as home.
Yet, Moses could pray what he prayed because he understood that regardless of the circumstances which Israel found herself in, God remains faithful to his people. As one Bible commentator points out, what Moses is emphasising in this psalm is not the “dwelling place” part but the “in all generations” part. Together with Moses, God’s people are to marvel at God’s faithfulness and his eternal “unchangeableness” since before God had formed “the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2).
For all of eternity, God has and will never change in his being and in how he relates with those who belong to him. Through all the generations of His people’s existence, God has always preserved and protected them. Reaching back all the way to Adam and Eve, God remains the home of His people for He is the redeeming God. Whether Israel was in slavery under the Egyptians or wandering in the desert, Israel can have the assurance that they can always find their home in God.
In contrast to the many in the world who trust in their own strength and are preoccupied with building a home apart from God, God’s people are to trust in him. We are to rest in God’s faithfulness and know that in God, we already have a home that will be for all eternity. As much as God will “return man to dust” (v.3) and our lives here are as a “watch in the night” (v.4), God’s people who are mindful of our mortality will learn to find delight in the steadfast love of God (v.12-14).
Undoubtedly, God’s word hit close to home for within the span of this week, we have two beloved church members who were called home to the Lord. The circumstances in which they passed on could not be more different. One of them suffered a heart attack while he was out by himself. A passer-by performed CPR on him before the ambulance arrived. Nevertheless, he breathed his last shortly after being attended to in the hospital. As he did not have any personal details on him, it took a while before the hospital could contact his next of kin.
The other was already warded in a community hospital due to an aggressive cancer and had to rely on morphine to relieve him of the severe pain he was experiencing. During his stay in the palliative ward, he was visited by many since doctors were not hopeful of his recovery. On the day just before he passed on, he was surrounded by family members and several church friends who ministered to him with prayers and his favourite Christian songs.
Regardless of their manner of passing away, we thank God that because of their faith in Christ, they will be resting in the eternal home which Jesus has prepared (John 14:2-3). For them, they have completed their labour here on earth. For the rest of us, may God’s grace continue to abound and establish the work of our hands (Ps 90:17). Since God is already our home, let us not be caught up with vain pursuits of property speculation or the frantic business of home decorations. There are far too many who are without an eternal home in God. Surely, for those whose God is their dwelling place, we can always make room for others to know Him.
Every Sunday, we spend about a third of our entire worship service singing songs. Depending on the occasion and length of songs, we sing about 8 to 10 songs. What are we singing every week? And what kind of songs make it into our worship services?
Two weeks ago, Ps Kien Seng was addressing us (Parenting in the Pew Seminar for parents and children) and he shared something that made the children laugh out loud but also made a very good point. He said that we are all very familiar with the worship song “Bless the Lord, O My Soul” but very often when we come to church, we come rather with “Bless My Soul, O Lord” attitude. This applies not only to the songs but to the entire “service” which we render unto the Lord.
Psalm 96 says:
O Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous works among the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.
We come to worship at the Lord’s invitation. Human beings did not come up with this idea to gather and worship God. It was God who called and instructed the Israelites to worship Him. At His command to sing and praise Him, we lift our voices to sing together unto the Lord. Although praise is not confined to singing alone, singing is a vital form of praise. Through singing, we achieve both the vertical and the horizontal dimensions of praise which is adoration and declaration in the same breath. We sing to the Lord, bless his name, we sing of the Lord declaring His glory. Even as we do so, we sing about God to those around us and yet at the same God is present with us to receive our praises.
Our Order of Worship in the bulletin, the liturgy has four-fold movements.
Gathering to Worship
Proclaiming the Word
Responding to the Word and
Sending forth into the World
Our liturgy is a re-enactment of God’s salvation history in which we are invited to participate. All the songs we sing are chosen to flow according to the “order”. We come at his invitation to boldly proclaim what God has done and who He is. We sing the Opening Song with a song that all believers know and affirm to be true of who God is. Songs in this movement are objective in nature and points us to God and therefore, songs which contain words such as I, me, my are not usually sung in this segment. We rightfully praise and adore God for who He is and hence “Songs of Praise and Adoration”
In the next movement, we proclaim God’s Word. Before we hear the Word of God preached, we often sing a prayerful song that asks God to speak to us, open our eyes, reveal His truth etc. Singing is also a form of prayer. You would have heard many worship leaders saying “May the words of the song be our prayer…” because the words of certain songs are truly prayers unto the Lord. The book of Psalms contains a large proportion of prayer.
After we hear the Word of God spoken through the preacher, we respond to the Word heard through our Responsive Song. This week we will be singing “Take My Life and Let It Be” after hearing God’s word about our life and responsibility in the light of the truth behind the Parable of Talents (summary from Eld Chee Seng). We also respond by giving our offerings -tithes, gifts and our lives too.As we end our worship service, we are Sent Forth into the World to be God’s ambassadors until Christ returns. Our Closing Song is also responsive in nature focusing on how we ought to live and do in the light of the Gospel until Christ returns.
In singing together as a congregation, we are also emphasizing the teaching function of congregational singing in that while we praise and pray through our songs, we are also instructing and exhorting one another (Ephesians 5:19) as Paul exhorts believers to address one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
Every week new worship songs are being churned out and we definitely cannot sing all the songs out there. We sing old and new songs so that everyone can sing together to the Lord. When it comes to the choice of songs, some guidelines are as follows.
- Theologically Sound: First of all, the songs we sing must be theologically sound and reveal God’s truth contained in the Bible. Many objective songs carry timeless truths about God which brings comfort and healing to many. I lost my father-in-law this week and songs about God’s faithfulness, salvation, and eternal hope in Christ are the songs that will help me even as I mourn. This is the power of God’s word that it brings healing and hope. As I hear people sing these words in praise, I am also exhorted and reminded of God’s eternal purposes that God’s plan is bigger than me and my experience. Song lyrics also become our theology and therefore we try our best to choose songs that reflect God’s truth accurately.
- Musically Sound: Like a good marriage, a good song has words that are put to good melody/music so it is able to express the words in a manner that tugs the heart strings. If the song is about God’s majesty, the music will be uplifting and triumphant in nature. If the song is about Christ’s death on the cross, it will be slower and the mood will be sombre. Songs that accurately captures the mood and paints the text through the music helps people to sing with understanding.
- Singable Melody: Many songs have beautiful melody lines that makes it easy for everyone to sing. If the melody is too challenging, it discourages people from joining in the congregational singing. It can lead to passive worshippers who come to observe and be sung to. The purpose to is get everyone to participate and sing.
- Vocal Range: An average person may sing comfortably from G (below Middle C) to D (1 octave above middle C). Many good songs stay within this range so that it is easier for all (young and all) to sing together without straining or losing the voice. Many modern worship songs are unfortunately meant for soloists and concerts whereby they employ what I would call “vocal somersaults” and therefore impossible for the average person to sing. We want everyone to sing.
- Rhythm: The normal human heart beats at a moderate speed and it affects the way we sing too. If the words of the song are not written to match the music and is too challenging, people will naturally stop singing because they cannot follow. We ensure that the pendulum doesn’t swing to extremes.
At True Way, we try to keep a balance knowing that we have people from cradle to grave, abled and disabled, differently abled people-all belonging to the family of God. In doing that, we hope and pray that we look out for the interests of each other. Yes, many things are possible on YouTube but not all things are possible and appropriate for worship services.
May we all sing to the praise of His glory and bless the Lord.
A man lost his sight in an explosion caused by a terrorist attack. He regained it perfectly in a matter of days, having his eyes replaced by an advanced camera system attached to his optic nerves. The system did more than just return his vision – it gave him enhanced vision. Another man had an ailing liver due to his drinking habit. Desiring to drink more despite his condition, he paid to have his liver replaced with an artificial one able to metabolise alcohol quicker. Sound unreal? That is because they are scenarios straight out of the 2017 science fiction movie Ghost in the Shell.
The story takes place in an imagined future, where human organs and body parts are replaceable if you have the money, and body enhancements are the norm. Almost everyone is a cyborg of sorts. Ghost in the Shell revolves around Major, the first person whose brain had been successfully transplanted into a fully synthetic body with enhanced capabilities – a complete cyborg. She is touted to be the future of humanity, for, if people are already replacing and enhancing parts of their body to transcend human limitations, who would not replace the entire body to transcend mortality altogether?
These scenarios may seem like distant and fantastic prospects for us, but we are already hurtling toward such a future. Implants like cardiac pacemakers, artificial hearts, arterial stents, joint replacements, and robotic prosthetics are already keeping our ailing natural bodies functioning. Humans are becoming cyborgs to transcend the problems imposed on us by nature, and the kind of medical technoscience seen in Ghost in the Shell is merely further along the developmental trajectory. If current developments and science fiction are anything to go by, it shows how humanity is collectively yearning for a technoscientific utopia where we can fix any problem nature throws our way, a future where humans no longer have to endure physical pain, frailty, or even death.
This is a trajectory that began with the Enlightenment. Its beginnings may be traced to Francis Bacon, a 16th century philosopher who promoted the accruement of scientific knowledge through the empirical investigation of nature and the implementation of that knowledge to liberate humanity from disease, hunger, and labour. In the words of ethicist Todd Daly, Bacon himself believed that controlling “the created order was the means by which humanity might regain the immortality that Adam and Eve forfeited in the Garden of Eden.” Flawed theology notwithstanding, Bacon proposed this project from a Christian perspective that was motivated by charity towards sufferers and recognised the limits of humanity before God. Unfortunately, Bacon – along with other Enlightenment philosophers – thought that progress in the natural sciences and its applications should be kept separate from matters of faith. After Bacon, the burgeoning secularism and liberalism in Enlightenment Europe soon led to the unmooring of his project from its Christian foundations. It now sees its chief goal as the elimination of suffering through technoscientific progress so that individuals may be liberated from the human condition of pain, illness, and death. According to the Baconian project, this is an unmitigated good – it is the chief good for humanity. This liberation then allows individuals to pursue fulfilment in their lives. Conversely, all suffering is absolutely evil.
There is no denying that developments in technoscience as a result of the Baconian project has led to much good for humanity. Many of us (including the preacher writing this) would have been helped by it. Rather, as Christians living in a world that has accepted the Baconian project as the normative trajectory of history, there is a need to examine how its ideas have deeply affected our attitudes toward life, suffering, and death. Such ideas are by no means neutral or value free. They have shaped the way we conceive what a good life should be and how we should pursue it; they have conditioned the way we perceive bodily physical suffering and our manner of response to it. Consciously or not, as citizens in a developed society, we would have bought into the Baconian project in varying degrees: that the individual is at the centre of concern, all suffering is meaningless evil, and the good life is one free from suffering so we may meaningfully pursue our happiness.
However, when good and evil are viewed in such terms, it becomes difficult to understand why God would create a world in which people are excluded from a fulfilling life due to pain, illness, and death. Every time a person falls ill or dies, it is an impugnment of God’s goodness and power: either God is not all-good, not all-powerful, or both. It is precisely due to the entrenched premises of the Baconian project in developed societies that makes it difficult for many to be theists. How can there be God if there is so much suffering? How can God allow so many people be prevented from leading fulfilling lives?
Christians are not immune from its influence. While Christians already believe in God and do not ultimately trust in technoscience, they may have Christianized the premises of the Baconian project. God takes the place of technoscience while the Baconian ethics are taken up to be God’s will. In this manner, liberation from suffering becomes the chief good in Christianity which God would always grant; he would always heal, keep us free of illnesses, bestow on us longevity, and grant us fulfilling lives. It becomes unthinkable that God would will to permit pain, sickness, or premature death among Christians, and when we are not healed, it must be our faith that is lacking.
However, it cannot be seen from either Scripture or the Christian tradition that suffering is an absolute evil or that liberation from suffering is an absolute good. Ethicist Allen Verhey puts it eloquently, “Christian thinkers regarded life as a great good, but not as the greatest good. They regarded death as a great evil, but not as the greatest evil.” This is most clearly seen in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Christ the Son took on the human condition (without sin) and had to “learn obedience [to the Father] through what he suffered.” Theologian Stanley Hauerwas writes, “for the New Testament Christian no suffering is meaningless. The ultimate purpose and meaning behind Christians suffering in the New Testament is spiritual maturity.” The early Christians understood that God permits suffering for a greater good, perceivable only through the eyes of faith. St Paul himself endured physical suffering in order to pursue the mission to the Gentiles. The apostle also recognised that God permitted him to be tormented by a “thorn in his flesh” that he might obtain the greater good of humility. As the early church underwent persecution, martyrs embraced torture and premature death because they regarded it an honour to suffer like Christ. For these, the momentary evil of suffering leads to the eternal good of glory.
Moreover, health and longevity were not thought by Christians as goods in themselves or freedom for self-actualization. When facing the potential threat of execution, St Paul himself was indifferent to dying or living longer but he was clear as to why he would pursue the latter: fruitful labour in the Gospel. His life was lived centred on Christ. This contrasts with the modern pursuit of health and longevity for no good reason other than to enjoy life a little longer. The biblical story of King Hezekiah reminds us that being healed to live longer is not necessarily a good thing if that new-found freedom is used to commit evil before God. If God blesses us with days of health, then we ought only to live them out in thankfulness and in obedience to his will.
Certainly, the Baconian project has resulted in the relief of much human suffering and the prolonging of life, and technoscience is a grace given to humanity by God of which Christians are free to use. Yet ultimately, they must be relativized by Christ in his death and resurrection. If Christ took on the human condition – including death itself – in order to redeem it in its totality for us, it confirms that death will always be a part of the human condition ineradicable by technoscience. It is that dreary veil through which all must pass. However, by his victorious death and resurrection, Christ has subdued and transformed death. It has now become merely the final stage of a metamorphic process – begun with our baptism and proceeded by the purifying flames of suffering – through which we are received into God. For all of us who are in Christ, death is no longer the fearful final word, for beyond that veil of death lies “the eternal weight of glory beyond all measure” for us – our eternal lives with God. Soli deo gloria.