The Oblong Box

by Rod Davis                                                                                                               ~The Mad Preacher~

funeral-48You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. (Psalms 39:5)

 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14)

 “Did you observe, captain, how suddenly they sank? Was not that an exceedingly singular thing? I confess that I entertained some feeble hope of his final deliverance, when I saw him lash himself to the box, and commit himself to the sea.” [1]

A young country pastor was asked to conduct a funeral. This was nothing new to him. As a pastor he had helped many of his parishioners say “Goodbye” to cherished loved ones. However, this funeral would be very different from those of the past. Always before the dearly departed had been active church members and were known for their piety and religious zeal. He could, therefore, comfort the sorrowful with words that celebrated the deceased loved one’s life that was dedicated to God and family, as well as the impact they had on lives. With gladness he could offer them the calm assurance that there will be a “glad reunion day.”

However, this funeral would be the most difficult he had ever conducted. In the coffin was a young man of poor reputation named Danny. He came from a family who could not name one devout Christian anywhere in their linage. They never darkened the door of a church except for weddings and funerals. They displayed no fondness for Christ or His Church. If any hapless church member came to their door with a Bible or a pamphlet, they were politely but abruptly dismissed with a “We’re not interested.” Now, the product of their distain for anything remotely religious was lying in an oblong box. Their 22-year-old son—their only child—was gone.

Danny grew up in a home without God, without a moral compass and without hope. He lived his short life like someone who had nothing to live for. At first, he got into trouble in school―fighting, doing drugs and pursuing all kind of mischief. Finally, after dropping out of high school, he took his discontentment to the streets and soon found himself at odds with the law. Then a lethal combination of alcohol, a suped-up car and a high-speed chase brought a brutal end to Danny’s unhappy, short life. So here he lay, twenty-two years of shattered hopes and dreams deposited in an oblong box.

How could the pastor possibly find anything positive to say about this senseless loss? As he got up from his seat to speak, he silently prayed in desperation. “God give me the right words to say that will bring something good out of this boy’s death.” He then slowly approached the podium and gripped the sides. After a moment, he raised his eyes and scanned the sorrowful faces of the small group of relatives and friends. He stood silently for what seemed an eternity, then the Holy Spirit fell on his heart and he began to speak.

“Friends, I have wrestled long and hard over what to say to you. After much thought and prayer, I have come to this conclusion. There are no words known to man that could dispel the grief and the awesome sense of loss that you feel right now. So, it would be more than foolish for me to attempt the impossible. Therefore, other than trying to offer vain words of comfort, I would like to say this:

“God’s WORD says this about a person’s life, ‘You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.’[2] It further says that ‘Each man’s life is but a breath.’[3]  My friends, your life, whether short or long, is a gift from God. How we live that life… is our gift to Him. One day, it could be today, next week, or 50 years from now, none of us know for sure, we will all be called-on to give an account to Almighty God as to what we did with this wonderful gift of life.

“It pains me to say this, but your Danny is giving an account right now. There’s nothing anyone can do for Danny, now. He made his choice. He chose to go his own way rather than God’s way. My friends, I do not wish to add any more grief on to what is already unbearable. Indeed, in this time of great sorrow I want to honor Danny’s memory by speaking truthfully and with as much kindness as possible. I believe that he would want me to tell you the truth that he missed out on during his brief stay on this planet. I may not have another occasion to speak to all of you as I am right now. So, please indulge me.

“I’m certain that you’ve all cried out to God for answers in the midst of your deep sorrow. ‘Why, God? Why take Danny? What good could come out of something so terrible?’ Please, know that your confusion is understandable. But also know that your questions are answerable. You see, my friends, Danny’s death came about as the result of bad choices―bad choices that he readily made. Perhaps if he had chosen differently he would still be among us. God only knows.

“In light of this consideration, the question set before us is this; did Danny die in vain? The answer to that question is completely up to you. It’s up to you, his family and friends, to choose whether or not he died in vain. For you see, Danny’s death doesn’t have to be in vain if you make the right choice today. Your choice will determine if anything good comes from Danny’s death. Let me explain.

“You see, God deeply desires that Danny’s death not be in vain. He wants it to count for more than his life ever did. How is this possible? Well… Danny’s time for choices is over. But for now, your time for choices is not over. However, a day is coming when others will gather around another oblong box, only this box will be yours. You, however, will not be there. You will be standing before God giving your own account of your life. God will present you with this all-important question. It will be the last question you’ll ever have to consider. God will ask you, ‘What have you done with my Son?’

“How will you answer God? Will you be able to say that you made the right choice―that you chose to serve Jesus and love Him above all others? Will you be able to say that you repented and surrendered your will to His? Or will you sadly have to admit that you chose the same way that Danny chose? Will you have to confess that you chose to ignore Jesus and go your own way as Danny did? If Danny were here today, my friend, I’m sure that he would tell you which choice to make. I’m sure that he would cry out, ‘Choose Jesus! Surrender your life to Him! Please, don’t make the mistake that I made!’”

 “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. — God  (2Corinthians 6:2)

In a very real sense we are all lashed to a box. For if the LORD tarries, there’s an oblong box awaiting us all. Now, is the time to make your choice. Not tomorrow but now. Today is your day of salvation. There’s no salvation offered in that oblong box. Please, make the right choice before it’s too late.

Before there was time You counted the hairs on my head                                            You knew all the words I’ve said                                                                                   And You purchased me back from the dead                                                             Before I was made You searched me and knew my ways                                             You numbered all my days And You set forth the steps                                                     I would take You saved me, You raised me You saved me,                                          You pulled me from the grave [4]

[1]The Oblong Box by Edgar Allan Poe, 1850                                                                 [2] James 4:14                                                                                                                 [3] Psalm 39:5                                                                                                                  [4] Before There Was Time by Caedmon’s Call from their album, In the Company of Angels: A Call to Worship

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5 thoughts on “The Oblong Box

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