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Set Your House in Order

How would you like to know exactly when you were going to die?  How would that knowledge affect you?  Would you prepare yourself to meet the Lord right away, or would you indulge every fleshly desire and wait until the last minute to seek God’s favor?

Of course, the correct way to prepare for death is to "set your house in order.”  In general, this phrase means to arrange for the proper disposal of your property when you die, i.e., who will receive an inheritance from you, how much will each person receive, who will be in charge of your household, etc.  However, we also use this phrase as a figurative expression to say that a person needs to make his life right with God.  A person who is living in sin needs to cease from his wicked ways, seek God’s forgiveness through the gospel of Christ, and turn to righteousness.  In this way, he will "set his house in order” so that he will be ready for the judgment when he dies.

The prophet Isaiah once instructed King Hezekiah to set his house in order, but Hezekiah failed.  Notice 2Kings 20:1:

"In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill.  And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, "Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.”’”

Hezekiah had been a good king for Judah.  He had repaired and restored the temple of God and its services (2Chron. 29), restored the worship of God in Judah (2Chron. 30-31), and stood up against the mighty Assyrians through faith in God (Isa. 37).  It was after these things that Hezekiah became ill and Isaiah brought the message of his impending death.  However, Hezekiah appealed to God in tears, and God granted him fifteen more years to live (2Ki. 20:2-11).  Nevertheless, it was still needful for Hezekiah to set his house in order in preparation for his death, but he did the opposite.  His later years became worse than his early years.  Notice 2Chronicles 32:25 – "But Hezekiah gave no return for the benefit he received, because his heart was proud; therefore wrath came on him and on Judah and Jerusalem.”  Specifically, Hezekiah failed when the Babylonians came to congratulate him on his recovery from illness and success against Assyria (2Chron. 32:31).  In his arrogance and foolish pride, he showed them all the wealth of his palace (2Ki. 20:12-13; see 2Chron. 32:27-30 for an accounting of his wealth).  As a result, God said to Hezekiah through Isaiah that all of the wealth of Jerusalem would be taken away to Babylon and some of his sons would be taken away into Babylonian captivity (2Ki. 20:14-19).  Thus, when Hezekiah died, his house was certainly not in order.

A good example of a man setting his house in preparation for death is that of Jacob in Genesis 47:27-48:33.  "When the time for Israel to die drew near” (47:29), he called in his sons and "blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him” (49:28).  Jacob’s "blessings” (some were good, some were not) foretold of the future destinies of his sons and the tribes that would descend from them.  This was not merely Jacob telling the fortunes of his sons, but it was Jacob passing on faithful words of wisdom for them and for all who would read his words in the Scriptures.  "When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.” (49:33)

In the examples of Hezekiah and Jacob, both men knew of their impending deaths, but most of us do not know when we will die.  Even so, the unknown times of our deaths should have no effect upon our preparation for death.  We all know that we have an appointment to keep with death (Heb. 9:27), and like David, we should realize that "there is hardly a step between [us] and death” (1Sam. 20:3).  These are the things that we know for certain, and it is always best to prepare for what we do know rather than to guess about what we do not know.

Therefore, let us be ready for death always.  Better still, let us think of it as being ready for the Lord always.  The Scriptures tell us that Christ will come as a thief in the night (1Thess. 5:2), which means that He will come at an unpredictable time.  Although we expect the Lord, we cannot predict the time of His coming, and so it behooves us to be ready for Him at all times (1Thess. 5:4-10; 2Pet. 3:11-14).  Whether it is Christ or death that comes to us first, our preparation must be the same.  Let us not be as the rich fool who was not ready when his soul was required of him (Luke 12:13-21), but rather let us be as Paul, who said in 2Timothy 4:6-8:

"For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

Set your house in order while you can.

Stacey E. Durham




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