Are we in the land of the living, or in the land of the dying?
The nineteenth-century black preacher, Andrew Marshall, when he was old and infirm, sent a message to his former acquaintances in the northern states. 'Tell them', said he, that I am yet in the land of the dying, but am bound for the land of the living. There is no death there, while all things are dying here.'
The same sentiments have been attributed to many dying Christians, including John Owen and John Newton.
Of course, there is a very true biblical sense in which we seek the Lord in the land of the living and hope to see the goodness of God there (for example, Psalm 27:13).
But is there not an even truer sense in which we will always be in the land of the dying in this poor, dying 'life', and must seek a land and in which there is no more death?
I would suggest that the deepest reality is that we will never truly live till we die. There is no death in that land of bliss, and no life worth the name in this poor dying life.
Oh, to be off the field of battle, and out of the enemy's gunshot!
Only then will we live indeed.
I fainted had unless that I
Believed had to see
The Lord's own goodness in the land
Of them that living be.
Scottish Metrical Psalter, Psalm 27