When we fear the LORD, we will have a longer life. Proverbs 9:11 says “For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life. Nonetheless, do all the righteous have longer lives when they fear the LORD? I can count a number of righteous people I have heard about who for some reason or another did not have a longer life than many unrighteous person. What does this passage mean? Can God truly give those who fear Him longer life? And if that is the case, why are there some God-fearers who die early, not even making it to 35? Something doesn’t seem fair; God fearers should live longer than non-God fearers. What is the writer of Proverbs trying to say here? Does God actually have a say with regard to when and how someone will die? I am going to say that God doesn’t have anything to do with when and how someone will die. When I look at this passage, this passage confirms how God actively saves us from physical harm to ourselves today and an eternal life in the Kingdom to come. If I had continued down the path I was following, I would not be here writing this blog. I would have been physically or spiritually dead.
Our God is a god of the living, not the dead (Matt22:32). He doesn’t decided when and how someone will die, however, He does actively save today. And its not just a belief in God that gives us length of days. We also have to “keep my commandments” as it says in Proverbs 3:1-2 because we are given “length of days and years of life.” Deuteronomy 17:20 also talks about the commandments giving Israel “length of days.” In the case of Israel, it was very literal; when they followed God’s commands, all of Israel lived. However when Ancient Israel stopped following God’s commands, disaster would strike. It was God who either punished the Ancient Israelites directly or He withdrew His protecting presence from them. The church is currently in a spiritual desert as pilgrims on the earth (Heb11:13), much like when Ancient Israel walked in a physical desert for 40 years. God is calling those today who hear His call to build His church for the coming Kingdom. Christian believers are not the “new” Israel nor are we in the promised land; we are hoping for it in the new Kingdom and new Earth (Rev21:1-4) that God will reveal. God will not physically punish us for not following His commands, however he may withdraw His protecting presence and leave us to our own sinful self-indulgences. God Himself doesn’t need to punish us; we often punish ourselves with our own lust and pride.
Nonetheless, the fear of the LORD should give us the wisdom to learn more about God and in order to learn more, it’s in following His commandments. The commandments give life today and for the new life to come. Often, the acts of the wicked will not go unpunished and their evil acts will punish their future generations. It says in the proverbs 17:13 that “evil will not depart from the house of one who returns evil for good” and Jesus himself says that “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt26:52). The lives of the wicked are short; just look at the average age for someone who participates in gang life. I believe their average life span is 30 years! The wicked have no hope of eternal life either unless they truly repent of their deeds. As for those who are righteous and have always been following good doctrine, tragedy can strike anyone and at any time. Tragedy struck Job and it wasn’t his fault nor was it God’s. Death also comes to everyone; people are not better than animals (Ecc3:20-21). God does not control the death of every single life of this earth. God created life and allowed death to exist after Adam and Eve’s disobedience. I believe Adam and Eve were created neither mortal nor immortal in the beginning, because they had unlimited access to the tree of life. However, when they ate of the tree of knowledge, God had to banish them for their own good to keep them from being eternally in sin. Death is a form of God’s mercy for humans, and yet death is the reason we sin (Rom5:12). We sin because we know we will die and this sickness affects everyone, however children are not born sinful. Children sin because they are in a sinful world and pick up on the sinful behaviors of those around them. Sinful behaviors may not explain why children will begin to “sin” at an early age. When I think of my 17 month old son, he has no fear of anything. He doesn’t know that he can get hurt or die, and I will act very differently when he tries to climb out of our four story balcony or put his fingers in electric plug-ins or run out in front of a car. I may yell at him, spank him or get really upset with his “dangerous” exploits. I’m certain he sees that he can’t do everything but he just doesn’t understand right now why he cannot jump off of a building. (An excellent book, called Ancestral Sin counters the Western Church’s idea of “original sin.” The Eastern Orthodox Church prefers to call the sin in the garden “ancestral sin” rather than “original sin”).
Nonetheless, humans are mortal; we will all die one day. God’s angels do protect the righteous (Ps91:11-12), so the righteous do have greater chances than the non-righteous with regard to divine protection in an ungodly world. And yet, injustice often happens in this life that touch the righteous. When it is time for some to die because of old age, God doesn’t necessarily need to prove anything because there is the hope of the resurrection and a new earth. God can add years to one’s life as He did to Hezekiah (2Kg20:6), but it is for His own reasons and in His own time. In the meantime, the righteous have a greater chance at having a more satisfying, peaceful and possibly longer life through following the God of Israel and being obedient to His commandments. Unbiblical traditions and unhealthy doctrines must be thrown out of a believer’s life if a believer truly wants true peace and wisdom in their lives. In so doing, the God of Israel can amazingly change our lives for the better in the here and now.