Second Samuel 14 and verse 14 is the passage that we want to look at - just one verse somewhat, admittedly, taken out of context, or at least I won't be dealing with the context tonight. Second Samuel 14 verse 14: "For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person: yet doth he devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him".
It's the first half of the verse that I want you to notice, please: "For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again". I'm sure probably all of you have heard the expression and the cliché: 'Don't cry over spilt milk'. Really, I suppose, the motto behind that is simply: 'Don't cry about something that you can't change'. Once something happens and it is irreversible and irretrievable, well, there's no point in getting upset about it - don't cry over spilt milk!
But the water spilt in verse 14 of 2 Samuel 14 is something that we should weep over, because what the word of God is talking about is our lives - your life and my life. The Holy Spirit has inspired these words to tell us that we must die, and our lives are like water spilt on the ground. Do you realise that your life is like that? Do you realise that your life is brief? Do you realise that there's a day coming very soon when your life will be over? Does that ever cause you grief, distress, or even a single thought?
I wonder have you ever wept over your life? I'm sure if I was to ask most of you that question, you would say 'Sure, I have. I have had bereavement in my life, I've experienced sickness and my loved ones have gone through pain. I have faced various problems, I've been on the sharp end of many hurts. I have known in my mind and in my heart grevious fears, continual anxieties. I have known torment of body, soul and mind. I know what you're talking about when you speak about weeping!'. Life is full of tears, there's no doubt about that, and it's wonderful to know that the word of God tells us that there is a Saviour who loves us, and a Saviour who knows and understands our tears. He is not ignorant to our problems, to our pains, to our trials and our tribulations.
Let me rephrase the question, 'Have you ever wept over your life?', to this one: 'Have you ever wept over your death?'. How many times around an open grave have we heard a clergyman read from the prayer book: 'In life we are in the midst of death', but it's a fact, isn't it? In fact, death is intrinsic to life because every life ends with a death. Don't tell me this evening that you have never thought about it! Maybe you have even experienced in recent days lying awake upon your bed for fear of death, fear of going unconscious and not waking up in this world in time. Maybe you're someone who doesn't really fear death, or at least you don't show it, but you joke about death - it's all a jest to you. Of course, we laugh, ourselves, at death, and tell jokes and quips about it because we tend to joke about the things that we fear most and don't really understand. It a way whereby we cope - we put up a mask because we really can't face eyeball to eyeball the certainty that one day we will pass into eternity, and our life on earth here will be finished.
Now please don't think that I'm being morbid this evening. It is a solemn and a sober subject, but the fact of the matter is: God's word and commonsense tells us that it is wise to think about death. It is wise to stop in the humdrum of the activity of our lives here on earth, and think about our end - how it will be, perhaps where will be, in what circumstances it will be - but more importantly than all of that, where we will be after death. One of the wisest men that ever lived, Solomon, in his book called Ecclesiastes chapter 7 verse 2 testifies of the fact that it's good to think about death. He said: 'It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart'. You'll learn something if you go to a house of mourning. It's not filled with all the frivolities of materialism and foolish pleasure that is here for a moment and passes away with the fashion of this world, but you will be faced with one of the greatest certainties that humanity has ever known: that one day all of us, no matter who we are, will die.
I'm not telling you anything that a doctor won't tell you, when I am encouraging you tonight that death is a certainty and you must be prepared for it. That's what the undertaker would tell you, and there are some undertakers here tonight. It's what an insurance broker will assure you of, that's why you need to take out a policy. It's what a solicitor will convince you of, to take out a will so that your remains after you, financially, will be left to those whom you love and not be absorbed by the government or someone else who it doesn't belong to. But what I'm wanting you to notice tonight is more important than all of these ramifications, materially and temporally, if you would die tonight or in a day that is yet to be: I want you to think about the things not that you will leave behind you, but the thing that you will take with you - that is your soul.
Now please do not think of your soul as a possession, it is not. Your soul is your self, it is who you are tonight. Just as you came into this world with nothing, you will exit this world without anything but yourself, who you are and what you have become. You've heard the famous saying, and it's so true, that there are no pockets in a shroud. I heard another one recently: 'There are no tow bars on a hearse'. You can take nothing with you. Just as you have brought nothing into this world, you take nothing out of it. The Lord Jesus Christ told men over and over again that they needed to prepare for eternity, not to be so absorbed with down here that they build up treasures and kingdoms and empires on the earth, but rather build up treasures in heaven where moth and rust doth not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. Did He not say: 'For what shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, yet lose his own soul?'.
Now friend, as I talk to you tonight about weeping over this spilt water that one day will be your life that will be spent and not be able to be bought back or redeemed again, I want you to realise that I'm talking about the most important thing in all the universe - and that is the eternal destination of your soul. This vivid illustration that the Holy Spirit gives us, of the brevity of life and the necessity of numbering our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom, is so graphic, isn't it? It's piercing, 'For we must all needs die, and we are like water spilt on the ground which cannot be gathered up again'. You know, there are so many other illustrations in the word of God of the brevity of life and the necessity of trusting the Lord. One Old Testament writer says our life is like a messenger on horseback, it darts as an express, it is spent so quickly. The Psalmist says that our life is like the span of a man's hand, it is so brief. Another says that our life is like the turn of the weaver's shuttle, it turns around once and it is gone. What did James say? He says our lives are like a vapour, in fact he used the illustration of a businessman who decided that tomorrow he would go into such a city and buy and sell and there get gain. James reprimands him, he says: 'You don't know what a day will bring forth, you can only say 'If the Lord wills' we will do this or that', because your life is like a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away!
What does this illustration that we read of tonight tell us, that we are as water spilt on the ground which cannot be gathered up again? There are three very simple truths that I want you to understand from this illustration tonight. Here's the first: death is certain, death is certain. Of course, I'm talking in the exclusion of the second coming of the Lord Jesus that we believe in as Christians, I'm talking in a general sense that if the Lord does not come death is certain. 'We must needs die', this verse says. Do you know something? It takes vivid illustrations like these to alert us to this fact that we are going to die. Do you realise this, my friend? As sure as you are in this building tonight, sitting on your seat, one day you will die. Your body will be in the soil, or if you choose to be cremated your ashes will be blown in the wind. Though your body rot and decay in earth or sea or sky, your soul will live on in eternity. Do you believe that?
Whether you believe it or not is irrelevant, because it is certain. The weight of evidence is in every tombstone and graveyard all around this land: that you will die, I will die if the Saviour doesn't come before it - and this is a certainty that you must face up to tonight, the reality of death and the assurance of eternity. In fact, in the inscription at the exit of the cemetery beneath the Santa Maria church on the Via Veneto in Rome it reads these words: 'To all those who go in and go out, what you are we used to be, what we are you will be'. Every time that you have gathered around a graveside you have thought about another's death, another's life that has flitted past, gone like a vapour; another's life that has been spilt on the ground and is not able to be gathered up again - but I'm asking you this evening: have you ever confronted your own mortality? That we all must needs die, that you will die, that I will die - God's word says in Hebrews 9:27: 'It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment'.
An Arab awoke one evening very hungry, and he lit the candle beside his bed and began to eat the dates that were sitting there. But before he ate the first one, he shone it beside the light and he saw that there was a worm wriggling in the middle of it, and so he threw it out of the tent. He lifted the second and he did the same, put it up to the light, and there was another worm - he threw it away too. He did it a third time, and then the fourth time he blew the light out and he shoved all the dates in his mouth and ate them all. Friend, that's what you're doing concerning death, isn't it? You don't want to think about it! You want to blow out the light! You don't want to listen to what people are telling you: that there is an eternity and you need to be prepared for it, and that Christ has provided the way whereby you may be saved - you're not wanting to face reality! Death is certain: 'We must needs die'.
The second truth in this illustration is that death is a surprise. It says that the water is spilt on the ground. Our lives, as it were, are spilt - and that word 'spilt' has the sense of the accidental, the unexpected. Now it's not talking from God's perspective, because God has made it very clear that we will die, and He has told us that fact. He made us, He knows that we have sinned and that sin principle in us will cause us to die. He knows, I believe, the very day that we will die. This surprise is not on God's side, but believe it or not it is on our side! Now it ought not to be so, but the fact of the matter is: most people are surprised by death. Why should they be surprised by death if it is as certain as life? Yet they are. Why should they be surprised by death when the process is already working straight after their birth, and at this very moment is working in you - death, corruption, decay? Yet it is a fact, and I hope you will agree with me, that no one is expecting to die today. No one is not expecting to live tomorrow. Yet the fact of the matter is, although you don't expect it today or tomorrow, your death must come one day - for 'we must needs die'! Yet it takes so many, perhaps all people, by surprise.
I'm not just talking about accidents. When you're given that bad news of a terminal illness, who expects that? You may fear it, but you hear it in the lives of other people, and you believe, perhaps deep down, that it can never happen to you, it can never touch your family. Then there are the young, they never expect to die. Do the old expect to die? I could take you tonight in this district, not very far from here, to an 84-year-old who is on the threshold of eternity and does not realise her need of trusting Christ. She thinks she's got enough time. You would think, wouldn't you, that when old age approaches you'd begin to think about eternity and eternal matters would become more real - but the fact of the matter is: many people, if not most people, do not think about it at all. They're so taken up with this world, with their family, with their business, with their occupation, with their daily mundane routine that they cannot see beyond death!
John Bacon was an eminent 18th century English sculptor, and he said on his deathbed these words: 'What I was as an artist seemed to be of some importance while I lived, but what I really am as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only thing of importance to me'. He realised that all that really matters in this life is being prepared for the next life, being ready to die. We don't know when we will die, we don't know where, we don't know how, but for the believer in Christ it ought not to be a surprise, that we are not prepared when we die. Are you prepared? That's why you would be lost this evening if God was to take your last breath, because you're not prepared. You're not expecting death, eternity is not a reality to you. You know of others who are sick, you know of others who are at the very step of heaven or hell, but to you it does not seem real. My friend, beware, because one day - perhaps sooner than you think - you must needs die! Your life will be spilt, you won't have expected it. You may, in those dying minutes, try to prevent it and catch what is falling.
Death is certain. Death, to many, is a surprise. Thirdly, you need to know that death is irreversible. Look at the verse: 'We must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again'. You can't turn the clock back on your life, you know that, many people have told you that - but do you know something? Do you realise that you cannot, after death, retrieve the opportunities that you have had in your life? It's the same philosophy, but people don't see it! Once you're dead, that's it, your opportunities of coming to Christ and gaining heaven are gone! How many, I wonder, are in eternity tonight and wish they were in time? They wish, perhaps, that they were in a meeting like this one - yet through all their lifetime they detested meetings such as this; but oh, they wish they were in this one this very evening. How they long to hear the stories that once they plugged their ears to in Sunday School, in Gospel meetings and missions, in the workplace where a Christian friend was witnessing and testifying to them. Maybe they're even singing tonight that hymn that they learnt in their childhood:
'Tell me the stories of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard'.
Maybe they're remembering that there was a Saviour who died for them, who tasted death for every man, who endured their hell and their fires and their torment that they are now in. Maybe they're singing:
'Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in anguish and pain.
Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
And tell how He liveth again'.
But do you know the problem? There is no one to tell them, because they have died and their death is irreversible! That's why God's word says: 'Today is the day of salvation'. You see, they have lost today, in fact they have lost time and they are in eternity - they've even lost tomorrow. There are no more days or hours or minutes in the eternal realm, and because they have lost today, they have lost their soul! My friend, have you no time on earth to be saved? Now, literally, there are thousands, yea, millions in eternity and there is no time in which to be saved for them - because time is spent, death has come, their life has been spilt like water on the ground and it cannot be retrieved. It is irreversible! No second chances! That is why it is imperative that you are saved now!
I wonder is there someone here tonight who will die an atheist. You don't believe in God, you don't believe in heaven, you don't believe in hell, you don't believe in the Son of God, you don't believe in His precious blood that is able to save us from sin. Or maybe you're just an agnostic: you wouldn't write off God like that, but you would say 'I just don't know, I don't understand all these things and so I draw a line under it and say, 'Well, someone knows somewhere, but not me''. A newspaper article referred to a striking story in an anonymous book of memoirs published not so long ago. The writer met the woman who nursed the great agnostic, Professor J. H. Huxley, through his last days of illness. She said that as he lay dying the great sceptic suddenly looked up at some sight in the mortal sky, it was as if he could see something that no one else could see. Staring for a little while, he whispered at last: 'So it's true, it's true'. Will you wait until then to find out it is true that there is a God, it's true that there is a heaven, it is true that there is a hell, it is true that you have a soul, it is true that you need to be saved and Jesus died and bore your sin in order that you might be saved?
Now listen: I don't want to take the dying gasps of these men as proof that there is life after death, God's word testifies to it! Jesus, the Son of God, told us that there is a heaven, there is a hell, there is a great eternity. Why should you take my word for it? Take His! He said: 'If it were not so, I would have told you' - but it is so! You can trust Christ's consciousness. Do you know why He knew it was so? Because He is the one who died for sin, who was buried and the third day rose again, and has ascended into heaven - people say no one has ever come back to tell us: Christ came back to tell us! He is conscious of eternity, but you can trust as well His candour: if you should believe anybody about eternity, should it not be the Lord Jesus Christ, who even those who wanted to kill Him could say they found no fault in Him, and no accusation could stick to Him. He said of Himself: 'I am the truth' - do you think He would tell us a lie?
He was conscious of eternity, He had candour in His teaching; but more than that, I want you to see tonight: He has compassion upon your soul, and He wants men and women to go to heaven. That's why He came to this earth, that's why He has gone, He went to Calvary, He bled and died, He took upon Himself your sin. He suffered the contradiction of sinners who spat upon Him, who bruised Him, who plucked the beard from His cheeks, who did all manner of cruelty to Him - but God, His Father, laid your sin upon Him. Why? So that He might have you in heaven! Oh, what love, what boundless love, the Father's love to me. That's why Jesus said: 'No man comes to the Father but by me'. This is the wonderful good news - people say: 'How can I get to heaven? What do I need to do? What church do I need to join?'. Here's what Jesus says: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by me'.
Do you want to go to heaven? You must come to Christ. It's as simple as that: you must come to the One who died for you and bore your sins Himself on the tree. You must come to the One who rose again from the grave, you must come to Him - but here's the tragedy that everybody seems to miss these days: if you don't come to Him, you will be lost! Jesus said in John 8:21: 'I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come'. My friend, I don't have time, nor do I have the ability, to describe to you what the place called hell is like - a place of outer darkness, a place where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched, a place where there is great thirst but no water, a place where there is separation from God and separation from man, a place where the fires torment day and night, and the smoke ascends forever and ever and ever and ever.
Where will you be? Do you not think it's time that you wept over the spilt water of your life that, perhaps one day very soon, will keel over and will be absolutely irretrievable, never to be gathered again? During World War II a London church group gave a farewell party to some soldiers who were returning to combat on the continent of Europe. At the conclusion a young officer, known for his wise choice of words, was appointed as the spokesman for the group of soldiers to thank the people for their send off. After expressing the men's appreciation: 'To say in closing', he added, 'We're leaving for France, the trenches, and maybe to die'. He hadn't intended to say that, and he was somewhat embarrassed after saying it - but then he blurted out in emotion: 'Can anyone here tell us how to die?'. There was an awkward silence, and then someone walked to the piano and began to sing the aria from Elijah: 'Oh, rest in the Lord'. That was the answer - that's still the answer!
Do you want to know how to die? Repent of your sins, believe the gospel, and you shall have life now and the life which is to come.
Let's all bow our heads: is the Lord speaking to your heart tonight? Harden not your heart to Him, listen to Him. You do know, don't you, that one day you will die? The way you are tonight, it would be without Christ and without hope in eternity - but it need not be so, my friend, surely you know that now. A loving Saviour has provided salvation through His sacrifice, and offers it to you tonight for the taking, if you'll only turn from your sin and put your faith in Him and in Him alone. Ask Him, even now, 'Lord Jesus, I confess I am a sinner. I deserve death and hell, but I thank You that You died in my place, and You took my sin. I thank You and I ask You to save me now, and make me Your child'. Will you pray that prayer? Please do not leave without having this certainty that eternity is sure for you.
Let's close our meeting in a word of prayer: Father, we give thanks for the Saviour that You sent, the Lord Jesus, who is our surety to know that because He has gone within the veil, that one day we will be in heaven in the very presence of God Almighty. Lord, it's nothing to do with us or our works, we freely confess it is all of grace - but Lord, help them to see that tonight. Oh Lord, let them flee for refuge to the Saviour, and be saved from their sins now; and their life from this world, the flesh, and the devil, and saved from hell in eternity unto eternal life. Oh God, strive with sinners in this place tonight; and Lord Jesus Christ, take the victory, we pray. To Thy glory we ask it, Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording, titled "Weeping Over Spilt Water" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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