I recently came across this article about Chloe McKnight one of the youngest female funeral directors in the UK. She was inspired at the young age of 12 to one day become a funeral day after visit the local funeral home on work placement. She remembers that on arrival, she was confronted with a corpse in the chapel of rest and felt "strangely comfortable with it". It is quite a thought - being comfortable with death.
I was very assured though when she later says that the job has tonnes of sadness : "When the police call you to remove a body on behalf of a coroner, you don't know what you're going to see – an accident victim, a suicide …It can be overwhelming at times – even now I sometimes have to take a deep breath – and it's always unsettling when the person is younger than I am".
This double tension of anundertaker - comfortable and yet unsettling is worth bearing in mind as we come to one of the most interesting descriptions of God in the Bible. According to Nahum, God is apparently an undertaker.
The Lord has given commandment about you: “No more shall your name be perpetuated; from the house of your gods I will cut off the carved image and the metal image. I will make your grave, for you are vile.” (Nahum 1:14)
The prophet Nahum was raised by God to declare an oracle against Nineveh for its long list of sins, especially subjugating God's people. At the time of this prophecy, Nineveh is materially prosperous culture. In fact earlier on, Nahum reminds Nineveh that though it commands a mighty army in the end its military might will prove futile against God's judgement.
So while everyone sees the wealth and power of Nineveh, God sees Nineveh as a worthless nation. It is nation full of idolatry and God's assessment simply says "you are vile”. Being vile in the sight of God can only lead to one thing : total destruction. Nineveh shall be cut down and its reputation and fame will come to an end. God will bury it as an undertaker puts the coffin in the ground. To this day Nineveh has been buried into historical extinction.
We are living in age when we only want to see God as one who gives us stuff. T D Jakes last year tweeted a comment by Jasmin Sculark where she says, "We don't need an undertaker because God is our upper-giver, He's going to resurrect some stuff!" The hashtag was #DontBuryItJustYet.
There is certainly room for trusting God to keep things in our lives going. But the warning for us from Nahum is not only that God is an undertaker who specialises in burying those who oppose him, but it is also that we are at risk of the undertaker's shovel. Our modern societies are really no different from Nineveh. We may be materially rich but we are really a funeral already hapening, we just don't know or refuse to admit it!
Many of us are only living for ourselves. Individually, our lives are graves of the idols of money, sex, power, technology and worship of the self. Nationally,we have built economic models that promote oppression of the poor and promotes social relativism. Many rich countries continue to turn a blind eye to millions of poor people dying across the globe from starvation and poverty. They have also turned their backs on followers of Jesus who are being persecuted at the hands of tyrants in the Western Sahel, Middle East, Afghanistan, Somalia and many other places.
Nahum reminds us that God is not silent! He is an undertaker who has prepared the grave of sinners of all shapes and sizes. He has appointed the day of the Lord when full justice will be done! This should comfort all followers of Jesus. But most importantly it should move us to share the good news of Jesus around the world because only though Jesus is the grave an empty tomb. If we trust in him though we are buied we still live! It should also challenge to live lives that honour God and does not promote vile and worthless societies. To live as those who have escaped theshovel of the Great Udertaker through Jesus!
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2014