Wednesday, 28 July 2010

FW Boreham on Lazarus

F.W. Boreham is considered by many to be the best Christian essayist of all time. His books have sold in the millions and his essays have been enjoyed by millions more. I am privileged to own nearly all of his known books and many of his booklets and pamphlets.  I even have the rare privilege of having many of his actual source books which inspired many of his essays. I was reminded just the other night why F.W. Boreham is such an influential Christian author when I read his essay on Lazarus.

In his book, The Uttermost Star, he writes around the theme that the sky is often obscured by the very thing enables to see it: the Sun. He reflects that the Sun may not actually be the brightest star in the sky, since the distant stars could be brighter, but since they are farther away they are not noticeably brighter. These unnoticed stars are like so much in our everyday life - we pay attention to the seemingly big and bright things - and rightly so, but we often fail to notice the equally bright things that are distant and in the background of our lives. This also applies to the things we read in the Bible, as Boreham illustrates.

The Uttermost Star was first published in 1919. Nearly 100 years later, the essays still shed light. In his essay on the town of Bethany he discusses its brightest star: the raising of Lazarus. But he wonders what the uttermost star might look like in this episode. He ponders the words of Christ- "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep." He reflects on each of those words. "Our", Lazarus is not lost, he is still "Our" friend. "Friend", we are still connected to him. "Lazarus", he is still Lazarus even though he is dead. "Asleep", death is not the end of a person.

Jesus wept. But why? Boreham scours over 15 centuries of Christian scholarship to provide one of the most ancient and fitting answers. His inspiration is Theodosius (347-395) who was asked this question. He wrote to his enquirer that Christ wept not because He missed His friend Lazarus, but because He was about to bring him back to this life and thereby take him away from his bliss.

Boreham discusses how we often view death as the end, or as the point at which someone ceases to exist. But Boreham shows from Scripture that this is most certainly not the case. To illustrate this he refers the reader to the story of Job.

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.
(Job 1:1-3)

Boreham skips ahead to the end of Job's story where we see that the Lord restored twice as much to Job-
And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had also seven sons and three daughters. 
(Job 42:12-13)
Job received back twice what he had lost. But it seems that this did not apply to his children. In thoughtful pastoral insight, Dr Boreham points out what nearly everybody misses in this story. Job did receive twice back of everything he had taken from him, including his children. Linking the stories of Job and Lazarus he shows his readers that those who have died do not cease to exist. In this way, when Job was still grieving for his dead seven sons and three daughters, God added to his family a further seven sons and three daughters, taking the total number of Job's children to 14 sons and 6 daughters.

FW Boreham masterfully pastors his readers who may also be grieving. All too often the grieving refer to those they have "lost". But they are not lost! And if they are in Christ, and the reader is in Christ, one day they shall again be reunited. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Andrew Corbett

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