by Donald A.G. Burling
Have you ever seen a picture of an old man with a flowing beard, holding a scythe and an hour glass? This image of “Father Time” used to be quite common, particularly around the New Year.
It is in fact derived from representations of the Roman god Saturn, the father god against whom Jupiter and the other gods were believed to have rebelled. It is from his festival of Saturnalia that we get the date of Christmas (it was not until the third century that it became associated with the birth of Christ.). His Greek name Chronos gives us chronology, chronometer and even chronic diseases.
People who mock religion sometimes suggest that God is thought of as an old man with a beard sitting on a cloud. If they think that ridiculous, they cannot so easily dismiss what the other old man represents. We cannot escape the process of getting old. Though modern medicine has extended the typical life-span beyond the threescore and ten years mentioned by Moses in Psalm 90, the scythe will catch up with us in the end. Moreover it is still true that our extended lifespan is usually a time of weakness and discomfort. Yet Moses himself, we are told, lived to 120.
The saying that ‘Tomorrow never comes’ is literally true in the sense that if today is Monday, when Tuesday comes it will no longer be tomorrow. More sinister is the fact that if I feel disinclined to do something on Monday, I will very likely feel equally disinclined to do it on Tuesday. There are times when it is sensible to put something off until tomorrow, but it is not a good habit to get into. Sooner or later the thing you have put off will either have become urgent, so you will have to attend to it now, or you will find it is too late – the opportunity has past. This may or [may] not matter.
There is a particular temptation to put things off when you are not sure how to do them. That is one reason why many never face up to their relationship with God, even if they are aware of the need. If you are unsure of your own salvation, or someone else’s, you can at least start praying about it. Don’t leave it until the old man with the scythe is uncomfortably close.