Memorial Service for Maria Jane Canham
April 9, 2016
Proverbs 14:32 “The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing, but the righteous finds refuge in his death.”
This short verse articulates a universe of reality – reality from God’s perspective that is, not necessarily ours.
The writer is most likely Solomon, the son of King David, Israel’s 3rd king and the man whose name has become synonymous with wisdom.
And in it, he sets out 2 very stark contrasts: 1 – Between what he calls “the wicked”, and those he labels “the righteous.”
And the 2nd contrast he notes is that the wicked, meet their final demise, while carrying out their works – as we’ll see in a bit, simply going about their business; while the righteous, find refuge, even in the very end of life itself, in death.
So the verse begs us to ask, what makes one “wicked”, versus one that is “righteous”?
For if the righteous find a refuge in the very last place anyone would normally think to look – what must the difference between these two be?
We will get how the Bible, how God defines who is “wicked” versus who is “righteous” as we consider 3 things about this idea of “refuge”.
- A refuge is a place of safety.
The universe is a hostile place.
Space is a frigid vacuum.
Thus far, we’ve not found a single other planetary orb in all of the universe capable of sustaining life as we know it. At least not in the concrete sense, even though some scientists insist they must be out there somewhere.
And even on this earth – made specifically to be inhabited by humankind, made in the image of God – ever since the Fall in Eden – we’ve had disease, war, human aggression and abuse, poverty, natural disasters and inclemencies of all kinds – famines, plagues and the such like.
And Maria faced some of those head on in her own life and body.
But Maria didn’t put her hope in whether or not these would come her way or impact her – but in the refuge who is Jesus Christ, who died to purchase her eternal redemption.
She found a refuge in death – first and foremost, not in her own impending death, but in the death of her Savior Jesus Christ on her behalf.
She took to heart His Word to her in places like Psalm 27:1–5 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. 3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. 4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. 5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.”
- A refuge is a place of rest or peace.
Interestingly, most of us are unaware what we need rest from – from the reality that we are in the midst of a cosmic battle.
That battle is located in contending with God over who has the right of supremacy over our lives.
We come into this world already locked in this battle.
The God who created us in His image and for His purposes, says He has the rights of a Creator over us – the way we claim rights over anything we make or create.
But we – want to wrest that right from Him and live our lives according to our own plans and purposes, irrespective of His demands and how He has expressed them in His Word to us.
And this is at the very heart of how God defines the wicked and the righteous.
The wicked are those who, in spite of being able to do many noble and upright and loving and honorable things – yet remain locked in this rebellion against the God who made them over who has the right of supremacy over their lives.
They insist that they have the right, while God insists that He does – and they make themselves the enemies of God. They fight against His right to rule over them.
In contrast, the Christian is one who has come to see this battle for what it is, and has surrendered – has laid down their arms and been reconciled to this God they originally resisted, through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. These are whom the Bible calls the “righteous” ones.
For they are right in their relationship with God and have had the righteousness of Jesus Christ put on their account, when they put their faith in His death on Calvary to satisfy the debt they owed to God due to their previous rebellion – and so are counted righteous with His righteousness – not their own.
So it is the Apostle Paul writes: Romans 5:1–6 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul goes on the mention what this “peace” buys the righteous or justified ones:
- Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand,
- and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
- 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
All this – because: 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Maria knew this peace with her Creator through Jesus Christ and it is why she faced death the way she did.
She was counted as a righteous one because of Jesus’ righteousness placed on her account through faith.
So she knew that passing through the veil of her flesh in death, she would come into the welcoming arms of her Lord and Savior – to the very throne of God with whom she was not at war – but at peace, and who would welcome her into His glorious presence to receive her eternal reward at His hands.
- A refuge is a place of comfort.
The hardness of life can be jarring.
No one is spared some suffering in this life, and I am certain each one here could number out an impressive litany of things they’ve suffered – Emotionally
– In loss
– At the hands of others
– On an on
And finding true comfort can become both an all consuming and frustrating endeavor.
Some seek comfort in escape – Drugs, alcohol, sex.
Some in diversion – Occupation, recreation, involvement in causes or politics or some other pursuit.
Some just retreat and try not to think about it at all.
Maria took none of these routes – she knew that ultimately, true, lasting comfort was only to be had in running to the Refuge of her soul – Christ the Lord.
And what comforts He promises!
The old Puritan Charles Bridges wrote: “But even in death the righteous have a refuge. Their death is full of hope…The righteous dies in God’s grace, and in an assured confidence of the salvation of his soul, and of the glorious resurrection of his body” (Diodati).
Another Puritan, John Flavel writes: The immunities of the [resurrected] body are its freedom from all natural infirmities; which as they come in, so they go out with sin. Thenceforth there shall be no diseases, deformities, pains, flaws, monstrosities; their good physician death hath cured all this, and their vile bodies shall be made like unto Christ’s glorious body, Phil. 3:21. and be made a spiritual body, 1 Cor. 15:44. For agility, like the chariots of Aminadab; for beauty, as the top of Lebanon; for incorruptibility, as if they were pure spirits.
The soul also is discharged and freed from all darkness and ignorance of mind, being now able to discern all truths in God, that chrystal ocean of truth. The leaks of the memory stopt for ever; the roving of the fancy perfectly cured; the stubbornness and reluctancy of the will for ever subdued, and retained in due and full subjection to God. So that the saints in glory shall be free from all that now troubles them; they shall never sin more, nor be once tempted so to do, for no serpent hisses in that paradise; they shall never grieve nor groan more, for God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. They shall never be troubled more…and to them that are troubled, rest; they shall never doubt more, for fruition excludes doubting.
The formal happiness is the fulness of satisfaction resulting from the blessed sight and enjoyment of God, by a soul so attempered to him, Psal. 17:15. “When I awake I shall be satisfied with thy likeness.” This sight of God, in glory, called the beatifical vision, must needs yield ineffable satisfaction to the beholding soul, inasmuch as it will be an intuitive vision. The intellectual or mental eye shall see God…The corporeal glorified eye shall see Christ…What a ravishing vision will this be! and how much will it exceed all reports and apprehensions we had here of it! Surely one half was not told us. It will be a transformative vision, it will change the beholder into its own image and likeness. “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,” 1 John 3:2. As iron put into the fire, becomes all fiery; so the soul, by conversing with God, is changed into his very similitude. It will be an appropriative vision; “Whom I shall see for myself,” Job 19:26, 27. In heaven…fear is castut: no need of marks and signs there; for what a man sees and enjoys, how can he doubt of? It will be a ravishing vision; these we have by faith are so, how much more those in glory? How was Paul transported, when he was in a visional way wrapt up into the third heaven, and heard the unutterable things, though he was not admitted into the blessed society, but was with them, as the angels are in our assemblies, a stander-by, a looker-on….It will also be an eternal vision; (as Augustus said) we shall then be at leisure for this employment, and have no diversions from it for ever. No evening is mentioned to the seventh day’s sabbath; no night in the new Jerusalem. And therefore,
Lastly, It will be a fully satisfying vision: God will then be all in all, “Curiosity itself will be satisfied.” The blessed soul will feel itself blessed, filled, satisfied in every part. Ah, what a happiness is here! to look and love, to drink and sing, and drink again at the fountain head of the highest glory!…
And so also will the accessories of this blessedness be; The place where God is enjoyed, the empyrean heaven, the city of God, whither Christ ascended, where the great assembly are met. Paradise and Canaan were but the types of it; more excelling and transcending the royal palaces of earthly princes, than they do a pigeonhole. The company also with whom he is enjoyed, adds to the glory. A blissful society indeed! store of good neighbours in that city. There we shall have familiar converse with angels, whose appearances now are insupportable by poor mortals: There will be sweet and full closings also betwixt the saints; Luther and Zuinglius are there agreed. Here they could not fully close with one another, and no wonder, for they could not fully close with themselves. But there is perfect harmony and unity; all meeting and closing in God, as lines in the centre. This is a blessed glimpse of your inheritance.
This – is the joy and the hope and the reality of the REFUGE each in Christ has – and that which Maria has entered into already – the moment she passed from this life into the arms of her Savior.
The hope I know for certain she desired each and every one of you she knew and loved – would have in Christ as well.
As she lived in Christ, so she died in Christ, and will be resurrected because of Christ and with all His saints when He returns.
For she made Him – her refuge, and in Him, even death itself became a refuge.
 Bridges, Charles. 2001. Proverbs. (Crossway Classic Commentaries). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Flavel, John. 1820. The Whole Works of the Reverend John Flavel. . Vol. 1. London; Edinburgh; Dublin: W. Baynes and Son; Waugh and Innes; M. Keene.