Bishop's Message

Life-spans and plumblines


“We are measured not by the busyness of our lives, but by the faithfulness of our hearts and steps. We will be measured not by how much we have accumulated or accomplished but by how much we have become Christ-like in our walk with God.’’

BEFORE THE GREAT FLOOD, we read in the Bible that people lived amazingly long lives. Adam lived for 930 years while Seth got to 912 years. e life-spans of those who followed are equally unbelievable – Enosh, 905 years; Kenan, 910 years; Mahalel 895 years; Jared, 962 years; Enoch, 365 years; Methuselah, 969 years; Lamech 777 years, and Noah 950 years (Gen. 5; 9:29).

As to how such long life-spans were possible, there are many explanations, ranging from textual peculiarities to divine intervention after the Flood to limit the average lifespan to “three-score and ten”. While this may be an interesting discussion in itself, the purpose of this article is to point out one fascinating detail in the list of super life-spans.

Notice that almost all the individuals in the list lived for around 900 years; even Lamech managed 777 years. e one who stands out in the list as having a much shorter life-span than the rest is Enoch. He lived for only 365 years, a relatively young age compared to the rest. Why is this so?

What is even more intriguing is that the formula (When A had lived x years, he became the father of B. After that, A lived for y years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether A lived x+y years, and then he died) used for the others was modified for Enoch. Additional information is given for him, and the two significant notations are these:

• at “Enoch walked with God” – a fact that is mentioned twice, for emphasis (Gen. 5:22, 24).
• at at the end of his life, mysteriously, Enoch “was no more, because God took him away” (Gen. 5:24).

This information grates against popular thinking. One would think that if this man stands out as one who walked with God (a term that speaks about an intimate relationship with God), then he would also stand out in a contest of life-spans, not by being the one with the shortest, but the longest.

This is the way the world usually calculates success – length of life, extent of wealth, string of degrees, height of position, and size of following. Many believe that the closer one is to God, the more successful one would be in this world. And success is measured by the world’s instruments.

This text in Genesis, along with other similar texts in the Bible, challenges this way of thinking which, unfortunately, has also crept into the church. Today we hear about the health and wealth gospel, which if not openly proclaimed, is often secretly assumed to be true when one goes about doing one’s busy acts of piety.

The story of Enoch tells us that God measures true success in a different way, not by human life-spans or similar instruments used by the world, but by His own set of instruments. Mother Teresa, when asked, “How do you measure the success of your work?” thought about the question and gave her interviewer a puzzled look. She said, “I don’t remember that the Lord ever spoke of success. He spoke only of faithfulness in love. is is the only success that really counts.” She reminded her enquirer that God measures the effectiveness of a life not by earthly success, but by the quality of that life in relationship to God.

Time and again, the Bible reminds us that God’s instruments are different. In His hand, we will not find a metre that measures life-spans or earthly wealth or influence. Instead, in His hand we will find a different kind of measuring rod – one that measures in terms of justice and righteousness. God declares through His prophet: “I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line” (Is. 28:17), making it clear to all how He would measure a man. Or for that matter, a church or a nation.

GOD MEASURES US not in terms of the material debris we collect on the way, but by the moral integrity we learn to have by sticking close to Jesus. We are measured not by the busyness of our lives, but by the faithfulness of our hearts and steps. We will be measured not by how much we have accumulated or accomplished but by how much we have become Christ-like in our walk with God. at is to say, we will be assessed by how much we have allowed God to accomplish in our lives.

Pragmatic worldliness narrows and distorts our vision of what God expects of us. We can go about our lives cutting the cloth of our lives according to the wrong measures, lulling ourselves into thinking that we are fine (what with all the signs of apparent success in our lives), only to be rudely awakened when we realise to our horror one day that we had cut wrongly, that we had used the wrong measurements.

The Lord Jesus warned his hearers that the day will come when many “will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ en I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Mt. 7:22-23). We may think ourselves to be fine, expecting even a strong commendation from the Lord, thinking that the affirmations and applause of this world are but an echo of God’s approval, but we may be deadly wrong. We may have used the wrong instruments to measure our lives, and all we may have left are shredded pieces.

How can we avoid such a shocking discovery when it is too late, when God’s word to us may be “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting”? (Dan. 5:27). We must familiarise ourselves with the way God measures us, and with the instruments He uses. Divine measuring rods and plumblines measure the inner contours of our souls and the moral foundations of our daily choices and decisions. ey measure character and weigh faithfulness. How important it is to know these things, and to do something about them before it is too late.