by Al Maxey

Issue #336 ------- February 15, 2008
An aged man is but a paltry thing:
A tattered coat upon a stick.

William Butler Yeats {1865-1939}

Before The Evil Days Come
Qoheleth's Metaphorical Depiction of the
Decline, Decay and Demise of Mortal Man

Perhaps the renowned actress Betty Davis (1908-1989) summed it up best of all when she reflected, in that husky, sultry voice of hers, "Getting old ain't for sissies!" It is surely no secret to any of us that as we grow older we are typically faced with increased infirmities and decreased abilities. In short, we begin wearing out. There are some genuine blessings to old age, but on the other hand there are some serious challenges as well. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) once observed, "Every man desires to live long, but no man would be old." Nevertheless, the latter is the reality that one must confront if he/she would achieve the former. The longer we live, the older we become. Although there is some truth in the adage that one is only as old as one thinks himself to be ... or chooses to be ("mind over matter," if you will) ... yet there is still no denying, even among those with a positive mental outlook, that the human body wears down and wears out. We are mortal, thus we each have a rendezvous with the dust of the ground from which we came.

"The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground" [Gen. 2:7]. "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return" [Gen. 3:19]. Moses wrote, "Thou dost turn man back into dust" [Psalm 90:3], and Abraham, "the father of the faithful," observed, "I am but dust and ashes" [Gen. 18:27]. Job, as he considered his great affliction, wondered, "Thy hands fashioned and made me; wouldst Thou destroy me? Wouldst Thou turn me into dust again?" [Job 10:8-9]. Later, Job displayed his understanding that our Creator God does indeed have the power and authority to withdraw the breath of life from any man, and, by so doing, to return him to the elements from which he was created. "If He should determine to do so, if He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust" [Job 34:14-15]. David wondered what possible profit there would be in his own shed blood and his return to the ground -- "Will the dust praise Thee? Will it declare Thy faithfulness?" [Psalm 30:9]. The living give praise to God and declare His faithfulness, but the dead are incapable of such [Eccl. 9:5-6]. As this mortal body wears out, "the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the breath/spirit will return to God who gave it" [Eccl. 12:7]. This is the fate of all living beings/souls, both man and beast, "For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath/spirit and there is no advantage for man over beast. ... They all go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust" [Eccl. 3:19-20]. Of the animals the psalmist writes, "Thou dost take away their breath/spirit, they expire, and return to their dust" [Psalm 104:29].

Admittedly, this all seems like a rather grim prospect. Man is but "animated dust" who, when that divinely given breath of life is withdrawn, simply returns to the dust of the ground from which he was formed, as do the other living beings/souls formed by God. However, the hope given by our Creator is that a day of resurrection is coming! "Those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake" [Daniel 12:2], some to experience everlasting life, others to experience the sentence of the second death. Due to the influence of Hellenism, primarily, as well as the philosophical speculations of Plato, much of Christendom has taken a sad detour from the biblical teaching concerning the holistic nature of man, and has instead postulated and promoted the doctrine of inherent immortality. This is entirely contrary to the teaching of Scripture, although most within my own faith-heritage are unaware of this fact. Such teaching truly detracts from, and diminishes, the fact of a coming resurrection to immortality. What need is there to raise this body from the dust of the ground if we are already experiencing the joys of being in the presence of our Lord and all our departed loved ones? Such teaching reduces the resurrection to an irrelevancy at best. The New Covenant writings, however, make it the central aspect of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says that if there is NO resurrection, then we who have died have perished [1 Cor. 15:18]. Some today might counter, "No, Paul, we have not; we're singing around the throne, more alive now than ever before!" Although some might not take kindly to me saying this, it is nevertheless my strong conviction that this is false doctrine. For those who would like to study this entire subject further, I would direct them to the numerous articles I have written on this particular topic, which may be found on my Topical Index page under the heading "The Nature of Man and Final Punishment." The reader might also want to carefully examine my published debate on this subject: The Maxey-Thrasher Debate.

As noted, the greatest frustration of life is the fact of death. God's original intent for mankind was that they would live forever in His presence in a perfect paradise created here upon earth. As a result of the fall of man, however, that divine design was temporarily thwarted. With sin came death. All things began the process of deterioration. Ultimately, our breath leaves our body and we return to the dust of the ground, there to sleep the sleep of death until that day when our Lord comes to awaken us. At that point there shall be a transformation of all things, and God's original intent for His creation shall be realized: we shall be changed, this mortal shall put on immortality [1 Cor. 15:52-54], and we shall dwell forever in His presence in the new heavens and earth [Reflections #310 --- Paradise Regained]. This hope of immortality was felt during the time prior to the incarnation, but it was not fully made known until the coming of the One who made that hope a reality. Deity "alone possesses immortality" [1 Tim. 6:16], but Jesus Christ "has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" [2 Tim. 1:10]. Therefore, the prize of "eternal life" shall be given to "those who seek for glory and honor and immortality" [Rom. 2:7]. It is not ours inherently, but is a gift to those who trust in Him, who is the giver of life. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" [Rom. 6:23]. Immortality is a gift, and it is to be acquired only in Him!! If we were all already immortal by nature (i.e., inherently: possessing "immortal souls" incapable of having their life force extinguished), there would be no need of this gift. Indeed, as Plato said, death would simply free us from this bodily prison to an even greater life. The reality taught in Scripture, however, is that we are mortal, and immortality is a gift from God to those deemed worthy of this eternal life. "The witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" [1 John 5:11-12]. It doesn't get much plainer than that.

It is also very plain, to even the most casual observer of life, that the difficulties of advancing age can be quite daunting. Some handle this inevitable physical decline rather well; others clearly do not. Regardless of how one faces this stark reality, there is no denying the fact that "it is appointed unto men once to die" [Heb. 9:27]. This is a divinely ordained appointment we shall all keep (unless we are privileged to be alive at the Lord's Parousia), and for those who are destined to live well into that period known as "old age" there will be various degrees of debilitation that must be endured. These are listed quite poetically in God's Word in the book known to us as Ecclesiastes. Indeed, scholars declare that this passage "ranks among the finest of the world's literature, especially when it is read aloud by a good reader" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1192]. Dr. Paul Kretzmann declares, "This paragraph is one of the most beautiful poetical passages in the entire Bible and deserves to be studied for its form as well as for its content" [Popular Commentary of the Bible: The OT, vol. 2, p. 276]. The passage to which these scholars refer, of course, is Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, which will be our focus in this present edition of Reflections.

The advice of "The Preacher" is that those who are genuinely wise will seek out a relationship with the Lord God early in life. "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth" [Eccl. 12:1]. Why? There are obviously any number of reasons for this sound advice, but Solomon focuses on the fact that "childhood and the prime of life are fleeting" [Eccl. 11:10]. All too soon we find ourselves at the winter months of life, and if we have neglected a relationship with the Lord during our prime, it is unlikely that very many of us will seek it out during the days of our physical decline. There are "evil days" coming, Solomon writes, during which a majority will say, "I have no delight in them" [Eccl. 12:1]. Figuratively speaking, the bright, warm days of spring and summer will be replaced with the cold, dark days of winter. The celestial lights become darkened and one storm follows another [Eccl. 12:2]. It is a season in which, for many, the days of discomfort will far outnumber those of delight. "When the light of youthful life is darkened by the shadows of advancing old age, one misfortune or calamity follows another" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, p. 276]. "The phrase refers to the grievances, infirmities and inconveniences of old age" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9 -- Ecclesiastes, p. 296]. Eccl. 12:2 speaks figuratively of "the infirmities of old age of which winter is a proper emblem, as spring is of youth" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 3, p. 836]. "The rhythm of life is like the rhythm of the year. Spring and summer give place to the clouds of autumn and winter. It becomes progressively harder to throw off troubles and anxieties" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1192]. "The point is that as we grow older, we all have some traces of these marks of age, even if they do not develop to the extremes that this chapter describes. So the Teacher is justified in reminding young people that they cannot afford to put off faith in God their Creator until they are older. God wants the best of their lives" ... not the leftovers [ibid].

The Metaphors Employed

The wise King Solomon has declared his case in a general manner in Eccl. 12:1-2. He then develops his argument with a series of magnificent metaphors, which, as already noted, many scholars feel constitute some of the finest poetic literature ever penned. Thus, his initial statement "conveys a general impression, and this is then elaborated into particulars," which terms clearly refer, in dramatic form and fashion, to "the gradual decay of old age, with the various members and powers that are affected being represented under tropes and images" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 297]. Let us briefly notice each of these fabulous figurative statements.

The keepers of the house tremble [vs. 3] --- Some translations refer to these as the watchmen or guardians of the house. Most scholars concur that the reality in view is the aged person's arms and/or hands. I remember my own paternal grandfather's hands, and how they shook so terribly in his latter years. It was so bad that he could barely feed himself or lift a cup to take a drink without spilling most of what he sought to consume. "The hands and arms are appropriately called the keepers of the house, for with them man guards his body in various ways. The shaking and palsy of old men's limbs are thus graphically described" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 297]. "The arms and hands that minister to the body begin to tremble" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1193].

The strong men stoop [vs. 3] --- Other versions of the passage speak of these mighty ones being bowed or bent. "Bent over with the weight of age, the legs no longer standing upright, but crooked and misshapen with the various ailments of age" [Kretzmann, p. 276]. The legs of the young are as "pillars of marble" [Song of Solomon 5:15], but in those of advanced age that strength diminishes. "The legs become feeble, and unable to support the weight of the body" [Clarke, p. 836]. "The legs that once carried the body so strongly weaken and sag at the knee" [Expositor's, p. 1193].

The grinding ones stand idle because they are few [vs. 3] --- This is clearly a reference to the teeth (more specifically, to the molars). Problems with the gums, accompanied by ensuing loss of teeth, is one of the great difficulties many experience in old age. As the ability to grind one's food diminishes, the diet of the aged changes. Much softer foods are required since "the few teeth that remain are incapable of properly masticating hard substances" [Clarke, p. 836].

Those looking through the windows grow dim [vs. 3] --- The eyes, which admit light to the body, become increasingly darkened, thus the view from the "windows" grows dim, as in the fading light of day. This is such a common occurrence among those of advanced age that when the eyes do not begin to fail it is worthy of note. "Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated" [Deut. 34:7]. "The eyes, called by Cicero (106-43 B.C.) 'the windows of the mind,' become dim" [Pulpit, p. 308].

The doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades [vs. 4] --- Most interpreters, focusing on the word "grinding," feel this may still be a reference to the teeth. Therefore, they tend to believe the "closed doors" refer to the lips. With the increased loss of teeth, the mouth becomes more and more compressed and sunken, giving the appearance of being clamped tightly shut. Thus, the sound of grinding (with few teeth and a mouth clamped shut) would indeed be diminished. Several places within the poetic literature of the Bible refer to the mouth/lips as a "door" [Psalm 141:3, for example]. Other scholars disagree, however; feeling that the teeth have already been discussed in the previous verse. Some, therefore, key in on the word "sound" and believe the "doors" are the ears. "The organs of hearing gradually close, marooning the owner within the cramped house of his own body" [Expositor's, p. 1193]. "Jewish expositors understood these doors to be the excretive apertures of the body, which lose their activity in old age -- which seems an unseemly allusion" [Pulpit, p. 298]. This "grinding," then, would be explained as the straining to excrete waste products from the body (a straining which gradually fades as the body increasingly loses control over these processes). Certainly, not a pleasant image to contemplate, and yet this too is one of the unpleasantries often experienced during physical decline. Obviously, there is quite a diversity of understanding with respect to this particular phrase. "Hitherto the symbolism has been comparatively easy to interpret. With this verse inextricable difficulties seem to arise" [ibid].

Men rise up at the sound of birds [vs. 4] --- Some scholars believe that this image depicts the voice of the aged man becoming increasingly high-pitched. "The old man's voice becomes a 'childish treble,' like the piping of a little bird" [Pulpit, p. 299]. "The voice rises in pitch and grows thin and squeaky like the twitter of a bird" [Expositor's, p. 1193]. The much more likely interpretation is simply that "the old person sleeps badly and wakes at the first bird call" [ibid]. "It is usually taken to mean that the old man sleeps lightly and awakes at the chirrup of a bird" [Pulpit, p. 299]. Adam Clarke writes, "His sleep is not sound as it used to be; he slumbers rather than sleeps, and the crowing of the cock awakes him. And so much difficulty does he find to respire while in bed, that he is glad of the dawn to rise up and get some relief. The chirping of the sparrow is sufficient to awake him" [p. 837]. With regard to the first interpretation, some refer to a well-known line from Shakespeare's work "As You Like It" (act 2, scene 7) -- "His big manly voice, turning again toward childish treble, pipes and whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion; sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

All the daughters of music shall be brought low [vs. 4] --- It is felt by some interpreters that this is a reference to the ears -- i.e., diminished hearing. "The ears, growing deaf, no longer enjoy the singing as in former days" [Kretzmann, p. 276]. "The sounds of singing women or song-birds are dulled and lowered, heard only as faint, unmeaning murmur" [Pulpit, p. 299]. This sounds very similar to a statement made by Barzillai the Gileadite. "I am now eighty years old. Can I hear anymore the voice of singing men and women?" [2 Sam. 19:35]. A few scholars see the possibility of sexual undertones in this statement, the suggestion being that the sound of singing women no longer arouses him sexually. "It may be a straightforward statement that singing women no longer move him, since their voices do not come to him with any clearness" [Expositor's, p. 1193].

They are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets [vs. 5] --- Have you ever watched an aged person driving down the road? Some of them are so overly cautious on the roadways that they actually pose a danger to themselves and to others. In the ancient world, however, the danger may well have been due to their inability to get out of the way of animal drawn carts, fast moving crowds, and other dangers on the streets. Thus, they were more easily trampled or run down. "Verse 5 mentions two very concrete experiences that frighten old people. They have a fear of heights and are afraid of the traffic in the streets. The latter is specially applicable today in our big cities; but the narrow streets of an Eastern town, with camels, donkeys and bustling traders, were doubtless almost as terrifying to a slow-moving pedestrian" [Expositor's, p. 1193]. Clearly, these two depictions are not metaphors, but actual fears of many aged persons. However, "we need not treat all the descriptions as metaphorical" [ibid].

The almond tree blossoms [vs. 5] --- "In Palestine, the almond tree begins to blossom in midwinter; and although the petals are pink at their base, they are white towards the tip. The general impression of the tree in flower is of a white mass" [Expositor's, p. 1193]. "The tree thus becomes a fit type of the old man with his white hair" [Pulpit, p. 300], who produces that white covering in the winter of his life.

The grasshopper drags himself along [vs. 5] --- The KJV reads, "the grasshopper shall be a burden." The significance of this translation "would be that even a small thing like a grasshopper seems unduly heavy" upon the frame of the aged, "although it is difficult to see why a grasshopper should be singled out in this way" [Expositor's p. 1193]. Much more likely is the idea that as winter comes, and the grasshopper faces death, it loses its ability to hop about with great energy, now just dragging itself along as it grows ever closer to death. "We think Delitzsch and some others are right in taking the verb in the sense of 'to move heavily,' 'to crawl along'" [Pulpit, p. 300].

The caperberry is ineffective [vs. 5] --- This is the rendering of such translations as the NASB. Others, like the KJV and the NIV, read, "desire shall fail" and "desire no longer is stirred." The Hebrew word that is rendered "desire" in some translations "is found nowhere else in the Old Testament, and its meaning is disputed" [Pulpit, p. 301]. Both the Septuagint and Jerome's Latin Vulgate understood this rather rare Hebrew word to be a reference to the berry of the caper tree, "which is found throughout the East, and was extensively used as a provocative of appetite, a stimulant and restorative. Accordingly, the writer is thought here to be intimating that even stimulants, such as the caper, affect the old man no longer, and cannot give zest to or make him enjoy his food" [ibid]. Others agree that the caperberry is indeed intended, but believe that the reference is to the fact that when this berry becomes ripe, it bursts and falls to the ground. They see this as a figure of man reaching the end of his days and falling to the dust of the ground in death. Still others perceive the "desire" to be sexual in nature, and point to the fact that the caperberry was at times used as an aphrodisiac. Therefore, it is their view that Solomon is referring to the fact that in many aged persons there is diminished sexual desire.

Dust Returns to Dust

"The Teacher has exhausted his description of the failing faculties, omitting little. It only remains to speak of the inevitable end, the long home of Sheol" [Expositor's, p. 1194]. "For man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets" [Eccl. 12:5, NKJV]. The passage literally says, "unto his forever house." This is simply a reference to "the grave or Hades" [Pulpit, p. 301]. Psalm 49:11, in many versions, reads, "Their graves are their houses forever." Job referred to the grave as "the land of darkness and deep shadow" [Job 10:21]; "the house appointed for all living" [Job 30:23]. The dwelling of the deceased is the grave (Hades, Sheol). Some have a problem with the grave being referred to as the "forever" (aionios) home of the dead. They believe this negates a resurrection. This only demonstrates their lack of understanding of this term, however. "Much of the difficulty about aionios would be obviated if critics would remember that the meaning of such words is conditioned by the context -- e.g., 'everlasting' applied to a mountain and to God cannot be understood in the same sense" [Pulpit, p. 301]. I would strongly urge the reader to examine my study of this word in my article "How Long Is Forever? -- Analyzing the Attributes of Aionios" [Reflections #74]. Many disciples also have difficulty with the concepts of death and Hades. So many misconceptions about these biblical truths have surfaced over the centuries that there are more fallacies than facts associated with them in the minds of many Christians. I would urge a careful reading of the following in-depth studies of the Scriptures: "Death: Defining the Biblical Parameters" [Reflections #79] and "Reflecting on Hades: Truth or Tradition?" [Reflections #44]. I believe you will find these very challenging, and, I pray, very enlightening.

In Eccl. 12:6, Solomon gives the reader two final pairs of metaphors. These describe the actual death of the aged person. "Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed; the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed" [NASB]. Again, there is some diversity of opinion among biblical scholars as to the interpretation of these figures. In the first set we have depicted, most believe, the light of life, whereas in the second set of figures we have depicted the water of life. When the cord that attaches the light to the ceiling is severed, and the bowl comes crashing down to the floor below, breaking apart, the light goes out. This is a figure of death. When the pitcher at the well is shattered, thus being unable to hold water, and the wheel which lowers it into the well and then raises it again, is broken, there is no access to the life-giving water within the well. Again, this is a figure of death. Some feel this latter figure may have reference to the human circulatory system, with the former referring to the central nervous system. "Whatever the interpretation of the details, the fixed fact is that of death" [Expositor's, p. 1194]. "The pictures in this verse have met with a variety of interpretations, but they certainly describe total collapse" [ibid].

The great and inevitable reality being specified by The Preacher in the passage we have reviewed is that we are mortal, and that all too soon the days of youth have passed and we are into the winter of life, and that the end of our days comes much too quickly. One of the most common sayings of the aged is, "Where have the years gone?!! It seems just yesterday that I was young!!" Given the certainty of this physical decline and our return to the dust of the ground, Solomon's advice is to make the most of the time in which you still have the energy and vitality of youth, and spend it wisely in serving the Lord. It will certainly yield an everlasting reward. "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, 'I have no delight in them!'" [Eccl. 12:1]. "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments!" [Eccl. 12:13]. Sound advice for us all.

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Readers' Reflections

From a Physician in Missouri:

Dear Brother Al, I am recovering from thirteen years in the International Churches of Christ. Perhaps you are aware of this group and its leader Kip McKean. It was previously known as the Boston Church of Christ. It is a cultic faction of the "mainline" Churches of Christ. It teaches an extremely legalistic doctrine and believes that all other "Christians" are lost because they do not practice/teach discipleship correctly. They micro-manage all facets of their members' lives and use threatened loss of salvation as their motivating tool. As a person who had no other significant prior exposure to Christianity, this experience was damaging for me and my family. For me, the scales began to fall from my eyes after restudying Galatians. I initially tried to bring about reform from within. Some leaders seemed to be privately acknowledging the problems, but they lacked the courage to risk their careers by being "agents of change." Some members recognized the problems, but they were so invested emotionally, socially and financially that it was too painful for them to consider leaving. Eventually, it became obvious that I would have to leave for the sake of my own spiritual health. Since leaving, I have been trying to grow in my understanding of grace-centered, orthodox Christian doctrine. It has been liberating and exciting. But it is hard to watch old friendships wither, and to disconnect from such a large part of my life. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for your weekly Reflections. Your ministry is truly inspired, and it has helped me immensely! I wasn't sure if you were aware of just how much you are helping people outside of the traditional Churches of Christ.

From a Reader in Indiana:

Hello Brother Al, I just read your newest Reflections article, and it is very good. Carrie Nation was someone driven by what I have read lately would be termed a "moral preoccupation." There is evidence of genetic unbalance in her background with her mother's history of delusional episodes, and I believe her own behavior would also be labeled as unbalanced. But, I do think the Lord weighs all of this when evaluating what we are given physically and mentally to work with and what experiences in our life shape our behavior. In Carrie's case, the death of her husband from alcoholism was sure to have had a profound effect. I do consider her a sister in Christ. She has the covering of the blood of Christ by faith, and she demonstrated her obedience when she was baptized.

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, Excellent recital of the life of Carrie Nation. While most of us wouldn't take the drastic, physical actions she took, we (mostly) agree with her analysis of the evil effects of the liquor industry (now mostly the ever-present beer industry -- especially the constant ads on TV). I would most certainly consider her a sister-in-Christ. Thanks again for your research.

From an Elder in New Mexico:

Brother Al, With regard to the two quotes by Greg Gay and Alan Bonifay that appeared in your last Readers' Reflections section, I have the following observation. If we're conducting a Bible study, whether in a classroom or at home (it wouldn't matter which), I would expect the women to speak up about the lesson material. If they are having trouble with some passage, maybe misunderstanding what is written, how would we know unless they spoke up and expressed themselves to the teacher (moderator) and to the class? I don't see any significant difference between a classroom setting and an Internet forum. Consider Priscilla and Aquila, as they taught Apollos. Hasn't anyone ever wondered why Priscilla was listed first? To all those seeking Truth, as it is presented by Him, keep up the quest for knowledge and understanding, regardless of the forum or gender from which Truth comes. Al, keep doing what you are doing!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Bro. Al, Thank you so much for your Reflections. I so look forward to reading them each week. You stimulate me to think. Something I need so very much, since most times I tend to sing, with the Scarecrow, "If I Only Had A Brain." Praise God for your ministry, and please keep up the good work!

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Bro. Al, I spent a lot of years in the One Cup Church of Christ (too many!). When I reflect upon some of the radical teachings, and the attitude of "we're the only ones," I cringe. I very recently discovered your web site and I really enjoy your Reflections articles. Please add me to your subscription list!! Thanks so much!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Brother Al, With regard to your Reflection/Discussion Questions at the end of your last article, one large lesson to be learned from Carrie Nation's story is that ABUSE of alcohol (or anything else) harms far more people than just the one doing the abusing. I admire her for her strength of conviction and feel she really did love the Lord. However, her actions were not only wrong, they were indeed criminal. No one has the right to destroy the property of another just because they don't agree with them. There was no love in the attitude she displayed, and by becoming a religious nut case, she did much harm to the cause of the Lord. No one can change morals by making laws! While she played a big part in bringing about Prohibition, the only thing that really accomplished was to usher in the most violent criminal era in our country's history. Only the Gospel can change a man! I do indeed consider her a sister-in-Christ, however! Her obedience to the Gospel makes her so! She might have been erring in her actions and attitudes, but name me one person other than Jesus who is not. Yes, such biographical sketches are indeed very beneficial. They remind me that I too have many hang-ups, and that I need to show more love to other people.

From a Reader in Colorado:

Bro. Al, In my humble opinion, this was one of the most interesting Reflections I have ever read! While I had heard of Carrie Nation, I did not know much about her. After reading your article, I feel I know a little bit more about this amazing woman. In response to the questions which you asked at the end of this article, I do not agree with everything she did, but I do think she was a sister-in-Christ.

From a Reader in Texas:

Hello Dear Bro. Al, Something new added to your writings!! -- a quiz of sorts at the close of the article. Al, your Reflections are all outstanding. At 90 years of age, I don't absorb information like I once did, so I find that several readings of your articles help. The questions at the end helped me to determine if I had really absorbed all the info in the article. As for her life, she went headlong into the fight against what she thought was evil, without thinking that what she was doing was wrong. In so doing, she probably did more harm than good with her little hatchet, even though she was right. We can do the same thing if we're not careful in how we approach problems: "Agree with my way or you will burn in hell." I do not believe the love of God was in her actions, and for this reason her actions were not acceptable to God. However, she is still a sister-in-Christ; we're all brethren in spite of the fact that we all sin every day. Yes, sketches of others such as this can help us to overcome our own problems, if they are accepted in the right spirit. The old saying applies -- "There, but for the grace of God, go I." Soldier On, Bro. Al. We continue to pray for you, that you will have many more years of success with your Reflections ministry. God bless you!

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, I read with interest your treatise on Carrie Nation, and your provocative questions at the end made me think. I was impressed by the lady's tremendous sustained zeal for the cause in which she believed. That kind of sacrificial dedication seems to be in short supply nowadays, especially in religious or philosophical areas. We seem to blow hot and cold in spurts. She saw what to her was a crying need, and she did her best to address it. Addiction to mind-numbing drink/drugs is still a monster problem. Maybe if there were more Carrie Nations around today??? Also, I'm not sure we have the right to judge her motivations, actions, or the whole direction of her life. As she said, just before she died, she had done what she could. That may be about as good as any of us can hope for. It was certainly enough for the woman who spontaneously anointed the feet of Jesus, for He said, "She hath done what she could" [Mark 14:8], even though some of His disciples objected to her actions. Good reading, brother! Thank you!

From an Elder in Missouri:

Bro. Al, Once again you have stimulated me to further study. I have saved the link to her autobiography for further reading. I have, of course, read some about sister Carrie Nation, but was intrigued to follow your synopsis of her life. She was clearly a woman of faith and action. We need more soldiers like her who will stand up for what they believe. Too many today will not take a stand at all. As I have said before, I always enjoy these biographical sketches. Keep up the good work.

From a Reader in Louisiana:

Brother Al, I really enjoy biographies. The one you did on Carrie A. Nation was an especially enlightening one. One of the things that I keep remembering is what was said when David was chosen king over his other brothers -- "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" [1 Sam. 16:7]. Sometimes it is difficult to remember that particular thought. Thanks for this biography. I do enjoy so much getting your Reflections.

From a Minister/Author in California:

Dear Brother Al, Your Reflections dealing with the Carrie Nation story was an absolute jewel. In spite of the hard knocks she endured and the persecutions she put up with, she persevered till the end. Surely, God recognized her strength and her determination to cleanse her community of alcohol, as well as other sins, and has prepared a mansion eternal for her. I am sure that you have noticed in my writings my own determination to speak out as a free man in Christ, regardless of the repercussions I might suffer on this earth. I thank God for Carrie Nation, and I long for the day to come when the women of the church will be able to serve much more freely and openly. Bro. Al, there is far more to be said, but I will simply conclude by saying: Praise God for men like you! Keep marching on for Truth.

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