The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.
What can best help you live longer? Nutrition? Health care? Exercise? Genetics? Stress? What would you pay to know the certain answer? Your Creator God had Solomon write the secret formula for long life in this proverb. And it is free for your use! If you scoff at this simple rule, you must love death (Pr 8:36). If you are wise, you will realize it is repeated several times, and you will make it your priority (Pr 3:2,16; 4:10; 9:11; 28:16).
Solomon did not use actuaries – statisticians that compile mortality data for calculating the probabilities of when you will die. He knew by revelation and inspiration from God that your moral lifestyle has more impact than any other factor. He knew it by revelation from the Bible (Ex 20:12; Deut 4:40; 5:16,33; 6:2; 22:7; Ps 55:23; Eph 6:1-3). He knew it by inspiration from heaven (Eccl 12:9-10; Is 8:20; II Tim 3:16-17; II Pet 1:19-21).
Life insurance companies use actuaries to come up with averages. They employ thousands and spend billions of dollars to determine human life spans. After all this work and expense, they estimate the average life expectancy is about 73. But Moses wrote 3500 years ago that 70 was typical for most people and 80 for strong people – an average of about 73! You can read it in Psalm 90:10! How did Moses know? By inspiration!
A life expectancy of 73 is an average. Men die around the average. No one is an average. If a godly man lives to be 90 and a rocker dies of an overdose at 56, it is an average of 73. If two godly grandparents live to be 85 and their sodomite grandson dies of AIDS at 49, the average is 73. If all 50 members of a small church live to be 75, but an excluded drunkard dies in a car accident at 35 with his 11-year-old child, it is an average of 73.
What is the fear of the Lord? It is a reverent love and respect for God that causes a person to read and obey the Bible, God’s word. It is the basis for all wisdom and happiness (Pr 1:7; 9:10; Ps 112:1-3; 128:1-6; Eccl 12:13). What is wickedness? It is living a life by your own lusts according to the world’s ideas. It is your choice how you live. But it is God’s choice when you die, and He makes His choice based on this proverb (Eccl 7:17)!
How is life shortened? Sin accelerates aging: the world calls it “hard living.” Cirrhosis of the liver from drunkenness and STD’s from fornication are examples. Sin brings self-inflicted deaths such as suicide and accidents due to foolishness or rebellion. The sin of adultery can provoke murder by either spouse. Sin can bring capital punishment on murderers or other violent criminals. Sin can also bring about the supernatural judgment of God upon a person by any means at any time. The proverb is true. Believe it!
God killed Er and Onan for different reasons, but they greatly shortened the life expectancy of Judah’s family. Eli outlived his sons by many years, but all three died for sins. Why did Nabal die early and leave his widow to David? Because he was wicked! Absalom was a rebel traitor, so it is no wonder Joab killed him in the prime of life. But before being killed, Absalom killed his brother Amnon for raping his sister. And Solomon killed his brother Adonijah for an attempt on the throne. No wonder God chose Solomon to write these words. He saw life shortened greatly among David’s children!
Do not think such things only occurred in the Old Testament. God never changes, and He has not changed (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8). He is still a fearful God and consuming fire (Heb 10:31; 12:29). Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead in the middle of the church for lying about their giving. The Corinthian church had many members die prematurely for abusing the Lord’s Supper. And Herod Agrippa I died for his arrogance after a speech. “The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.”
Are you surprised the life expectancy of rappers is about 27? Consider their lifestyle! The average life span for rockers is 42 in America and 35 in Europe. Homosexuals die 20-30 years sooner than otherwise expected. Did the following persons get close to 73? Elvis? Hitler? Diana? Bonnie and Clyde? JFK and Marilyn? Al Capone? Babe Ruth? MLK, Jr., Janis Joplin? Jim Morrison? Jim Hendrix? Jim Dean? Alexander the Great? Errol Flynn? Napoleon? John Lennon? You know the answer, and you know why by this proverb.
Compare the general population life expectancy and statistics of those who go to prison for their wickedness. The United States Sentencing Commission defines a life sentence as 39 years. Coupled with the average age of 25 at sentencing, prison life expectancy is 64 compared to 73 for the general population. For those committing crimes in their youth and being sentenced earlier, the life expectancy falls to around 55. Let God be true!
Do you know of exceptions? Of course you do! So did Solomon (Eccl 7:15)! He knew that the infinite God works many things for many reasons in every life, and he knew these other factors did not nullify this rule at all (Eccl 8:12-13). If you want to worry about the exceptions and try to sort out the other divine factors in a person’s life span, then go ahead. But do not be surprised if God counts your curiosity as scorn. Granting a sinner many years as the prosperity of fools or taking the righteous away early to avoid coming trouble does not alter the certain fact – the fear of the Lord prolongs life.
Reader, what will you do about the cold facts of mortality? Become one more statistic short of 73? The Creator God of heaven knows this proverb, and He has confirmed it in the New Testament. He knows to which commandment He first attached a promise of long life – the honor of parents (Eph 6:1-3). This knowledge should plan one event for your day – a call or letter to your parents or a dinner with them. Or will you defeat death by taking your vitamins, suffering through low-fat meals, and running on a treadmill. Humble yourself! Fear the Lord! Honor your parents! Keep God’s commandments!
But even 73 is a short life! Very short! Too short! The Bible compares it to grass, a vapor, a handbreadth, a tale that is told, a watch in the night, a postal worker, a swift ship, an eagle pursuing prey, a shadow, and a weaver’s shuttle. It disappears before you can get your hands on it. The only true cure for death is the gift of eternal life, and it is only by the grace of a sovereign God through the perfect life, death, and resurrected life of Jesus Christ (Rom 6:23). True believers in Jesus Christ will live forever (John 11:25-27).