The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot.
What will the epitaph on your cemetery marker say? What will those attending your funeral think or say? How many will come? Will there be great grief, or subdued relief? Will anyone reflect on your life ten years later? Will your memory be blessed or rotten?
David wept painfully, when Jonathan died (II Sam 1:17-27), for he remembered their wonderful friendship as better than the love of a woman (I Sam 18:1-4; 23:16). Dorcas was well remembered by many widows for good works and much charity (Acts 9:36-42).
Men remember Joseph as gloriously virtuous, Potiphar’s wife as an evil adulteress. They remember Tamar as a prudent virgin, Amnon as a profane dog. Men remember Paul as the greatest apostle, Demas as a weak loser. They remember Elijah and John as zealous heroes, Pilate and Agrippa as compromisers. Men remember Abraham as faithful, Lot as worldly. They remember Daniel the eunuch as strong, and strong Samson as weak.
Dear reader, how will you be remembered? This matter is important, for it reflects much on how you have used God’s gift – your life. Consider the opening questions carefully. Your reputation and how much others love you is a key measure of your life (Pr 22:1). You can deceive and flatter yourself about your value, but most others know differently.
The wicked are not remembered, though they name lands after themselves and dream of a great legacy (Psalm 49:6-14). The Lord will obliterate their memory from the earth (Job 18:5-21; 27:11-23; Ps 9:5-6), as He did Judas Iscariot’s family (Ps 109:6-20). Do not envy or fret about them. Do not let enemies bother you. The name of the wicked will rot into oblivion. Their lives are vanity, for all they have done will be forgotten (Eccl 8:10).
What a difference in funerals! Jehoiada, the high priest who saved the infant Joash, was buried with kings for his righteousness (II Chron 24:16), but Jehoiakim, truly a king of Judah, was buried like a dead ass for his foolish rebellion (Jer 22:19; 36:30). Josiah, who brought revival to Judah, was lamented by Jeremiah and many singers with great lamentation (II Chron 35:24-25), but Jeroboam, who caused Israel to sin, had his family taken away like dung without ordinary deaths or decent burials (I Kings 14:10-11).
Saul, God-forsaken and profane to the end, committed suicide. His head was cut off, his body fastened to a wall and then burned, and his bones buried under a tree (I Sam 31:1-10). David, full of the Holy Ghost, died in bed knowing his Son would reign on God’s throne forever and was buried in Jerusalem (II Sam 23:1-5; I Kgs 1:1-4). Men remember the one as a jealous and wicked man, the other as the glorious man after God’s own heart.
David’s name was much set by in Israel, while he was alive (I Sam 18:30). After he died, God compared all other kings to David and blessed them because of David (I Kings 15:3-5). And to this day he is one of the favorite Bible characters of all good men and women.
Dear reader, do you feel your reputation is ruined because of sin? Repent, and do the first works (Rev 2:5). Consider that the man just described, David, was guilty of aggravated adultery, and he killed one of his best friends. But God covers the sins of truly repentant sinners, and so do all good men. How do you remember Mary Magdalene? Fine indeed!
Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, a woman is remembered for anointing the Lord Jesus with costly ointment (Mark 14:3-9). “The memory of the just is blessed.” And wherever the gospel is preached, Judas is remembered for betraying the same Lord for thirty pieces of silver (Mk 14:10-11). “The name of the wicked shall rot.”
You cannot forget the “Hall of Faith,” where the blessed memories of many, some by name and some by exploit, are immortalized in the apostolic chapter of martyrs. It is said of these illustrious heroes of Christianity that they obtained a good report by faith (Heb 11:2). Will this cloud of witnesses affect your life? Will you be worthy of their company?
Keeping the second commandment leaves blessed memories (Matt 22:39), for it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Are you a giver or a taker? Jesus set the holy example as the ultimate Giver (Matt 20:25-28), Whom Paul followed (II Cor 12:15). They served many, and their memories are blessed throughout the world of good men.
A tree of life will be remembered, for they win souls and help others (Pr 11:30). Do your lips feed many (Pr 10:21)? Is your hearty counsel sweet to your friends (Pr 27:9)? Do you sharpen your friends (Pr 27:17)? Living and dying without influencing others for God means your life was a waste. There are three kinds of men – those who help others, those who do nothing, and those who harm others. What kind of man (or woman) are you?
Husband and children will praise a virtuous wife and mother, before and after her death (Pr 31:28). Solomon wrote kindly of his mother in this very book (Pr 4:3). Jesus honored His mother while He hung on the cross (John 19:25-27), and her memory is blessed perpetually for her holy child and her glorious testimony of salvation (Luke 1:46-55).
If men do not praise or commend you here for your just and righteous deeds, Jesus will remember every good work in the great Day of Judgment (Matt 25:31-46; Ps 112:6; Heb 6:10). Good deeds cannot be hid forever. “The memory of the just is blessed.”
The memory of the living Lord Jesus Christ will be the theme of every song and act of worship through eternity, and the smoke of the torment of the wicked will be the incense! What will you do this very day to move away from being wicked toward being just?