From the heights to the depths, sorrow has invaded two countries.
In Montcoal, West Virginia, 29 miners perished in a mine disaster. The families and entire area are drenched in sorrow. The funeral will extend the grief while in years to come the families will never forget. The worst West Virginia mine tragedy in 40 years, this disaster reaches to the depths of the earth taking the humblest of laboring men into eternity. It will take a full year to determine the cause of the mine accident and assign liabilities accurately.
Meanwhile, 96 of Poland’s finest from high level government, including President Lech Kaczynski, military leaders, religious figures, banking personnel and countless support persons, all perished in a Russian-built Polish airliner unable to land in the fog near Smolensk airport in Russia. The tragedy is intensely sad since the passengers were enroute to a commemoration to be held nearby—a remembrance of Stalin’s slaughter of 20,000 Polish military officers and national leaders by the Secret Police in the Katyn forest in 1940. In Poland, the remaining political leaders are scrambling to maintain government stability in the face of such profound losses.
Sadly, but true though it is, death so unexpected may be an unwelcome arrival as Proverbs 27:1 says. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Whether sooner or later, that grim reaper stalks every human from the lowliest laborer to the highest ruler. Ecclesiastes 8:7-8 warns us all, “Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death. As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it.”
A mass disaster contradicts the nonsense of astrologers who link one’s fortunes with the position of heavenly bodies at one’s birth. A simple examination of these tragic victims’ birthdays would likely find them born under every Zodiac sign. While birthdays are common knowledge, death days are known only to God.
Other Scriptural lessons may be learned from these tragedies. One is of the decision of the few adversely affecting the fates of the many. An investigation of the mine catastrophe will probably show multiple violations of simple worker safety regulations by the management few. And in the case of the aircraft disaster, pilot error or misjudgment seems to have taken the lives of all 96 aboard.
Genesis and Romans come together in a similar analysis of the human tragedy. Adam, God’s first human creation, was given the responsibility of choosing for us all. Romans 5:12 reviews his personal influence on the entire human race to be born. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…”
Investigations will probably show that a few mine mangers choose the fates of all the men down in the pits. And the airline pilots’ decisions held the fates of all 97 on the plane. Spiritually speaking, Adam walked us all down into the dark pit of sin and made decisions that affected us all. To put it in the context of a plane, Adam boarded the human race on an aircraft, took the controls and crashed us all.
Because of that, we all begin not as Adam began but as Adam ended—spiritually broken and shattered and in desperate need of salvation. God provided a means of rescue from our doomed condition through the work of Jesus Christ in the cross. I Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”
Christ’s love and sacrifice reach to the lowest of lows and the highest of highs as the stirring words by Frederick Lehman written in 1917 so eloquently say:
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell,
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair bowed down with care,
God gave His son to win:
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin.
We hope that the American miners deep below the earth’s surface and the Polish leaders in the aircraft high in the sky above called out to God and accepted His gift of salvation in whatever time they had left. And that is good for everyone at any time. If so, when death comes, we are “absent from the body and… present with the Lord.” (II Cor. 5:8)