By the Skin of his Teeth

A young man of our acquaintance who had lived a careless life was lying extremely ill. One night he dreamt that he was in a room filled with the most beautiful specimens of woodcarving. Now wood-carving had been a special hobby of his, and, in consequence, he examined these works of art with deepest interest. Suddenly the room and all the works in it burst into flames, and he, with great difficulty, just managed to escape from the burning building — by a window, we believe — when it tumbled into ruins. He was saved by the skin of his teeth.

"God speaks once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in the vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed" (Job 33:14-15).

This dream was evidently God's voice to our friend, and when we heard it, 2 Peter 3:10-13 sprang to our minds. The passage reads: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, THE EARTH ALSO AND THE WORKS THAT ARE THEREIN SHALL BE BURNED UP. Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness? … Nevertheless, we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness."

In the face of such a statement as this, so plainly writ for us by the Spirit of God, it cannot be wisdom to engross the mind and heart with the things of the world, no matter how harmless and attractive some of them may be; for a wise man will not place the results of his patient toil in a building that he knows might be demolished at any moment, nor will he expend labour and wealth upon it, much less will he make his home in it.

We are not raising the question of the right or wrong of things, but pointing out wherein wisdom lies. If we are assured that new heavens and a new earth are to displace these that are present, that a creation which will abide without decay is to appear instead of this one which is so sadly marred by unrighteousness and sin, our wisdom is to secure for ourselves a place within that which is eternal, and work for it; for all the work wrought with the present world-system in view will be surely destroyed. This is the interpretation and the warning of our young friend's dream, and this solemn truth the Scriptures undoubtedly and plainly teach.

There is another arresting word in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, which, though it refers primarily to professed Christian service, might well came in here. Every man's work is to be tested by fire; and some — and their folly must be evident — are building wood, hay, and stubble; such material will perish in the devouring flames, and "if any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." The man referred to in the passage is a man whose soul is safe through the precious blood of Jesus, but who has wasted his precious life upon perishing things, and, like our young friend in the dream, escapes by the skin of his teeth. His soul saved, but all his work lost, and his life — in which he might have builded gold, silver, and precious stones — utterly wasted.

Needful is the exhortation, "Let every man take heed how he builds."

"For every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is."

"Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Eph. 5:17).