Skip to content ↓

I Shall Not Die But Live and Tell

This sponsored post was written by Gordon J. Keddie and provided by Crown & Covenant Publications.

Last May, I sent the completed manuscript of my recent book, Prayers of the Bible, to my publisher. In June, I was rushed to the hospital after coming down with an extreme case of altitude sickness at a Christian conference in Colorado. Relentlessly dizzy and nauseated, I threw up for 21 days in a row, defied all treatment, and showed no improvements. The doctors warned my wife that I might never recover. Food and fluid were pumped into me intravenously, my death was awaited with baited breath, and my life was prayed for by many of God’s people. One day, early in this ordeal, I tried to pray, but could not think of any words to pray! I knew who I was, where I was, and that I was in bad shape. My memory was like an empty room. I saw a floor, a ceiling, and walls, but they were completely featureless. I could not, try as I did, think of even a single verse of Scripture. Not one!

I scratched around unavailingly for what seemed like ages, when, out of a clear white nothing, some words suddenly appeared, unbidden, in my hollow—and horrifying—tabula rasa of a mind:

I shall not die, but live and tell
Jehovah’s power to save;
The Lord has sorely chastened me,
But spared me from the grave.

This came to me, not as a discovery spied in an overlooked corner of my memory, nor as some revived memory, but as a surprise and an unanticipated gift—an answer to an unspoken prayer for some word appropriate to the pressures of the moment. Right away, I was amazed to recognize the words of the metrical version of Psalm 118:18, sung many times in church worship from my youth in Scotland to more recent times in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.

What astounded me was the sense that this was so clearly a word from the Lord. This was no new revelation, but both a promise and a prayer in the revealed Word from the covenant God who ministers to his people’s hearts by the indwelling Holy Spirit of truth, adoption (John 16:13; Rom. 8:15). I did not take it exactly as a prophecy that I would survive this illness. I certainly accepted my condition as his chastisement, even for specific sins. But, overwhelmingly, I grasped it as an assurance from the life-giving Savior who, if he could save David from his military enemies, could save me from the challenges of a health crisis. And this I could pray for with the warrant of a hitherto forgotten text of Scripture most fervently believed and a Savior whose love was proffered in this Word.

Then, also suddenly and unbidden, the metrical words of Psalm 118:19 flooded into my soul:

O set ye open unto me
The gates of righteousness;
Then will I enter into them
And I the Lord will bless.

Here is Christ, vouchsafing himself as the gate of righteousness—“the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)—of whose person and work the words of the psalmist, about the gates of the temple and the meaning of her sacrifices, are prophetic prefiguring. These words said to me, “Look to Jesus your Savior for this promise of life in the face of death, for ‘he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.’” (Heb. 7:25). Since then I have discovered afresh God’s “power to save,” and every reason to “live and tell” of it.

As I thought later on these things, I could not but wonder at the fact that, days before my illness, I had finished a book on the prayers of the Bible, with a meditation on a prayer for every day of the year, and yet could not remember one of them! It was my faithful Savior who chose the Scripture prayer I needed in a moment when my life-time of memory of that very Scripture had apparently vanished from the scene. And this proved that his love never fails, and his promise ever stands, for he who keeps Israel “will neither slumber nor sleep.” When all you who are in Christ are at your most vulnerable, “he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (Ps. 121:4, 7-8).

Gordon J. Keddie is author of Prayers of the Bible: 366 Devotionals to Encourage Your Prayer Life.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 18)

    A La Carte: The pursuit of (which) happiness? / Don’t hastily choose elders / The evangelistic nature of awe / What you read builds who you are / Till he was strong / A father’s threads of living faith / Logos deals / and more.

  • Lets Hear It For the Second Parents

    Let’s Hear It For the Second Parents

    While today we tend to associate step-parents with divorce, in previous centuries they were almost exclusively associated with death and with either widow- or widowerhood. In an era in which lifespans were shorter and, therefore, a greater number of parents died while their children were still young, there was a distinct and honored role for…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 17)

    A La Carte: Honor good fathers and bad fathers alike? / Don’t give up, dad / How I respond to pride month / 5 myths about the pro-life movement / A seminar on biblical counseling / How do I know if I’m one of the elect? / Kindle deals / and more.

  • The Glorious End without the Difficult Means

    The Glorious End without the Difficult Means

    Just as Olympic athletes cannot realistically expect to win a gold medal unless they strictly discipline themselves toward victory, Christians cannot hope to prevail in the Christian life unless they take a serious, disciplined approach to it. Yet lurking in the background is always the temptation to hope that we can have the result of…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    Weekend A La Carte (June 15)

    A La Carte: Learn to rest in God’s justice / 3 reasons why your small group is not a church / How can I be a godly father? / Gender in the void / Are images of Christ OK? / The getting of wisdom / and more.

  • Making Good Return

    Making Good Return

    I don’t think I am overstating the matter when I say that this has the potential to be one of the most important books you will read. It’s a book that may shape years of your life and transform the way you carry out one of the key roles God assigns to you…