Michael Jackson died today. So did Farrah Fawcett. After careers that made them pop culture icons of the 70's and 80's -- each of them superstars in their own way -- they are suddenly gone.
Farrah Fawcett was one of Charlie's Angels in the hit TV series of the 70's, and became a sex-symbol who seemed to remain forever young in our culture's corporate consciousness. And Michael Jackson was the artist who gave us Thriller, Bad and Billie Jean, legendary recordings that immortalized Jackson as "the King of Pop." Amidst the bad press in recent years, what seemed clear was that Michael never wanted to grow old. Naming his ranch "Neverland" after the land of Peter Pan where little boys never grow old, one would've been excused to think that Jackson wanted to be with us forever. But he died at 50. Farrah Fawcett at 62. Both still young as they gave up the glory of their places of stardom in this world.
As I heard the news today, I couldn't help but to think of the biblical story of Daniel. The story of Daniel begins in Babylonia, likely the most powerful empire in the world at that time. Daniel, chapters 1-4, chronicles the life of the great King Nebuchadnezzar, chapter 4 ending with a quote of Nebuchadnezzar. And then the fifth chapter of Daniel suddenly begins with the words, "Belshazzar the king..." It's such a sudden change. And then in Daniel 5:11, Belshazzar's queen is quoted as saying, "...in the days of your father..." She was referring to King Nebuchadnezzar. But what happened to him? It's strange that someone so great would pass away without so much as a mention of it.
The Bible provides a good deal of detail about Nebuchadnezzar. We're told that he was so feared that "all the peoples, nations and men of every language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed and whomever he wished he spared alive" (Daniel 5:19). He was so powerful, he seemed to conquer everyone and anyone. His "dominion reached to the ends of the earth" (Daniel 4:22). And then suddenly, without explanation, he's gone. Dead. A memory. A corpse. As Daniel chapter 5 begins, he has suddenly become someone to refer back to, speaking of "the days of" a man who is no more. No matter how powerful or famous he was, he couldn't beat death and death took him. And the Bible wastes no words drawing attention to his inevitable demise.
Then the book of Daniel goes on to chronicle the life of Daniel himself, a man who had no desire to live for the glories of this earth. Daniel refused the gifts offered him by kings (Daniel 5:17), and when threatened with death if he continued to pray to God, he very deliberately and knowingly prayed to God regardless of the consequences (Daniel 6:10). Obviously Daniel wasn't living for earthly glories that he would one day lose when he died. Daniel went to prayer unconcerned that it could result in his death because he was living for something eternal -- for the rewards of a kingdom that death can't take away.
I don't know where Michael Jackson or Farrah Fawcett were at spiritually when they died. I only know that they can no longer enjoy the stardom they once sought in this world. And I want to make sure that I live my life like Daniel -- with the glory of God as my passion rather than the temporal attentions of this world that will do nothing to prepare me for the eternity that surely awaits us all.
© 2009 by Ken Peters