So … you want to end the week on a cheerful note, right? Sorry. Solomon continues in chapter 9 with his observations about the futility (the mere passing breath) of life. Recall again that his perspective is what can be naturally seen and known without special revelation. And though there is much instructive about his writings, we are blessed to be here 3,000 years later – with a completed revelation from God in the Scriptures, and the historic event of the death and resurrection of Christ! So, there’s that! And that’s a lot! It makes all the difference.
But … but … but … don’t get too cheerful just yet. We again have a passage that brings the inevitability of death to the front and center of our minds. Death, though not to be feared by the believer in Christ, remains still as the great enemy and the outworking of the curse of sin. It cannot be escaped … not by speed (so all that running I’ve done in my life won’t help … drat!), power, wisdom, wealth or brilliance (another drat!).
Yes, the reality of this comes home to us more and more as the years go by. We do begin to feel it from the inside-out. And if not that, we accumulate the sadness of more and more people whom we know who have gone ahead of us. My mother, who lived to age 96, only had one person at her graveside service who was not a family member or my personal friend. She outlived everyone in her immediate sphere of relationships.
The sadness of the passing of people came home to me again this week. I’ve lost a number of friends recently, some even from my own age group. And I was much saddened to get a note this week from the wife (also a distant cousin) of my best childhood friend through all of my school years. He has had a difficult-to-receive diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, being complicated by sepsis. Chemo begins Monday. She was putting me on notice that my services may soon be needed.
I often joke about getting older, “I thought this only happened to other people!” The same with bad health news about peer group friends. But, we know better – Solomon reminding us or not.
But there are some words of cheer in the midst of this larger picture of stark and dark inevitabilities. We can choose to live in an intentional way – by choosing to devote ourselves fully to the work we have been given. And this is of course enhanced by what we additionally know as to how we may invest our lives in the Kingdom work of being God’s ambassadors of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5)
We’re going to finish the series over the next two Sundays with some good cheer also, even in the context of sobriety about material life realities. So … don’t miss it!
Ecclesiastes 9:1 – So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them. 2 All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
As it is with the good, so with the sinful; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them.
3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. 4 Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.
6 Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.
7 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. 8 Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. 9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
11 I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
12 Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.