Die One Day, Live All Others | Ecclesiastes 9:1-18
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Ecclesiastes 9:1–9:18
Good morning! This week we are continuing our series of Ecclesiastes called The Pursuit: Chasing Meaning Under the Sun. Where do we go to find wisdom, meaning, and purpose? What is the point of all our accomplishments? Where is our hope when we life is met with failure or even simple toil and boredom? Is this all there is to life? In life under the sun all seems to be vanity as we struggle to find our purpose and meaning apart from God. The message of this sermon of Ecclesiastes isn’t “all of life is meaningless and nothing matters”; it’s because of God as the source of all meaning, and goodness, as we live the life we are given EVERYTHING matters! Over the last two week we’ve seen a wrestling with God in Chapter 7 and 8 about injustice and why some bad things happen to good people, etc. Chapter 9 continues the theme as resolution is sought between what is generally true and the unpredictability of life.
Verse 9:1-6 | Die One Day
Ecclesiastes 9:1-6 | 1But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. 2 It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 4 But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.
After wrestling with the apparent injustice and severity of the world, the preacher of Ecclesiastes begins to try to makes sense of it all. In light of our limited ability to understand the world there comes a point when you have to look beyond what you can see and begin to explore a faith in something greater. These verses assume a baseline belief in a God who is in control of all things, and yet is difficult to understand. Examination leads the preacher to see our lives are held in the “The Hand of God”. We are uncomfortable with this because we assume we’re captain of our own souls and destiny. Yet we all know we’re not as powerful as we like to think we are and we are more fragile and dependent than we care to admit. Here are words about God “in his hand” that speak to His power (God made it all!) and sovereignty (God is in control of all!) All that we are and all that we do is under His supervision and ultimate judgement. When we consider this reality it naturally leads us to question. “If there is a big God who created everything, exists eternally, and actively engages with His creation, where do I stand (or fall) before him?” Love or Hate is speaking about acceptance or rejection. Some of us walk in a tension of not knowing how we stand before God. We read. at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11). It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31) Which is it?! It’s going to take more the merely observing the outcomes of people or if they’ve experienced favor, success, or trial and tragedy. There are absolutely no guarantees that a righteous or wise life will ensure earthly blessing or ease. Further we don’t always see visible rebukes for wickedness. What frustration!!! We want justice for the wicked and grace and mercy for the righteous. Yet we see the same fate comes to each of them.
You can avoid being committed to God all you want you can deny his existence or believe there is no sin (or at least none you have) that warrants judgement but in the end if it’s true than it’s true. It is crystal clear “the same event happens to all.” We. Will. All. Die. Righteous, good, clean, sacrificial committed worshiper….Dies Wicked, evil, filthy, irreverent rejecter of God…. Dies. Last week we mourned the death of Officer Garrett Swasey. His wife and two young kids won’t have their dad this Christmas and a church lost one of their pastors. This week in San Bernardino after killing 14 people (injuring others) gathered for a party at a center that serves developmentally disabled adults the two shooters were taken out by police. Two totally different types of people responding to the world in drastically different ways… all dead.
Be frustrated! Desire it not be so! Go ahead and dislike death. The preacher of Ecclesiastes is right Death isn’t natural, it’s evil. It is the consequence of sin (Fall) Because of sin we live in a moral wilderness of the madness of humanity. Corruption, frivolity, violence, disobedience, self-justification this universally applies to ALL “Children of men” and total infects and affects all “while we live.” And dominates us, our hearts are “full” of it. We’re all going to be mowed down. We all will die one day….. But we’re alive today.
Where there is life there is hope!! We all have life so we all have hope. Dogs weren’t trusted pet they were despised scavengers, Lions were signs of nobility. But a miserable dog is better off than a dead lion. Even if you’re miserable now don’t think death is the answer, there can be hope found in our lives today.
The hope is specific. It is this; while we live in the shadow of death we have opportunities to respond to the reality of our small lives. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: Hebrew 9:27 We can evaluate our lives now and our relationship with our creator now but later, it will not be so. After we die, “Under the sun” we are “forever” no more” a permanent and total passing. In death all we’re concerned with all our affections, angers, and anxieties die with us. There is a totality to our death and a permanence “forever they have no more share…” We can engage with the truth of death, judgement etc, because there is hope for the living! Christians pray for the living, serve the living. Yes honor the dead but don’t worship them. Their time has gone; we’re not like some religions that teach worship of ancestors or praying for/baptizing for the dead. There is not opportunity and no reason to pray for, or to, the souls of the dead. We are to be joined with the living today. What does this look like? Why try in this world at all if we’re going to die at the end? Yes we will die one day but all our other days we won’t.
Verse 9:7-10 | Live and Enjoy Life Today
7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. 8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. 9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
Go! This is the most urgent command to joy in this book! 4 or 5 times it’s been suggested we should enjoy and engage with our world. But here it’s a big call to action. Get out of bed and get busy living…. (or get busy dying). “Go Eat, Drink, enjoy, do!” Don’t complain get to work with enjoying and participating fully with life today. Why? What is the point? God has already approved. All the good things in this life we enjoy are God’s ideas! He has created each of us for a purpose. Bible often talks about predestination, before you were born God created a world full of things to enjoy. To be clear we are not justified (right standing) by our enjoyment of the world but by faith in the one who created the world. Those who trust in the God above the sun don’t fear approval because of their works; but work because of His approval of them. This is Gospel Motivation. God gives life, purpose, and meaning. Even in our fallen world He gives:
Contentment | Not eat drink for tomorrow you die, but Eat and drink to the glory of God! God made us to need food and refreshment, but he also made it enjoyable. God is pleased when we’re pleased in his provision. We have some belief that if we shun what is enjoyable in the world in terms of created things. (food, etc) we are being more spiritual. Instead we should enjoy what God has made enjoyable and be thankful to God for them. Enjoying good gifts from God is spiritual. When we don’t enjoy gifts from a giver we dis honor Him. Think about kids opening Christmas presents. “Thank you father for this gift, I’ll feel guilty for having it and make sure I don’t enjoy it.” No! Celebrate what is good. Not sure what is “good”? We are called to “receive what comes from God “with thanksgiving” (1Tim 4:4) Can you in good conscience give God thanks for what you enjoy? If not, maybe it’s not “good” and you shouldn’t do it.
Comfort | White clothes and oil were to help be a comfort in the sever heat often experienced in Israel. It’s still hot and uncomfortable but go ahead and enjoy when things are a little more comfortable. There are difficult circumstances in this world and God gives us some tangible items to easy our discomfort. Treat yo self! Well not really, yes enjoy and experience comfort in our harsh world, but we regularly tend towards self-indulgence at the expense of good stewardship and blessing others White is the color of purity and victory. Those in can Christ be comforted and walk a new life free from the bondage of sin.
Committed Companionship | One of the greatest gifts we’ve been given by God is marriage. He says enjoy YOUR Bride who YOU love. There is a unique and exclusive joy that comes in having a specific focus of your earthly devotion and affections. Your spouse is “Your portion”, yes for the good times but also for the adversity of toil. Tara and I have times to celebrate and enjoy each other but we’ve grown the most when we’ve been there to comfort each other in difficultly and encourage each other in defeat. Marriage is made for our joy but also for the midst of frustration. It can be our solace in a vain life. You might not be great in the world but your family is who you’re uniquely called to! Give affection, pursue enjoyment. “All the days” show a lifelong companionship. This a small sliver and picture of the eternal purpose Marriage reflects. Enjoy and cherish your family in each season you have with them. (My kids yell out the window when I leave, I know there will be a day it’s not so. So I savor it!)
Commission/Call – Because life is sort we work hard! Work where you are called. Where is that? It’s where you are! Don’t look around and think “I wish I was at..” or I can’t wait until… “ But work vigorously where you are now!” Because we’re alive we don’t slothfully disengage. Work boldly and confidently! God has the whole world in His hands…. but you have things that have been put into our hands, so we work!!! I have becoming increasingly more passionate about the work I’ve been called to at a Damascus Road as we’ve been studying Ecclesiastes. This book is not a downer it is a motivator!! We are to be active and energetic, practical (don’t think practical is bad, it’s a gift from God) We work Thoughtfully as we seek to grow in our abilities (study/knowledge) with skill and wisdom. We can all do this NOW. We can’t do it after we’re gone. John 9:4 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. Because our faith is in the one who made things enjoyable we can be free to enjoy food, drink, our spouse and our work. But don’t be surprised when things are tough or unpredictable.
Verse 9:11-12 | Buckle up and Keep going.
11 Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. 12 For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.
So yes there are great thing to enjoy with this life but don’t think for a second you’ve got it all figured out.
There are upsets (Cougars sometimes win) The strong don’t always win or dominate. Life is unpredictable.
You can be fast and loser you can be strong and lose a battle, you can be smart, skilled and wise and be poor. Proverbs 3:16 says there are riches and honor in wisdom, but there are also exceptions. Being in the Hand of God brings us to a place of faith but is also blows up any sense of self-confidence. Wisdom intelligence or skill are not always guarantees of provision, wealth, or favor. Seasons of life are unpredictable, inescapable (net/snare) and come suddenly, because of time and chance. Chance is not randomness (lit a timely incident) it is things that appear outside of what we are able to predict but they are not beyond what God has ordained. We are still in a fallen world where evil and sin still have daily impact in our lives. We can’t predict everything that might happen or even foresee great calamity. “Man doesn’t know his time.” We’re like fish unaware we’re swimming into a net or a bird that doesn’t know we’re about to be ensnared. But birds don’t stop flying and fish don’t stop swimming just because their might be trap in the world. Our response isn’t to fear what is around every corner, but to keep going! This is a call to endurance in an unpredictable world. We will rest in the world to come.
Verse 9:13-18 |Saved City
Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me.14 There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. 15 But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16 But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man's wisdom is despised and his words are not heard. 17 The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.
There is a good and right hope in this life and the life to come. Go! Enjoy, Work, Endure, and REST! These verses speak of a little city found in a state of oppressive (near hopeless) conflict. What is the church if not a little city? What is the world apart from God if not against God’s people. We know the sin of Adam infects us all. One sinner “destroyed much good.” We look to one righteous man. Jesus cast off all the riches of heaven Jesus though he was rich, yet for our sake became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Cor 8:9) Jesus didn’t have a place to call home on earth. Jesus on the cross with all the world against him (Rome, religious leaders, satan, sinful humanity) all laying siege against him, despising him, rejecting his word as rulers and retches alike shout “crucify Him” all while he remains silent. While the cross looked like a time of defeat for the strong (God’s son dead and buried) It would not last. There is resurrection! And because death wasn’t the end for Jesus it doesn’t have to be the end for us. Jesus promises life for those who place their faith in Him. He also promises a return with a new heavens and new earth (not a little city, but a great eternal city. Not saved by one forgotten, but by the greatest King, who will never be forgotten and whose praise will be sung forever!
1 Peter 1:3-5 | 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Because Jesus died one day for us, we can live all others for Him. This is the hope and promise for all those who Trust Jesus!
More in THE PURSUIT | Ecclesiastes
January 3, 2016Season Finale | Ecclesiastes 12:1-14
December 20, 2015Bridled Joy | Ecclesiastes 11:1-10
December 13, 2015Farmers Market of Foolishness | Ecclesiastes 10:1-20