LIVING WHILE YOU LIVE

Ecclesiastes 9:1-18

Ecclesiastes is not afraid to ask the "tough questions." And the Preacher does not hesitate to admit that he does not have all of the answers.

Gods ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). We will not always understand the meaning and purpose of events in this life. Indeed, the Preacher has shown us that there are times when good seems to fail and when evil seems to triumph. He looks at life and sees the toil and the grief and the emptiness and he asks the question, "Why bother?" But in this chapter, he answers that question.

Not all answers will be given. A great many questions will remain. But the Preacher will show that, as hard as life is, it is worth it.

 

ALL OF LIFE IS IN THE HAND OF GOD

For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God. Man does not know whether it will be love or hatred; anything awaits him. (Ecclesiastes 9:1).

God is the unifying principle of all of life. Life is impossible to explain apart from God. This relates, not only to the origin of life, but also to the meaning and significance of life.

Life is in the hand of God. He is in control of all things. And that means if I do not completely understand God (and who does?), then I will not completely understand the meaning of all the things which happen in life.

Our future is also in the hands of God. This includes not only how long we shall live, but what we will do and enjoy in this life, even whether it will be love or hatred.

 

ALL LIFE ENDS THE SAME WAY

It is the same for all. There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked; for the good, for the clean and for the unclean; for the man who offers a sacrifice and for the one who does not sacrifice. As the good man is, so is the sinner; as the swearer is, so is the one who is afraid to swear.

This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men. Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead. (Ecclesiastes 9:2-3).

There is one universal truth which weíve seen throughout Ecclesiastes concerning life. All life ends in death. There are no exceptions. It does not matter if a man is...

The end is the same. Death is the great equalizer. Sooner or later, everyone DIES. Somehow that just doesnít seem fair. It doesnít seem fair that Hitler should die the same death of a Mother Teresa or a Ghandi - that no matter how bad a person is in life, he should die the same way in which everyone else dies.

You might be thinking, "Wait a minute! The Bible teaches elsewhere that there is a final day of reckoning in which men shall be judged for their sins and then shall be consigned either to everlasting blessing or everlasting damnation." And you would be right. But that had not yet been revealed in Solomonís day. And he looks at life only from the perspective of "under the sun." Here is the point. You only have a limited time to make use of this life. Use it wisely.

 

THE BENEFITS OF LIFE

For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. 6 Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:4-6).

The Preacher points out the benefits of this life, beginning with what has become a well-known saying: Better to be a live dog than a dead lion.

1. The Benefit of Hope: For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope (9:4).

Remember that Solomon is speaking of life as it exists "under the sun." While you are still alive, there is hope in this life. But such hope in this life only lasts to the grave.

You may have hope that you will...

But such hope fails when you die. You may enjoy the next life, but when this life is over, then all worldly aspirations are abandoned.

2. The Benefit of Knowledge: For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything (9:5).

You can and should plan your life in the light of the fact that it will one day end. Those who are dead can make no such plans. It is too late for them. Plan your life while you are still living! Live your life purposefully and wisely.

3. The Benefit of Participation: Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun (9:6).

 

THE ENJOYMENT OF LIFE

The preacher concludes that, since there are benefits to be enjoyed in this life, you ought to labor to enjoy them. There are four specific areas which he mentions.

Verse 7

Verse 8

Verse 9

Verse 10

Food & drink

Clothes

Marriage

Work

1. The Enjoyment of Food & Drink.

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. (Ecclesiastes 9:7).

Eating and drinking are gifts from God. He has designed these to be enjoyed. You can enjoy them as being the blessings of God.

In 1 Corinthians 15:32, Paul quotes this passage to show that those who do not believe in the resurrection have nothing more to do than to "eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." That is all there is for the view of life "under the sun."

2. The Enjoyment of Clothes.

Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head. (Ecclesiastes 9:8).

This is not saying that you should be a slave to fashion. But neither are you called to go to the other extreme. It is good and proper to enjoy a clean set of clothes. "Oil on your head" is the ancient equivalent of deodorant and perfume and cologne - do us all a favor and use it.

Black clothes & ashes on the head

A Sign of Mourning

White clothes & ointment on the head

A Sign of Rejoicing

Here is the point. It is better to enjoy life than to go through life with a depressed attitude.

This is the opposite of what the Preacher said in Ecclesiastes 7:2 - "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting." The truth is that there needs to be a balance. It is good to realize the inevitability of death. But that is not a call to morbidity. By realizing the truth of eventual death, you can more greatly appreciate and celebrate the gift of present life.

3. The Enjoyment of Married Life.

Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun ; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:9).

If you are married, then one of the gifts which God has given to you is your marriage partner. Life is short and ends all too soon. But one of the things that makes it worthwhile is the enjoyment that a husband and a wife can have one for the other. There may not be much time, but there is time enough to love.

4. The Enjoyment of Work.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going. (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Work is not viewed here as only a way of making money, but rather it is the maximizing of your potential. You have an opportunity to do that which you will never again be able to do. It is an opportunity to make a difference.

Work is not a curse. The curse against Adam was the curse of fruitless toil and labor - the curse of excessive work with little to show for it. But work itself is a blessing given by God. And the Scriptures condone the goodness of employment.

 

THE UNKNOWN OF LIFE

I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all. 12 Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them. 13 Also this I came to see as wisdom under the sun, and it impressed me. (Ecclesiastes 9:11-13).

The Preacher challenges our preconceived ideas about the way we tend to view the way of life. Our tendency is to think that certain actions will guarantee certain results.

We tend to think that...

The race goes

To the swift

The battle goes

To the warriors

Bread goes

To the wise

Wealth goes

To the discerning

Favor goes

To men of ability

And sometimes it does. It sometimes is the swift who win and the warriors who conquer and the wise who eat and the discerning who save and those of ability who are promoted. But not always.

The truth is that you cannot tell from the "under the sun" perspective whether a man is going to succeed in life or whether he is going to fail; whether he is going to be rich or whether he is going to be poor; whether he will be wise or whether he will ultimately play the fool; whether he is going to live or whether he is going to die. The reason you cannot know these things is because of the two elements of TIME and CHANCE.

In chapter 3, the Preacher told us that there is a time and a season for every event under the sun. Our problem is that we do not necessarily know when that time or season will take place. There is a great deal in life over which we have no control.

John Lennon is quoted as saying life is that which happens to you while you are deciding what to do. his was a man who brazenly declared that he and his compatriots were more popular than Jesus. And yet, he was brought down in the prime of his life by a gunmanís bullet.

This is the Preacherís point. The story is not over until it is over. And todayís success only guarantees today - it does not guarantee tomorrow.

 

WISDOM - THE GUARDIAN OF LIFE

There was a small city with few men in it and a great king came to it, surrounded it and constructed large siege works against it. 15 But there was found in it a poor wise man and he delivered the city by his wisdom. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16 So I said, "Wisdom is better than strength." But the wisdom of the poor man is despised and his words are not heeded.

The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. (Ecclesiastes 9:14-18).

Once upon a time there was a city. It wasnít a very big city as cities go. It didnít have very big walls. And it didnít have very many inhabitants. And to make matters worse, it had a neighboring king who was very big and very powerful and who was not kindly disposed to the city.

The small city found itself surrounded and besieged and on the verge of collapse. The small city had only one thing going for it. It had living within its walls a single poor man who possessed that rare quality of WISDOM. And that was enough, for the wisdom of the single wise man was enough to deliver the city. The rest of the story is anti-climactic. The people of the small city eventually forgot what it was that had delivered them. hey did not learn to value that wisdom which had proved to be their salvation.

This is the story told to us by the Preacher. And having told his story, he proceeds to teach us several points of application.

The wise man of the Preacherís story had no strength. He was not a man of valor. Indeed, the truth was that he was a she. It was a woman who delivered the city of Abel Bethmaacah (2 Samuel 20:14-22).

There are some realistic limitations of wisdom. Wisdom is not always recognized and valued by those who lack it. Sometimes the reverse is true. The wise manís wisdom is often berated by fools.

The world is blind to the wisdom of God. The wisdom of the world looks at Christianity and concludes, "Religion is the opium of the masses - a crutch needed only for fools."

Notice that it is the POOR manís wisdom that is despised. People tend to esteem the wisdom of the rich. That is because of our tendency to judge a book by its cover. But popular rejection is not a sign of ineffectiveness and popularity does not equate to being right.

It is a well-known proverb that it is the squeaky wheel which gets the grease. But being squeaky is no guarantee that you are right or that you deserve the grease or that grease is not desperately needed in another location.

You can have all the wisdom in the world and still follow the way of the fool if you are walking in sin. Wisdom is good. It is better than weapons of war in its protective ability. But its protective effects are negated by sin.

 

 


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