Chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes brings into the conversation the “D” word no one wants to talk about. Sociologist Ernest Becker said, “of all things that move man, one of the principle ones is his terror of death.”
In this chapter Warren Wiersbe summarizes the words of Solomon in this manner: Death is unavoidable (9:1-10), and Life is unpredictable (9:11-18).
Death is unavoidable:
- Hebrews 9:27 makes it clear death is by appointment only. (God schedules the date and only He can change the appointment).
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment… Hebrews 9:27 ESV
- A paradox: the reality of death is linked to the urgency of living. The more real death becomes the more urgent our desire to live becomes.
- The sinner and the saint may share a common physical destiny but they don’t share a common eternal destiny. (Wiersbe)
- Death is the final enemy we face, but thanks to the cross of Jesus Christ, death has been defeated. (Rom 6:23; John 11:25-26; 1 Thess 4:13-18; 1 Cor 15:51-58)
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25 NLT
- We can’t escape death (v3)
- We can endure beyond the thought (v4-6)
- We can enjoy life in meantime (v7-10)
Life is unpredictable
God controls time and chance (circumstances beyond human control)
“Chance” – In this verse it means an occasion or event (not a gambling term) There is no room for luck or chance in the Christian mind only the providence of God.
Wm. Barrick points out ironies found this section of scripture, which highlights the unpredictability of life.
- Swiftness doesn’t always win the race
- The fiercest warriors don’t always win the battle
- Wise men might not always obtain food
- The discerning might not acquire wealth
- The skilled might not find favor
We are given the example of a wise man living in a city under siege (v16-18)
- Wisdom proved superior to might
- People do not always respect wisdom
- Powerful people can make it difficult to listen to wisdom
- Superior wisdom can be destroyed by a foolish act of a sinner
We cannot control the effects of sin; who it will affect or how it will manifest itself. Old Testament examples of one sinner, bringing calamity: Adam (Genesis 3), Achen (Joshua 7), David (2 Samuel 24).
Death is unavoidable, and life unpredictable, but take heart: Jesus said,
“I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.” Revelation 1:17-18
In the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes Solomon pondered, was life worth living in light of the certainty of death? He concluded yes life is worth living in spite of death being unavoidable (9:1-10) and life being unpredictable (9:11-18). This chapter highlights the need to reject folly (chapter 10) and embrace the wisdom of God. The word folly occurs nine times in this chapter. The opposite of folly is wisdom.
V1 Folly is a problem generator. Dead flies are to perfume as folly is to a good reputation. Dead flies spoil the oil
V2,3 Folly is produced by the inclination of the heart (the center of our being, our emotions). The foolish person yields to the evil within it.
The reference to right and left here is not intended to characterize ones political persuasion. lol. Instead, right is a road favored, left a path of error. The fool speaks loudly and is arrogant.
The foolish ruler
The example is given of a proud ruler who is easily agitated and takes out his anger on those who serve him. The king’s servants shouldn’t exacerbate the situation by losing their temper or becoming angry. A calm response prevents words or actions that will be regretted later.
Does this section refer to those who attempt to do their work and end up suffering because they acted foolishly by taking dangerous shortcuts and bypassing safe guards? An implied lesson is to work smarter, not harder and do the job right the first time.
- Are destructive – the fool says inappropriate things at wrong time. We need to follow the example of Jesus.
- Are unreasonable – the fool makes no sense when he speaks
- Are uncontrolled – the fool is unable to stop talking
- Are boastful – mankind does not know what the future holds. The fool boasts carelessly about what the future holds.
- Offer foolish indulgence – real leaders use authority for positive change, fools indulge themselves.
- Offer incompetence – enjoy the privileges of office without taking care of the their responsibilities
- Offer indifference – don’t care
- Offer Indiscretion – be careful what you say about your boss. “a little bird told me”
“If nothing else, this chapter teaches to pay proper attention to the so-called “little things” in life both personally and nationally. Everything a person does matters. The character of a government leader matters. Even a little word can have far reaching consequences.” William Barrick