Tag Archives: death

Freedom

memorial-day-354082_960_720As Veteran’s Day approaches I am reminded freedom comes at great cost.  American soldiers paid a price, often with life or limbs, to preserve our freedom.  May God bless our service men and women as they serve our country.

Just as soldiers paid a price for our physical freedom, one solitary person paid the ultimate price for our spiritual freedom.  Jesus died in our stead so we could be free from the bondage of sin which leads to physical death.   Death is not the end for those who believe in Him.  They will experience eternal life on the other side of death.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NLT

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Summing up Ecclesiastes

In this last post on Ecclesiastes I thought it would be helpful to try to write a summary of my experience with the book.

sunrise-1756274_960_720We, like Solomon, face a dilemma. Earth, within the boundaries of our universe, continues on endlessly. We, on the other hand, are transient creatures; our lives are but a vapor, a breath in the grand scheme of things. Life “under the sun” (the human condition without God) seemed meaningless to Solomon because no matter what avenue he pursued, nothing gave him an advantage over the certainty of death. As he considers human mortality, he acknowledges the prospect of eternity, a thought placed in his heart by God. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

It is the intent of the writer of Ecclesiastes to take us by the hand and pull us to the edge of that abyss we call death. Solomon knew that by having us stand there at the brink, we would conclude that our life experiences alone leave us unprepared to face death. As we stand there, uncomfortable with the thought of our own demise, we are admonished to order our lives presently (today).

bubbles-1038648_960_720How will you respond to the message of Ecclesiastes, “vanity of vanities, everything is vanity” (life is a vapor, a breath) as we toil “under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2,3) Will you, like the fool reject the message and ignore the signposts pointing towards death and judgment?

“The fool has said in his heart there is no God…” Psalm 14:1.

OR, will you be counted among the wise and take the message to heart. Will you remember God (Ecclesiastes 12:1), fear Him and keep his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13)? A wise person remembers God by noticing his handiwork all around them and acknowledging that work at every opportunity. He or she will thank God continually for the blessings given to them.

To those who heed the message of Ecclesiastes, “eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do” (Ecclesiastes 9:7).  Remember Him always.

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Remembering our Creator

bubbles-1038648_960_720“Just as the setting sun signals the end of a day, so aging signals the approach of the close of one’s life” Wm. Barrick.

Ecclesiastes chapter 12

Verses 1, 2, 6 include the word “before,” referencing a series of events leading up to ones impending death. We should view verses 1-7 as one complete sentence (one complete thought) a description of aging as death approaches.

In conversations regarding death it is natural to consider one’s Creator. This has been the case throughout Ecclesiastes. God has made everything appropriate in its time (3:11); Consider the work of God (7:13-14); God made man upright (7:29); The activity of God who makes all things (11:5).

v1        Remember – reflect, embrace, acknowledge – shape your perspective.  Creator – a remainder that we are created beings (John 1:1-3; Genesis 1:1-2:3)

Before dark days come – times of misery, trouble. These stand in contrast to the days of our youth.

V2       Gathering storm – approaching of death

V3       Watchmen – male servants whose job it was to protect the household.  Strongmen – free men or neighboring household.  Grinders – female servants whose job it was to grind grain. Those peering out window – free women trying to avoid public eye in times of grieving

V4       Description of a strickened household or village.  Doors (plural) – would be a reference to a city gate. (Houses of that day only had one door)

V5       Afraid of heights, danger in the streets – fears of the aging or elderly.  Almond blossom – reminds one of human hair that has turned white

el-salvador-1507414_960_720Death (12:6, 7)

V6,7    Golden bowl – thought to be a lamp of oil

Silver cord – a means of hanging the lamp

Cutting the cord would shatter lamp (signifies death)

Pitcher – holds life-giving water (the water of life can no longer be drawn)

Wheel – could this be a pulley system used to lower the pitcher into a well

Spirit returns to God – hints of a continued existence after death.

Chuck Swindoll offers the following insight on verses 1-7.

  1. I must face the fact that I’m not getting any younger
  2. God has designed me to be empty without Him
  3. Now is the time to prepare for eternity

Epilogue (12:8-14)

Most commentators are of the opinion that the epilogue was written by someone other than Solomon.   Jewish tradition holds the epilogue was written by one of King Hezekiah’s men.  Wm Barrick stresses that Solomon could have indeed written the epilogue also.

v8        A refrain – a reoccurring theme of Ecclesiastes, Vanity, All is vanity (a vapor)

V9       pondered – weighed points for careful evaluation

Searched out – thoroughness, diligence

Set in order – ordered his thoughts in a skillful manner

V11     One Shepherd – God

V13,14 The emphasis is on God and commandments; the secondary emphasis is on fear and obey. “A knowledge of God leads to obedience not vice versa” (Eaton)

The whole duty – our essence – the essence of mankind to fear God and obey him.

Ecclesiastes asks the question, “What advantage [or profit] does man have in all his work he does under the sun?” David Estes suggests this answer; “the advantage resides not in human achievement apart from God, but rather in human connection with God.”

  • Remember God, the Creator (Eccl 12:1)
  • Fear God, the Creator (Eccl 3:14; 5:7; 8:12; 12:14)
  • Enjoy the life God gives (Eccl 9:7-10)
  • Prepare for leaving life “under the sun” (Eccl 12:1)
  • Prepare to stand before God in a future judgment (Eccl 11:9)

 

god-2012104_960_720How does one remember our Creator?

  • Notice God’s handiwork all around us at every opportunity
  • Thank God continually for all the blessings he gives
  • Obey His commands

 

Death and Folly

Encountering death

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).

old-2081500_960_720Death 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 life, 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)

yahtzee-1132533_960_720Life 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)

  1. Wisdom proved superior to might
  2. People do not always respect wisdom
  3. Powerful people can make it difficult to listen to wisdom
  4. 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

 

Encountering folly

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.

jester-2072475_960_720V1       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.

Foolish workers

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.

Foolish talkers

  • 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.

Foolish officers

  • 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

Wisdom’s Purpose

 

orion-568635_960_720Every one of us would like to know what the future holds. But no matter how much experience we gain or how much wisdom we possess, the future is still going to be a big unknown. For Christians “the future” is always and forever a matter of faith in God and yielding to his providence.

How, then, can wisdom be put to good use. Solomon gives us three useful purposes of Wisdom in Ecclesiastes chapter 7.

The first purpose of wisdom is to make life better.

  • Why is a good name better than perfume?

Warren Wiersbe: every person is born with three names. A name the family gives you, the name others call you, and the one you acquire for yourself. At birth you have no reputation. After you die your reputation defines you.

  • Why is the day of death better than the day of birth?

At birth we are propelled into a transient existence “under the sun.” Death propels us into eternity (Paul said “to die is gain” Phil 1:21, 23)

  • Why is attending a funeral better than attending a party?

Eaton said, “Every funeral anticipates our own.” Funerals remind us of our mortality. Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

  • Is frustration better than laughter?

A fool doesn’t learn from the lessons of life. A wise person when they face death, disease and destruction learns from it and they become better not bitter. (Dr. Jeremiah)

  • Is rebuke better than praise?

Being flattered by worthless praise is like feeding crackling thorns to a fire. There is a burst of heat and bright flame but no lasting value. “Rebukes are really compliments turned inside out, designed to mold and mature us in wonderful ways.” Dr. Jeremiah (Proverbs 10:17; 12:1; 15:5; 17:10; 25:12)

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  • What’s wrong with shortcuts?

A bribe is a shortcut. Consider Satan tempting Christ in the wilderness. You want food—make these stones bread; you want fame—leap from this temple; you want followers—just bow to me. Bribery corrupts the heart.

  • Is the end really better than the beginning?

Steven Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” We need to visualize the goal and choose our steps to get there. The patience of a wise man is much better than the pride and anger of a fool.

  • Don’t long for the “good old days”

It is said that the “good old days” are a combination of a bad (selective) memory and a good imagination. Victorian essayist Hildaire Belloc: “While you are dreaming of the future or regretting the past, the present, which is all you have, slips from you and is gone.”

The second benefit of wisdom is enabling us to see life more clearly

Maturity is the ability to put life in perspective. Wisdom leads to maturity (Wiersbe)

Wealth – without wisdom an inheritance flounders. With wisdom, an inheritance likely flourishes

Providence – (Consider what God has done) Yielding to the will of God accomplishes more than fighting him every step of the way

Adversity and prosperity – with wisdom we can differentiate between mountain top experiences and spiritual valleys (we can see the sun). With wisdom we can battle adversity and keep from being discouraged (Job 2:10)

Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New Testament.” Francis Bacon.

The future – No matter how much experience we have gained as we walk through life we must still walk by faith. (Wiersbe). In Daniel 12:8-9, He asked, “What shall be the outcome of these things?” The angel told Daniel to go his way.

Verses 15-24 are very difficult to commentate on their meaning and hard to understand.

Wicked prosper while continuing their wickedness, the righteous seem to be robbed of both blessing and long life. Dr. Jeremiah offers this comment, ”God is both loving and powerful, but He allows the rewards to be reversed—success for evil, suffering for the good—for reasons relating to his eternal plan, and because it is the consequence of a fallen world in which we ourselves have invited such chaos.”

Don’t be overly righteous, overly wise or overly wicked and foolish?

Solomon is not advocating middle of the road spirituality. Being “sorta” holy is a sure path to hell. It’s a warning about being self-righteous and exalting yourself before others.

The third and final purpose of wisdom found in Ecclesiastes chapter 7 is being able to face life stronger

directory-229117_960_720Seek wisdom, not perfection. We are flawed creatures, our nature is to sin. Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10); fear of the Lord leads to life. (Proverbs 19:23)

Don’t listen to the gossip said about you. If it’s not constructive, it is not worth your time. Trying to shape your life solely from what people are saying about you is not wisdom. “If we get upset when people talk about us, we are holding them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves to.” Dr. David Jeremiah

Solomon admits he lacks wisdom in areas of life’s inequalities and that death is inevitable. Ultimate wisdom does not lie in the land of the living (Job 28:13).

The woman whose heart is snares and nets is a seductress (opposite of a loving wife). Solomon’s harem could have totaled 1,000 women. These are the women who served foreign gods, daughters of foreign kings  who were often priestesses of pagan religions. Contrast this with what Solomon said about godly women (Proverbs 1:20-33)

Not one upright woman among them all (his harem?). As one commentator put it, what godly woman would place herself willingly in the midst of Solomon’s harem?

We were made upright (to walk in God’s light of truth) yet we continually scheme and pervert God’s ways

Phillip Ryken sums up all of Ecclesiastes this way, “Wise people will say all of the things that Ecclesiastes says. They will tell us that living for pleasure and working for selfish gain are striving after the wind. They will tell us that God has a time for everything, including a time to be born and a time to die. They will tell us that two are better than one at facing all of the toils and trials of life. They will tell us that because God is in heaven and we are on earth, we should be careful what we say. They will tell us that money will never satisfy our souls. In Short, they will teach us not to live for today, but to live for eternity.”

 

Ecclesiastes: Futility and Folly

Have you been so concerned with a problem that you have felt the tension in your arms, legs or chest? Have you been so stressed out that you lost sleep over it? Solomon is telling us he has seen the futility of life under the sun. In this section (Ecclesiastes 1:17-2:26) his futility gives way to frustration. He is leaving “no stone unturned” in his search for the meaning of life.

William D. Barrick refers to the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes as Solomon’s honest confession. He can’t solve life’s most important issues without God. It is highly unusual for a king of this era to admit to “failure, frustration and folly.” But God uses failure, frustration and folly to draw wandering prodigals back to Himself.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

In chapter one, verse thirteen a new prospective is identified, “under heaven;” the abode of God, the all-supreme Creator. However, Solomon’s search under heaven does not include the eternal, only the temporal.   His search includes:

Wisdom – The more we know, the less it seems we know.

Wm. Barrick – “What is crooked cannot be straightened” (a proverb). In essence, mankind cannot change all that is done under heaven. C’est la vie (that’s life).  “With wisdom comes much grief” (another proverb). In essence the more wisdom obtained the greater the grief. Solomon keeps reaching the same conclusion that man cannot save himself.

Josh McDowell – If education were the key to life, “universities would be the most moral, ethical and spiritual centers of any nation.”

W. Wiersbe – “The Christian won’t be able to explain everything that happens in life but life is not built on explanations, it’s built on promises.”

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Pleasure – Solomon denies himself no pleasure. He enjoys it. Today we talk ourselves into believing that pleasure is something we have earned, or deserve; like the advertising jingle, “Work hard, play hard.”

Why does pleasure lead to disappointment (under the sun)? We seek the ultimate meaning out of that which is temporary and perishable.

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Work – alone is not the key to happiness. The more we work the more unbalanced the rest of life becomes. For many, work is an attempt to keep them busy from facing how empty their lives really are (under the sun)

Work is not evil. God put Adam in the Garden and gave him work to do. We are wired to work. Unfortunately, for some accomplishments in their work give them the feeling that they are captains of their souls, masters of their destiny.

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Wealth – wealth cannot be taken with us when we die. Where is the advantage of wealth? “The more we have the more we want what we don’t have.” (Dr. D. Jeremiah).

“Money is the universal passport to everywhere except heaven, and the universal provider of everything except happiness.” Wall Street Journal

More about work – Solomon struggles with the realization that labor doesn’t produce anything that will endure for eternity. Futility of labor is equivalent to a hamster on an exercise wheel.   Additionally, there is a realization that death levels the playing field. It comes for everyone; both the lazy and hard-working, the wealthy and poor, the renowned and anonymous. Work done under the sun is not lasting in the light of eternity.

Why did Solomon use the word “hate” referencing his toil? He couldn’t keep the fruits of his labor (his toil ultimately is handed to others). Secondly, he couldn’t protect its fruits (those who receive it won’t have the same appreciation as the person who produced it). Finally, wealth can’t be enjoyed as it should (a lifetime of toil leaves relatively little time to enjoy it).

Solomon’s Conclusions:

Remember Solomon is attempting to find the meaning of life under the sun (striving apart from God). He mentions the sinner, which means one who falls short or misses the mark. This person ultimately gathers resources only hand down to someone else when they die.  Life apart from God (without reconciling with God) leaves the sinner no means of accessing the eternity of heaven.  For them “all is vanity.”

Everything we have is a gift from God.   The believer in God whose prospective is above the sun (under heaven) can find enjoyment under the sun.  In the words of Jesus, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21