From Ecclesiastes 9-12
Today’s passage speaks about the common fate shared by all. How we live does not necessarily affect what will happen to us. Solomon is speaking about death. This great truth is reflected in Jesus’ death. Of all men, he more than any other should have been blessed by his life and devotion to God. Yet he died on a cross. He submitted himself to death, the event shared by all. That we may live.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Today’s passage flies in the face of the expectation of reward for righteousness which is typical of many statements in the Old Testament. It gives us another option. Sometimes the righteous are rewarded for their works and the wicked punished for theirs. At other times life is random, good and bad things are experienced by all.
9 But 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. (Ec 9.1)
Everything is in God’s hands.
God sees everything. God knows everything. God controls everything.
He sees all the people of the world and knows their thoughts and deeds. Solomon divides people up into two categories.
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. (Ec 9.2a)
Solomon links together two sequences of comparisons. The sequences are;
- The righteous – the good – the clean – him who sacrifices.
- The wicked – the evil – the unclean – him who does not sacrifice.
He combines law abiding (righteous), ethical (good) and cultic (clean, sacrifice) elements together.
Solomon neatly labels two groups of people. The righteous and the wicked. This is the typical distinction made in the scriptures.
He connects the righteous with those who sacrifice. The implication is the righteous still sacrifice for their sins and this is included in what it means to be righteous and law-abiding.
Which side are you on? Are you righteous or wicked according to Solomons division?
What is the point? To all the same event happens. What is the event?
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. (Ec 9.2b-6)
Solomon says its better to be alive than dead. All the living has hope. Dogs were unclean animals, lions are magnificent animals. A live dog is still better than a dead lion.
Solomon doesn’t think much of the afterlife. Everyone goes to Sheol. He doesn’t seem to be aware of resurrection, the new heaven and earth. That’s a later development in Jewish theology.
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. (Ec 9.7-10)
He wants their garments to remain white. To avoid defiling sin and uncleanness. He wants oil to be on their head all the time. To be anointed for the LORD, holy and separate.
Solomon still has a healthy respect for the pleasures of life. He encourages his audience to enjoy it while they can.
We work and enjoy life. God wants it that way. God planned it that way.
That’s what ‘he has given’, that is ‘our portion in life’.
Story of Jesus
To all the same event happens says Solomon. The righteous and the wicked both experience it. They way they live does not matter. The event is death. Even Jesus experienced death.
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things. (Lk 23:44–49)
Jesus is innocent. Of all people, he should have been spared the same event that happens to all. Righteous as he is, event he experienced death. Humbled himself and took our fate. The fate of the righteous and the wicked. The good and the evil. The clean and the unclean. For that reason he was raised on high and exalted.
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