Friday, August 22, 2008

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 9

In the movie Gladiator starring Russell Crowe there is a line that is repeated many times: “what we do in life, echoes in eternity.” There is a measure of truth to that. We know that if we don’t accept Christ in this life we will be dead in our sin. There are no second chances. If we walk with Christ, however, are promised a heavenly reward. Regardless, we all face the same thing at the end. We are judged on how we lived our lives and what choices we have made. We see an allusion to that here in chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes.

1 So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God's hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him. 2 All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
As it is with the good man,
so with the sinner;
as it is with those who take oaths,
so with those who are afraid to take them.
3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. 4 Anyone who is among the living has hope —even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!

5 For the living know that they will die,
but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
and even the memory of them is forgotten. – Ecclesiastes 9:1-5

As long as we are living we have hope of salvation. Since we are created by God, there is the potential for good in all of us. Even the most despicable of murderers and killers can be forgiven by Christ. That is the promise we have been given, and it applies to everyone. Some groups like to think that they have the edge on salvation. They like to think one act or another excludes someone from this precious gift. This is not true. As long as we are living, there is hope. Only once we cross that threshold into death can we be totally separated from God. We are already separated anyway, but the sacrifice on the Cross allows that separation to be bridged.

7 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. 8 Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. 9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun— all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. – Ecclesiastes 9:7-10

These verses take on a quite different tone from the earlier ones of this chapter. Here we are told to take what enjoyment we can out of life. It is easy to understand why the author here felt life was meaningless. This was more than 1,000 years before Christ’s death on the Cross. Through the system of sacrifices in the Temple as set up by Mosaic law it was easy to lose heart. Sacrifices had to occur again and again. They quickly lost meaning since they didn’t have any lasting effect. Therefore, they could only pursue what was set before them and hope they found enjoyment in their short time.

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