The Scriptorium

...And Then You Die

All end up in the same place, so why try to be wise? Ecclesiastes 2.15-17

Ecclesiastes 2 (5)

Pray Psalm 38.17, 18.
For I am ready to fall,
And my sorrow is continually before me.
For I will declare my iniquity;
I will be in anguish over my sin.

Read Ecclesiastes 2.15-17.

Prepare.
1. What was distressing Solomon at this point?

2. What “happens” alike to the wise man and the fool? To whom is that “vanity”?

Meditate.
The fear of death is a lurking presence in the human soul (Heb. 2.15). When we are living “under the sun”, death seems so final. So it really doesn’t make any lasting difference whether we pursue a course of wisdom or one of folly; we’re all going to die, and no one is going to remember whether we lived one way or the other.

This is, of course, only half the truth. As Solomon will later explain, people are made for eternity, and the way of eternity leads along the path of wisdom. But when you’re considering wisdom over folly from an “under the sun” perspective – as Rehoboam was doubtless doing – it will never make sense to go that way. The vanity of things and fun will always win out.

This is why, in sharing the Good News of the Kingdom with unbelievers, way we must help them see the folly of their short-sighted, this-worldly perspective, so that they can hear the Gospel on its terms, according to its perspective. But they will only be ready to do so when they have first come to see that their own worldview has nothing substantial to commend it. We must show them that their chosen way of living is vanity and striving after the wind. Then they may be in a better position to consider life “under the heavens”.

Solomon’s argument proceeds in fits and starts. Ecclesiastes is a study in how to make the divine way clear to headstrong unbelievers. That doesn’t guarantee they’ll accept it – Rehoboam didn’t; but our job is only to help people understand the Good News. Only God can change the heart.

Seek agreement and common ground as a starting-point. Investigate the claims and hopes of the one who is living “under the sun”. Point out the inconsistencies of his view and try to help him see that his way is, in the end, only hopelessness and death. Explain that his soul, crying out for more, will never be satisfied with such a way of life. As Solomon will insist, only life “under the heavens” can fulfill our deepest human needs.

Reflect.
1. Many people find it difficult to think or talk about death. Why?

2. Given that we all must die, does it make any difference whether we live wisely or like fools? Explain.

3. Why did Solomon come to hate his life? Do people today hate their lives? Why? How can we help them see that life is really worth living?

To speak now of the troubles of this life, the person has taken his soul in vain who is constructing the things of the world and building the things of the body. We arise each day to eat and drink; yet no one is filled so that he does not hunger and thirst after a short time. Daily we seek profit, and to greed there is set no limit. “The eye will not be satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing.” He that loves silver will not be satisfied with silver. There is no limit to toil, and there is no profit in abundance. Ambrose of Milan (333-397), Death as a Good 7.28

My life
is worth living, Lord! Help me to live for Your glory today as I…

Pray Psalm 38.5-16.
What do you fear? What doubts assail you? What lingering sins are keeping you from a richer, fuller relationship with the Lord? Where do you need to be more faithful and obedient in your walk with and work for the Lord? Let the Lord search you concerning all these matters.

Sing Psalm 38.5-16.
Psalm 38.5-16 (Leoni: The God of Abraham Praise)
My sinful wounds grow foul, and fester painfully;
I bend and groan within my soul most mournfully!
Sin fills my every part; conviction stings my breast.
Lord, ease my numbed and burning heart and grant me rest!

You know all my desire, my sighs You know full well.
My strength fails and light’s holy fire my eyes dispel.
My friends and loved ones fail; the wicked do me wrong.
My life they seek, my soul assail the whole day long.

Their threats I will not heed, nor speak to their reproof.
To hear or speak I have no need – I claim Your truth!
Lord, hear my fervent prayer! Let not my foes rejoice.
Redeem me from their traps and snares – Lord, hear my voice!

T. M. Moore

Where does the book of Ecclesiastes fit in the overall flow of Scripture? Our series of studies, God’s Covenant, can show you, and help you discover the great beauty of the unity and diversity of Scripture, and how it all points to Christ. To order your copy of this important workbook, click here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.