How to Live Before You Die (Ecclesiastes 9:1-10)

  • this morning I would like to ask you a question
  • I want you to answer
  • what is success?
  • [wait for answers]
  • I came across one definition of success this past week
  • success is:
  • The wealth of Bill Gates
  • the physique of Arnold Schwarzenegger (or Cindy Crawford)
  • the intelligence of Albert Einstein
  • the athletic ability of Michael Jordan
  • the business prowess of Donald Trump
  • the social grace and poise of Jackie Kennedy
  • the imagination of Walt Disney, and
  • the heart of Mother Teresa
  • that sounds absurd, doesn’t it?
  • as we’ve said before, things haven’t changed in the past few thousand years
  • as we’ve looked at the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, we’ve seen people struggling with the same questions that confront us today
  • what is success? what is the meaning of life?
  • Solomon tried many different approaches in his life, and nothing worked
  • he tried materialism, pleasure, humanism, and even fatalism
  • the reason Ecclesiastes is so relevant today is because these approaches are still being tried, often with disastrous results
  • in 1923, a small group of the world’s wealthiest men met at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago, Illinois
  • at the time, these men controlled more money than the total amount contained in the United States Treasury
  • of seven men who were present at that meeting, two died broke, two died shortly after being released from prison, and three committed suicide
  • clearly, their approach to success was not the right one
  • please look with me at Ecclesiastes 9
  • having explored life and its meaninglessness, and finding a number of unsatisfactory approaches, Solomon is drawing some important conclusions
  • he presents us with three major realities that give our lives definition and meaning
  • these three things are reliable
  • they’re failsafe
  • if you and I are going to have the right approach to life, these are three realities we will have to confront
  • (Ecclesiastes 9:1) 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.
  • verse 1 says, “I reflected on all this”
  • serious Bible students like we are immediately ask the question, “All what?”
  • to really understand what he’s referring to, you have to look back to what he was discussing in chapter eight
  • the theme in chapter eight is human ignorance of God’s providence
  • we can’t understand much of what happens in life
  • verse one concludes his observations with this thought: the future is in God’s hand, and no one knows whether that future will be good or bad
  • only God knows our future, whether it will bring blessing (“love”) or sorrow (“hatred”)
  • “the hand of God” is upon all of us
  • everything is under God’s control – nothing happens outside the sovereign power of God’s hand
  • but that’s no guarantee that things will always go well
  • the verse says, “No one knows whether love or hate awaits him”
  • being in the hand of God is no guarantee of economic prosperity, physical health, freedom from pain, or popularity
  • we don’t know the troubles that we will face tomorrow
  • but we can know one thing beyond a doubt: a caring God is in control, and nothing takes place apart from his sovereign control
  • (James 4:13) Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”
  • (James 4:14) Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
  • (James 4:15) Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
  • we tend to make plans as if we were sovereign
  • the fact is, we don’t even know what will happen in ten minutes
  • before the day is over, the trajectory of our lives could change completely
  • but God is in control
  • God is in control of every circumstance in your life
  • this is a reality that gives our lives definition and meaning
  • (Ecclesiastes 9:2) 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.
  • (Ecclesiastes 9:3) 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.
  • Solomon continues the thought he began in verse 1: all people – the good and the bad – share an uncertain future
  • no one knows what the future will hold
  • but he further develops this thought by stating man’s ultimate destiny: death
  • verse 3 says, “Afterward they join the dead”
  • death is unavoidable
  • (Hebrews 9:27) Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,
  • (Hebrews 9:28) so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
  • death is an appointment that all of us have and none of us can cancel
  • an Indiana cemetery has a tombstone over a hundred years old that bears this epitaph:
  • Pause, Stranger, when you pass me by,
  • As you are now, so once was I.
  • As I am know, so you will be,
  • So prepare for death and follow me.
  • an unknown passerby had read these words and scratched this reply below:
  • To follow you I’m not content,
  • Until I know which way you went.
  • there’s a beautiful scene in the classic novel The Pilgrim’s Progress
  • death is pictured as the Jordan River, and the Celestial City is at the other side
  • to reach heaven, you have to cross the river
  • in the book, Hopeful enters the Jordan River and calls back, “Be of good cheer, my brother, for I feel the bottom and it is sound”
  • the believer doesn’t fear death
  • (1 Corinthians 15:54) When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
  • (1 Corinthians 15:55) “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
  • the late Joseph Bayly wrote a book called The Last Thing We Talk About
  • listen to what he writes:
  • “Death is the great adventure beside which moon landings and space trips pale into insignificance”
  • you get that kind of confidence when you’re a Christ-follower, when you’ve trusted Christ as Savior
  • Woody Allen said, “I don’t fear death – I just don’t want to be there”
  • you know, I want to be there
  • I want to be on hand as I leave this world for a better one
  • I have the assurance that when I place my foot in the Jordan River, I will feel the bottom and it will be sound
  • I want to live my entire life with the knowledge that I’m headed for a better place, and every minute and every decision of every day should be lived with that knowledge
  • only a believer can live like this
  • the reality is that we’re on this earth only a short time
  • there’s this little song:
  • Did you ever think when the hearse rolls by
  • That you could be the next to die?
  • Jesus said we ought to be storing up for ourselves treasures i n heaven, where we’re going to spend much more time than we’ll ever spend here in this life
  • this is a reality you need to confront
  • only a believer has nothing to fear from death
  • there’s one more reality we’ll face from this passage
  • but before we continue, maybe it’s time to allow you to respond to the reality of death
  • the Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory
  • because of this, no one is going to heaven
  • the Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death”
  • but listen to the next part of this verse – “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”
  • if this morning you would like to receive the gift of eternal life, the Scripture is clear how this may happen:
  • (Romans 10:9) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
  • (Ecclesiastes 9:4) Anyone who is among the living has hope –even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
  • (Ecclesiastes 9:5) 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 9:6) Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.
  • despite the fact that every human being is ultimately subject to the same inscrutable distribution of adversity and prosperity, and despite the fact that we are all going to join one another in death, Solomon tells us that we shouldn’t despair of life
  • life has its advantages over death!
  • “Even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!”
  • back then the dog had about as much respect as a rat does today
  • so Solomon is saying, “It’s better to be alive and dishonored rather than honored and dead”
  • only the alive can experience knowledge, love, even hate and jealousy
  • these are advantages we have over the dead
  • we’re going to conclude this morning with Solomon’s advice in light of these realities
  • and we’re going to have some fun doing it
  • in light of these realities, Solomon’s advice is, “Enjoy life as God enables”
  • another preacher summarizes Solomon’s advice, “Have a blast while you last – Great counsel on how to live 365 days a year”
  • in view of the uncertainty of life and the reality of death, Solomon recommends that you go flat out and enjoy life to the max, because life is God’s gift to us to be enjoyed as long as we’re here
  • now, I’m no dummy, but when Charlene repeats the same thing to me five times in a relatively short period, I know it’s important
  • this is the fifth time Solomon tells us to enjoy life, except this time he spells it out in more detail in verses 7 to 10
  • (Ecclesiastes 9:7) Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.
  • (Ecclesiastes 9:8) Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil.
  • (Ecclesiastes 9:9) 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.
  • (Ecclesiastes 9:10) 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.
  • friends, listen – life is not a sentence leveled against us
  • we are not designed to live every day with some heavy cloud hanging over us
  • God is not some cosmic killjoy who is continually angry with us and would like nothing better than to banish enjoyment from the earth
  • I grew up thinking of God as a stern, judgmental grandfatherly figure who at best tolerated laughter, and was happiest when we all felt guilty and somber
  • but God created this world with textures and colors and tastes and sensations and emotions for us to enjoy
  • what did Solomon say we should enjoy?
  • food and wine, fine clothes and pleasant lotions
  • back then the lavish diets we enjoy were relatively rare
  • but Solomon advises, even when the menu is a simple one – just a little bread and wine, enjoy it!
  • I love the advice to wear fine clothes and pleasant lotions
  • back then these luxuries would be enjoyed only on special occasions
  • Solomon says, wear these things always!
  • in other words, make every day a special occasion!
  • bring out the good china – some people are always saving it for special occasions that never seem to happen
  • delight in every day, even in the routine
  • then look at verse 9: enjoy your marriage
  • Proverbs 18:22 and 19:14 speak of a wife as a gift from God
  • the Bible sees marriage as a loving commitment that lasts a lifetime
  • Warren Wiersbe says, “No matter how difficult life may be, there is great joy in the home of the man and woman who love each other and are faithful to their marriage vows”
  • Solomon adds the phrase, “all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun” – meaning that life is short
  • enjoy these things while you can
  • verse 10 says, enjoy your work
  • (Ecclesiastes 9:10) 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.
  • the Jewish people looked upon work not as a curse, but as a stewardship under God
  • Solomon tells us that we ought to be doing our very best at work and finding fulfillment there
  • the things that make up our enjoyment now won’t be present in the grave, so make the most of your opportunities now!
  • I have a feeling that Solomon would agree with the phrase, Seize the day!
  • make the most of every day, live life to the fullest
  • you know, if we fear God and walk by faith we don’t have to escape or merely endure life
  • we will receive immeasurable enjoyment from life and receive it as a gift from the Lord
  • one preacher says, “If you are waiting to live it up when you’re six feet under, pal, you’re in for a major disappointment! The time to live is now. And the way to do it is to pull out all the stops and play full volume…There’s a contagious enthusiasm in the way we’re supposed to live. When we do life becomes exciting, infectiously happy. It’s made up of eating good food and drinking good drink and enjoying a wife or husband”
  • as one poet wrote:
Don’t be bashful.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and
let the juice that may
run down your chin.
Life is ready and ripe
whenever you are.
You don’t need a knife or fork
or spoon or napkin or tablecloth
For there is no core
or stem
or rind
or pit
or seed
or skin
to throw away
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada