Today: [Ecclesiastes 9] What Really Matters? In chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes Solomon declares the vanity of the false value systems that seek to occupy our minds throughout life. All around us there are authorities and influences demanding that we pay attention to what they insist is the most important things of life (usually to their own enrichment and our impoverishment). What is really important. Through Ecclesiastes Solomon’s wisdom expresses itself in the light of man’s brief mortality and this chapter is no exception. In light of eternity and the brevity of life what is really important? How do we identify the shallow concerns of immaturity and live our life fully in service to the honor and majesty of the one that bought us?
[Ecc 9:1-18 KJV] 1 For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, [are] in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred [by] all [that is] before them. 2 All [things come] alike to all: [there is] one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as [is] the good, so [is] the sinner; [and] he that sweareth, as [he] that feareth an oath. 3 This [is] an evil among all [things] that are done under the sun, that [there is] one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness [is] in their heart while they live, and after that [they go] to the dead. 4 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any [thing] that is done under the sun. 7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. 8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. 9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that [is] thy portion in [this] life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.
In this chapter Solomon writes of the vanity of human affection and earthly pursuits in light of the mortality of man. Of all the things that men hate or love throughout their lifetimes there is no knowledge of it in the generation that comes after. The love, the hatred and the envy of those who have gone on from a previous generation is nothing those such things filled the lives and hearts of those who are now dead. You can go back 100 years and read the headlines, or perhaps read the journal of someone who lived during that time and it will be full of concerns and things that have no meaning to us now – however it filled the lives and hearts of people at that time. This is the nature of popular culture that brings things to the forefront of our minds and then sometimes scant weeks or months later there is no knowledge of it. The preeminent thing and the only matter of lasting importance is that the righteous and the wise and all their works are in the hand of God to whom we will all answer at the end of our lives.
What is Solomon trying to say here? Among other things it is this – what really matters? There are circumstances and situations that occupy our thoughts and distract us greatly but what is the true importance of a thing? I remember when my mother died I visited her grave quite frequently to reflect upon her life and grieve her passing. I worked and owned a business just a few blocks from the cemetery, so long after others ceased to visit there I continued to go. One day as I turned to leave I paused a moment to look out over the rows and rows of headstones. In Clinton, Missouri the Englewood Cemetery had been in use since before the Civil War. Just a few yards from where my mother’s body rested there were rows of Confederate and Union dead interred, some marked as unknown, having died in battle and left unidentified. As I looked across this vast and hallowed acreage the Lord said to me, “If it doesn’t matter here – it doesn’t matter.”
What a sobering statement. It was a moment of clarity for me when instantly I could take the list of things and concerned that filled my life and heart and prioritize them in the light of my own mortality. If it doesn’t matter here, in the cemetery then it doesn’t matter at all. My life changed that day in the sense that much of the urgent, demanding and compelling issues and interests of my life suddenly were either pushed back in favor of more important things or eliminated altogether. It is a truth that one day, short of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ every one of us will go the way of the grave. Only those things that have the weight of importance in light of eternity are deserving of our attention or concern. Make it your determination not to allow the tyranny of the urgent to eclipse the value of the important in your life – in light of eternity.
10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do [it] with thy might; for [there is] no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. 11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race [is] not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. 12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so [are] the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. 13 This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it [seemed] great unto me: 14 [There was] a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. 16 Then said I, Wisdom [is] better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom [is] despised, and his words are not heard. 17 The words of wise [men are] heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. 18 Wisdom [is] better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.
Verse 10 tells us to do what we find to do with all of our might. In other words spend yourself while you are living for all your might and work, knowledge of wisdom will be of value once your body goes into the grave. Make it your determination to leave every once of energy and ability you have behind you upon your death. Recently as of this writing I stood by my father’s side after he had passed in death. Looking down upon his lifeless form it seemed like nothing more than a husk from which the bare corn had been extracted. Up until the very last breath that he drew he was expending himself in service to his Lord and Master Jesus Christ. I was impressed looking upon his body at how exhausted it seemed. How completely and utterly spent it was. Rather than feel badly for him, my heart swelled with pride. As my father had lived so he had died – to the fullest. I spoke over him silently “good job!” He won’t have anything to apologize for of the expenditure of his life when he stands before God.
Let that be your testimony as well. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, riches and favor are fleeting and vain but time and chance will happen to everyone of us. What is to be our stewardship at the end of our life? Are we going to be ashamed when we leave our bodies behind and stand before our maker? Will we hang our head in despair because we lived such a shallow existence? These are the words and sentiments of Solomon who for all his acquisition of wealth and abundance, understood that nothing of his life was of any value if his days were not spent in pursuit of the honor that only comes from God alone.
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