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Death in Ecclesiastes… Good Times!


A couple years ago, I received a phone call on a late Thursday afternoon asking if I could be the main speaker at a Men’s Conference two days hence. Something dreadful had happened to the scheduled speaker and they needed somebody fast and furious… without the guns and racing cars, naturally.

I said, “No problem.” Because in spite of my amazing good looks, dazzling personality, and rapier wit, I don’t get nearly a 10th of the invitations that I wish I got. In fact, if it wasn’t for my sugar mama (formally known as my wife, Melodie… from whom you will see a blog post soon, I hope) I’d have to spend most of my time in bread lines and washing people’s car windows with mud at stop lights.

Then the other shoe dropped.

[This saying comes from the days of cheap tenement living when the guy over your head could be easily heard plopping off his shoes one at a time. I am not sure what kind of nervous conditions were created by one legged neighbors whose disrobing business never seemed to resolve itself satisfactorily.]

I was informed that my text was Ecclesiastes 9.  My topic was death. Naturally, I was excited by the news. This promised to be a most uplifting time basking in the love of Jesus.

Fortunately, I was ready. This text just happened to be the topic of the first decent paper I’d ever written in Bible college in 1987. I got a C- on it, but deserved an A+… trust me, I’ve graded a lot of papers in my day. I recently went back and read it… it was good. I got a C- because I [I’m paraphrasing the note on it from the teacher] had the audacity to contradict the teacher’s class lecture on Ecclesiastes. He thought the book was a downer and nothing more than an example of the kind of twisted hopeless thinking one produced when they fell away from God. I decided after a rather intense inductive study that the book was a brilliant example of wisdom dialogue… truth the bone.

In this lecture, I build a literary context for reading Ecclesiastes as wisdom dialogue, and unpack the wisdom of the author’s discussion of death. Not to sound like Chicken Little here, but WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!! Now that we have that cleared up, the life we live has some perspective. Here the writer says, it’s better to go to funeral than a party. Those at a funeral know they will die. There life has perspective. The laughter of fools, however, is like the crackling of thorns beneath the pot. Those who fight to keep themselves distracted with bobbles… i.e. not stop music, games, TV, Movies, social media… do all they can to keep themselves from asking the truest questions of life.

In an episode of Parks and Recreation one of the characters (Andy) gets a job as a night watchman. After a little while on the job his first night, his girl friend stops by to see him. He explodes with joy at her arrival, saying something akin to, “Thank goodness your here. I’ve never been so bored in my life. I started asking myself important questions about my existence. What is the  meaning of life? Why am I here? Where am I going when I die? Save Me!!!!”

Ecclesiastes says that we don’t want to be saved from such discussions. Death is our end on this earth. It is our reality in the here and now. We must prepare for it. We must ask ourselves these most important questions about our existence. The most important being, “What will happen to you when you die? What will you offer to God as an excuse for your life? What right will you have to stand before his Holiness?”

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