Sermon Text: Ecclesiastes 9:1-12
Sermon Theme: Death is inevitable and its timing is unpredictable. Therefore, we should enjoy the days that God gives us.
We are not to think our searching into the word or works of God useless, because we cannot explain all difficulties. We may learn many things good for ourselves and useful to others. But man cannot always decide who are objects of God’s special love, or under his wrath; and God will certainly put a difference between the precious and the vile, in the other world. The difference as to present happiness, arises from the inward supports and consolations the righteous enjoy, and the benefit they derive from varied trials and mercies. As far as the sons of men are left to themselves, their hearts are full of evil; and prosperity in sin, causes them even to set God at defiance by daring wickedness. Though, on this side of death, the righteous and the wicked may often seem to fare alike, on the other side there will be a vast difference between them.
The most despicable living man’s state, is preferable to that of the most noble who have died impenitent. Solomon exhorts the wise and pious to cheerful confidence in God, whatever their condition in life. The meanest morsel, coming from their Father’s love, in answer to prayer, will have a peculiar relish. Not that we may set our hearts upon the delights of sense, but what God has given us we may use with wisdom. The joy here described, is the gladness of heart that springs from a sense of the Divine favor. This is the world of service, that to come is the world of recompense. All in their stations, may find some work to do. And above all, sinners have the salvation of their souls to seek after, believers have to prove their faith, adorn the gospel, glorify God, and serve their generation.
Men’s success seldom equals their expectations. We must use means, but not trust to them: if we succeed, we must give God the praise; if crossed, we must submit to his will. Those who put off the great concerns of their souls, are caught in Satan’s net, which he baits with some worldly object, for which they reject or neglect the gospel, and go on in sin till they suddenly fall into destruction.
(From “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible”)
- People dread mental illness with all its attendant problems. How much more should they flee from the madness of unbelief in God and unrepentance toward the Lord Jesus Christ?
- Are those who are afraid to take an oath are the ones who are hesitant to accomplish things for God? Duties are ours; events, God’s
- Do we truly love virtue as we love music—without practicing it?
- Even though a wise person gives his best effort with available circumstances and opportunities, he still has no built-in guarantees of an easy life. Is there any other course to take then to praise God and fully rely on His promises? The righteous and the wise, and their works, are in the hands of God (Psalms 31:15; Proverbs 21:1) and in his power, under his direction. Man is not independent.
- Do you have a full understanding that the wise, the strong, the quick, and so on, have no ultimate advantage over other humans? For the seasons of our life are in the hand of God as stated in Romans 9:16, “So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.”
- Are you taking the opportunity to do something now because who knows what the future will bring? Ernst Hengstenberg remarks that, “there are forms of knowledge and work which belong only to the present life, and he who does not employ them has buried his talent in the earth, and thus committed a heavy sin,—a sin, the consequences of which will stretch into eternity.”
- Is it irrational to be a workaholic because God ultimately gives us our work? This truth need not promote passivity or sloppy work habits but it does keep us from the folly of thinking that hard work alone will make for a rewarding life.
- Do we pray to our heavenly Father to help us have a healthy reverence and awe for who He is?
- Is one’s attitude of your daily activities found in self-centered pleasures or taken as a gift of God? For “the soul’s play-day is Satan’s work-day; the idler the man the busier the tempter.”
- Are you taking time to savor the “ordinary moments” that you spend with your spouse and family?
- Does it seem like the world’s tendency is to give allegiance to fools?
- What are some of the worst results of denying one’s mortality?
- Why are we so hesitant to speak “against the dead“ even when they have done evil?
- Do unbelievers who die in their sin understand that 1) There is no work by which they may profit, 2) No device by which they may escape punishment, 3) No knowledge of any means of help, 4) No wisdom that can help them cope, and 5) a place where God will never come?
1) The hope and realism of Scripture’s view of marriage is described by Marvin Wilson (Our Father Abraham):
Like the cup of Jesus…the two cups of wine shared by Jewish marriage partners also dramatize the concept of common destiny. The first cup is called the “cup of joy.” It reminds the couple that when joys in life are shared, they are doubled. The second cup is the “cup of sacrifice.” In the midst of their celebration, the bride and groom are sobered by recognizing that burdens and problems will someday come into their marriage. But if these troubles are shared, they are halved.
Contemporary Christian marriage can learn much from the symbolism of the Jewish marriage cup. In Christian marriage, a couple shares in the joys and challenges of a common destiny; each partner is bound to the other by love and mutual commitment. The cup of joy reminds the Christian of the need for celebration of life in a world daily marked by pain, tragedy, sickness, and death. Although marriage holds the potential of being one of the happiest experiences to be shared in life, it is also one of the most vulnerable; many enemies seek to destroy its unity and oneness. Thus, the cup of sacrifice sends a message to today’s Church: hard times of testing and discouragement may work at tearing a marriage apart. So, by God’s grace, marriage partners must band together through personal sacrifice and mutual submission to sustain each other (Ephesians 5:21). Here is the support needed to insure the outcome of the relationship.
2) The different terms used in the Bible for heaven and hell—sheol, hades, gehenna, the lake of fire, paradise, and Abraham’s bosom—are the subject of much debate and can be confusing.
The word paradise is used as a synonym for heaven (2 Corinthians 12:3-4; Revelation 2:7). When Jesus was dying on the cross and one of the thieves being crucified with Him asked Him for mercy, Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus knew that His death was imminent and that He would soon be in heaven with His Father. Therefore, Jesus used paradise as a synonym for heaven, and the word has come to be associated with any place of ideal loveliness and delight.
Abraham’s bosom is referred to only once in the Bible—in the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). Abraham’s bosom was used in the Talmud as a synonym for heaven. The image in the story is of Lazarus reclining at a table leaning on Abraham’s breast—as John leaned on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper—at the heavenly banquet. The point of the story is that wicked men will see the righteous in a happy state, while they themselves are in torment, and that a “great gulf” that can never be spanned exists between them (Luke 16:26). Abraham’s bosom is obviously a place of peace, rest, and joy—in other words, paradise.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word used to describe the realm of the dead is sheol. It simply means “the place of the dead” or “the place of departed souls/spirits.” The New Testament Greek equivalent to sheol is hades, which is also a general reference to “the place of the dead.” The Greek word gehenna is used in the New Testament for “hell” and is derived from the Hebrew word hinnom. Other Scriptures in the New Testament indicated that sheol/hades is a temporary place where souls are kept as they await the final resurrection. The souls of the righteous, at death, go directly into the presence of God—the part of sheol called “heaven,” “paradise,” or “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23).
The lake of fire, mentioned only in Revelation 19:20; 20:10; 20:14-15, is the final hell, the place of eternal punishment for all unrepentant rebels, both angelic and human (Matthew 25:41). It is described as a place of burning sulfur, and those in it experience eternal, unspeakable agony of an unrelenting nature (Luke 16:24; Mark 9:45-46). Those who have rejected Christ and are in the temporary abode of the dead in hades/sheol have the lake of fire as their final destination.
But those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life should have no fear of this terrible fate. By faith in Christ and His blood shed on the cross for our sins, we are destined to live eternally in the presence of God.
3) The following are from “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” (29 Vols):
DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. (By Horsiesi): The Holy Spirit actually teaches us not to put things off from day to day but to do to our soul all the good that is possible. [This we do] to adorn it with every virtue worthy of heaven, so as to clothe it with brilliant vestments according to this agreeable voice: “Let your clothes be brilliant at all times; let your head not lack in oil.”
OUR ANOINTING FOLLOWS FROM THE ANOINTING OF CHRIST. (By Didymus the Blind): “You love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Psalms 45:7) See, even the companions are anointed. But he himself was anointed before them, since he has not been anointed because of them, but they because of him. After all, they are called “Christ’s companions,” not Christ their companion.
NO CONFESSION AFTER DEATH. (By Pacian of Barcelona): Remember, my brethren, that there is no confession in the grave; nor can penance be granted when the time for repentance is past. Hurry while you are still alive.
ANY SUCCESS WE HAVE COMES FROM GOD. (By Didymus the Blind): Those who believe that human things are guided by providence do not ascribe anything accomplished by humans to their own effort. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.” (Psalms 127:1) He does not say that no one should build or no one guard the city but that one should remember: If the Lord does not grant success to the effort, both the effort and those who strive for it will be without success. It is up to us to start, but it is up to God to grant success. We start to build the house; God helps and perfects the construction. We guard our own city and are watchful of that decision to guard it, but God preserves it, undestroyed and undefeated by the aggressors. This is also expressed in Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all vigilance.” But even if you yourself keep your heart with all vigilance, say nevertheless to God: “You, Lord, will guard and preserve us.” This thought is also affirmed by Paul, when he says, “So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.” (Romans 9:16) He does not prohibit running towards the goals of our endeavor and to desire them. But he does prohibit belief that they are reached through one’s own effort. Many who have had this expectation have been found without success in their efforts.
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