Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Cheated by Death (Ecclesiastes 2:12-16)

"... how does a wise man die? As the fool!" (Eccl. 2:16).

This passage shows the Preacher at his lowest point. He tried to find rest in the pursuit of knowledge, in the accumulation of wealth, and in the maximization of pleasure, but all left him empty. In desperation, he considered the advantages and disadvantages of both wisdom and folly. The Preacher admitted that wisdom has its relative advantages. But in the end what advantage does it have over folly? Both the foolish and the wise will eventually die. “What is the use of my wisdom if at the last it brings me to no higher level than the fool?” the Preacher asked. “What good is wisdom if I’m going to die just like any commoner?” The king of Israel was more concerned about his ambition than the eternal value of wisdom. Instead of seeing wisdom as a means to glorify God, he thought of it only as a source of his own fame.

“Here surely the wise man becomes the fool, disputing the ways of God—looking for some elevation above his fellow-creatures,” Bridges wrote. “Such is the depth of selfishness and depravity yet to be purged out!” When the Preacher should have rejoiced in the destiny provided those who find wisdom in the Lord, he focused instead on the inescapability of death. “Why be wise if I’m going to die?” The Preacher asked, as if the pursuit of wisdom could somehow lengthen his days on earth or assure posthumous fame. He soon realized the folly of such thinking: “For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered” (v. 16).

The Preacher sought satisfaction in life instead of happiness in God, but life did not deliver the goods. One day he would go to the grave, and his knowledge, fame, and wealth would perish with him. Centuries later, Voltaire told a friend, “I hate life, and yet I am afraid to die.” Is it any wonder? When a dark eternity awaits you, can there be any rejoicing in this momentary existence?

Voltaire could not rejoice in the face of death because he did not live for God. He hated life because it cheated him with death. The outlook of the righteous is far different. Those who live unto God and rest in Him can look forward to an eternity of joy and happiness. With such a hope they will enjoy life, pursue wisdom, and hope for a glorious future in the presence of God.

Do you try not to think about death because it frightens you? If you are a Christian, the Bible says you need not fear death. Read 1 Corinthians 15:42–58 and 2 Corinthians 5:1–10. Believers do not need to fear death. If you do not believe, you should be very afraid to die. Put your faith and hope in Christ, who has vanquished death.