Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Enjoy Life! (Ecclesiastes 9:7–18)

"Go, eat your bread with joy" (Eccl. 9:7).

Charles Bridges observed that “it is indeed too rare to find a real Christian—much more rare to find a joyful one.” If Bridges is correct, many Christians are guilty of neglecting the advice of the Preacher, who said, “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do … Enjoy life.” This is not a prescription for hedonism—maximum pleasure at all cost. The Preacher is exhorting us to enjoy the mercies of God in this life. Bridges rightly comments that a Christian who is supported by divine strength, favor, and consolation has no reason to complain and brood. God has given us many blessings to enjoy, and to remain cast down by depression and melancholy is an affront to His goodness.

“[The Preacher’s] directions are for a joyous religion,” Bridges writes. “We must not indeed forget the ‘time to mourn’ (v. 3:4) nor the moderation needed in our times of rejoicing (1 Cor. 7:30), nor the profit of seasons of humiliation and restraint (Dan. 10:2, 3). Yet we should remember our obligation to shine—to exhibit our white garments of praise.” Whether we are in the deepest sorrow or the height of bliss, the ground of our rejoicing remains the same: Jesus Christ, our God and our Savior. If we try to derive joy from ourselves or the world, it will quickly disappear. The source of our joy is in God Himself, who never changes and who in His grace has showered upon us not only temporal blessings, but the redemption of our souls.

We often become depressed and downcast because we have taken our eyes off the Lord, off His mercies and promises. The only remedy to our melancholy then is, not to try to find solace in earthly things, but to think on the glorious person of Christ, who gives to His afflicted ones “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isa. 61:3). Do you really believe the Gospel to be “glad tidings of great joy”? If so, do not belie this professed belief by hanging your head like a drooping reed (Isa. 58:5). Go into your Father’s presence, not with a wrinkled brow, but with affectionate, dutiful, unreserved, delighting confidence. In everything, “Rejoice in the Lord always!”

Read Nehemiah 8:9–12. This passage is about Ezra’s recovery of God’s Word. How did the leaders of Israel exhort people to respond to the reading of God’s Law? Why did they celebrate? Does the Word of God fill you with joy? Why should the reading of the Bible give you cause to rejoice even in the midst of great difficulty?