“Oh why do people waste their breath inventing dainty names for death?” questions poet John Betjeman in his poem “Graveyard.” I would think that most of us invent “dainty names” because we do not want to face up to the reality of death. So we will often dance around the reality of death by using euphemisms like “They passed away” or “They are no longer with us,” or “They have gone on to a better place.” It seems to talk about death or even plan for one’s death breaks some kind of cultural taboo. It is as if we ignore it, it will some how go away, but it does not.
This past week as we celebrated Jesus’ Resurrection I was reminded that Easter is all about addressing death head on. I am so thankful that God did not ignore the issue, but sent his Son to die in my place so that the barrier between God and I could be removed. My thoughts this week lead me to continue our “Fulfilled!” series as I taught from the first three verses of Ecclesiastes 9. I was impressed that Solomon, the wealthiest, smartest and, for the time, one of the most powerful sovereign rulers tackles death head on. It is Solomon’s diligence that offers us several insights that when embraced will set us free from the fear of death and allow us to begin living. Let me touch on two today. You can listen to the full whole message here.
First, Solomon reminds us that death is under God’s control. He writes, “But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, chow the righteous and the wise and their deeds are din the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 9:1) The first half of the verse reveals that Solomon was focused on finding an answer to the perplexities of death. It is in the second half that we see that he wants to unpack why genuinely godly people die “before their time,” humanly speaking. I develop this more fully in the message but the terms righteous and wise are not describing professing or even cultural Christians but people genuinely practicing their faith day in and day out. The last phrase in the verse reminds me that my death is under God’s control. Period. Solomon’s father, King David, put it this way “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.” (Psalm 39:4) There is an incredible freedom that comes when you come to the place of trusting God with your life. The fear of the unknown and the uncontrollable begins to fade and the ability to embrace life daily begins.
A second insight, that is obvious, is that everyone dies. There is no one that beats death. It does not matter who you are, how smart you are, how rich you are, every one eventually dies. Solomon puts it this way, ““It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath.” (Ecclesiastes 9:2) His point is that death visits those that follow God and those that do not. The reality is that at some point everyone dies and that leads to a misunderstanding about death and the importance of Jesus death burial and resurrection on Easter.
Because everyone dies and there does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to it, people don’t take death seriously and live for themselves. “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” (Ecclesiastes 9:3) The second half of the verse that is somewhat cryptic speaks of people are a lulled into living for themselves because godly people die before their time and ungodly people live beyond their time.
And because we have never dealt with our own mortality and our accountability to our Creator it keeps us from truly living. I was listing to a song recently that said it powerfully. “Everyone dies but not everyone lines!” Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson