I suppose that living well can best be summed up in the words of a certain young lawyer who answered one of Christ's questions in this way:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Jesus replied to this expert in the Mosaic law by saying, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." (Luke 10:27-28)
Is that not exactly what Solomon has exhorted us to do in the previous verses of Ecclesiastes 9?
To live well we must love well. We must love our God well and strive to love our neighbor well. It is hard to do - no, it is impossible to do in and of ourselves. Yet, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Oh, how I praise God for Christ - my Help and my Hope!!
Prayerfully and with the aid of Christ's glorious grace given to us, living well will lead us not only to existing with excellence but to dying with dignity. Living well shall lead to dying well. Ecclesiastes 9:12 has made me pause to think about dying well.
It gives us a bit of a wake up call where our death is concerned as well as drawing our attention to the circumstances which may lead to it. We know not the hour, nor the day, nor the way in which God will bring this brief breath that we call life to an end. But, it will come to an end. "Man does not know his time." Yet, his time is appointed (Hebrews 9:27). So are all of the trials and tribulations that come before it.
"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven - a time to be born and a time to die...." (Ecclesiastes 3)
"Consider the work of God, for who is able to straighten what He has bent? In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider - God has made the one as well as the other." (Ecclesiastes 7)
Honestly, from our perspective, at times while we live life stinks and then...
So...how do we handle that?
How do we respond to the evils that would snare us and steal our joy, swipe our hope, silence our praise? How do we respond to calamity here under the sun - the calamity that makes us stagger in our living as well as the calamity that may lead to our dying?
Solomon, in speaking of our ignorance regarding the time of our end, couples that proclamation with references to fish and nets and to birds and snares. He speaks of sudden and unexpected distress. What in the world is he talking about? What does that have to do with life and death?
Matthew Henry's summation of these verses pierced me to the core this day. He wrote:
"We are often surprised with evils. Man knows not the time of his calamity. It is not for us to know the times, no, not our own time as to when or how we shall die. God has, in wisdom, kept us in the dark, that we may always be ready.
"We may meet with trouble in that very thing wherein we promise ourselves satisfaction, as the fishes and the birds are drawn into the snare and net by the bait. Men often find their bane where they sought their bliss."
I was stopped in my tracks with that last paragraph -
"We may meet with trouble in that very thing wherein we promise ourselves satisfaction.... Men often find their bane where they sought their bliss."
How true. How frighteningly true!
We are often unaware of what the things which we seek after may actually produce for us - unless of course we are seeking Christ. He alone is the one, certain, and unchangeable card in the deck of life - the One which trumps all others and which cannot be snatched from our hand! All other things, all other people - no matter how precious and no matter how faithful - are filled with much uncertainty here under the sun. "Men often find their bane where they sought their bliss."
Yes, Mr. Henry - you are right. We are often surprised in this life. There is MUCH we do not know and much that remains dark and veiled to us here. (No wonder we need "a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path"!) The end may come upon us unawares. No, I must correct that, the end WILL come upon us unawares.
"Man does not know his time."
In meditating upon this verse this day I must ask myself and you my loved ones the following:
In these days before our end what are we seeking the most? The bait of this world? The things which will lead to nets and snares? Are we seeking our own pleasures? Are we seeking the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life" - those things which seek to lure us in and hold us captive? OR are we seeking "first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" - the chief end of man which will lead to the chief blessing from God?
What is the treasure we are living and longing for and is it an imperishable and undefiled treasure - one that will not fade, one that is reserved, one that is secure (1 Peter 1:3-9)?
There is only one Pearl of great price (Matthew 13:46) and we would all be wise to seek it above all others! Real living and victorious dying are found only in one place - one Person - one Savior! (John 14:6)
My friends, "to live is Christ." And if, through Him, we are living FOR Him then it is certain that "to die is gain." However, if our mantra is "to live is ME" then let it be known that "better off is the one who never existed."
Sp, how are we living and for whom are we living? That answer will be the determining factor of how we will find ourselves dying. We know not the time - but there is One who does. Are you resting in His hands?
"The day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth." (Ecclesiastes 7:1)
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)
"Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
"But in all of these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37-39)
"And I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Write, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!"' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.'" (Revelation 14:13)
"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21)