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Sabbath School Lessons on Ecclesiastes
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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 10: "Whatever Your Hand Finds to Do." *
Introduction: Have you thought much about your own death? A few years
ago, I had some medical reason to believe that I might die in the
near future. Although the thought I would die shortly was not
pleasant, it was a very valuable learning experience. This week
Solomon directs us to a consideration of our own death. In my case it
turned out I did not have a fatal medical condition, but we all have
the "medical condition" that we are mortal. Let's dive into our study
and see what we can learn about living by contemplating our death!
- Death: A Common Destiny
- Read Ecclesiastes 9:1. When Solomon says that he
"reflected on all this," he is referring to the end of
last week's study: we cannot fully understand God's ways.
What should we conclude from this inability on the part of
humans and this ability on the part of God? (The smart
thing is to trust God.)
- How will trusting God change your future? (Skim over
Hebrews 11:32-40. The writer of Hebrews makes the
point that none of us obtain the full measure of what
God has promised us here on earth. Some of us fall
very short of that mark. What actually happens in our
life here on earth cannot be predicted. What can be
predicted is how faith in God can affect our attitude
about these things.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 9:2. Would you agree? Do the wicked and
the righteous share a "common destiny?"
- How does Romans 6:23 fit into this picture? (The
wicked and the righteous face a common near-term
destiny: death. The difference is that the righteous
have accepted a gift that alters their final destiny.
This gift is eternal life based on repentance of sin
and acceptance of Jesus' life and death on our
- Read Ecclesiastes 9:3-4. Based on his statement about a
common destiny, what is Solomon's attitude about life? (He
calls it evil. Solomon is discouraged by the thought that
all will die.)
- Does Solomon sound like a fellow who wants to die?
(Read Ecclesiastes 6:3. Solomon is not consistent -
which shows he is "thinking out loud" in his writing.
At one point he says it would be better to have never
lived than to die without dignity or without enjoying
your prosperity. Then he reverses and says even a
dog's life is better than death. I think he invites
us to join in his philosophical "debate" about life
- Life: Is it Worthwhile?
- Would you agree that it is better to be a live dog than a
- Read Ecclesiastes 9:5-6. What is Solomon's argument for
being a live dog rather than a dead lion? (You are aware
when you are alive. You have emotions, you have hope.)
- Is it true that the dead have no further reward?
(Read John 11:25-26. No, Solomon's statement is not
true if it is understood in its ultimate sense. If it
simply means that you have no more "reward," in the
sense of continuing to enjoy this world, then it is
- If Solomon is wrong in the ultimate sense, would
that cause you to rethink whether it is better
to be a live dog or a dead lion? (I vote for the
dead lion. If Jesus gives you the hope and
promise of eternal life, how much better to be a
lion than a dog!)
- Read Ecclesiastes 9:7-9. We have previously discussed
some of these same sentiments of Solomon. What point do
you think Solomon is making when he tells us to always
wear white clothes and put oil on our heads? Most clergy
that I know wear a lot of black and never use oil on their
hair. (Various commentaries I reviewed had a somewhat
different understanding of Solomon's comment about
clothes. I would summarize the commentaries by saying:
wear clothes that bring you joy, that are comfortable,
that make you feel good. It appears that Solomon literally
wore white, which explains why Jesus in Matthew 6:28-29
compared Solomon's clothing to those of the lilies.)
- Read Psalms 23:5-6. What does this suggest is the
meaning of anointing your head with oil? (Again, this
is part of the pleasure of a life well lived.)
- What practical counsel for living do you get from
Ecclesiastes 9:7-9? (Enjoy your family, your spouse,
your food, your clothes and your perfumes (oils).
Find joy in the little things of life.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 9:10. How is hard work consistent with
enjoying life? (Solomon tells us that we have limited time
on this earth. Squeeze as much joy and as much
accomplishment as possible out of your time on earth.)
- Have you heard the saying from a work addict, "I'll
rest when I die?" Is Solomon saying that here? (He
seems to be saying something similar, but his prior
comments about enjoying life show he is not a work
addict. Solomon seems to work hard and play hard.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 9:11-12. What additional line of
argument does Solomon make to encourage us to enjoy each
day as much as we can? (Future success on earth is not
guaranteed and death comes unexpectedly.)
- The Wise Man and the City
- Read Ecclesiastes 9:13-14. What are the city's chances of
success against the invaders? (Poor.)
- On what basis did you measure the possibility for
success? (On power - the number of fighters.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 9:15-16. Have you ever played the game
"Scissors, Paper and Rock?" What is more powerful than
military power? (Wisdom.)
- What is more powerful than wisdom? (A poor memory!)
- What important point about this man have I left
out of the discussion? (He was poor. Solomon is
not explaining the power of forgetfulness, he is
complaining about our perceptions. We admire
power and wealth. This poor man, even though he
had something more powerful than great military
strength, was forgotten because he was poor.)
- What life lesson should we draw from this: if we
are wise we should devote our wisdom to getting
rich? (No. Remember again Solomon's complaint
( Ecclesiastes 6:3) about the prosperous fellow
whose children did not appreciate him and who
could not enjoy his prosperity? Solomon is not
arguing we should work to be rich, he is arguing
that we should appreciate the talents of those
who are not rich.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 9:17-18. What does Solomon say about
listening to the majority opinion? What would he say
about the evening news? (The problem with the wise, poor
man who saved the city is that the people did not
sufficiently value his wisdom. Solomon suggests that
wisdom does not come from shouting or power. Those things
might get our attention (like the evening news), but we
have an obligation to seek what out what is God's wisdom.)
- How powerful are the arguments of sinners? (They can
do a lot of damage.)
- Friend, death is unavoidable. Solomon suggests that
living in the context of death should cause us to enjoy
life while we have it. We should play hard, work hard and
trust in God for our future. Will you determine to trust
God whatever your circumstances?
- Next week: "Dead Flies and Snake Charmers: More Life Under the
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.