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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!

  1. Death: A Common Destiny

    1. 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.)

      1. 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.)

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 9:2. Would you agree? Do the wicked and the righteous share a "common destiny?"

      1. 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 behalf.)

    3. 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.)

      1. 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 and death.)

  2. Life: Is it Worthwhile?

    1. Would you agree that it is better to be a live dog than a dead lion?

    2. 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.)

      1. 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 true.)

        1. 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!)

    3. 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.)

      1. 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.)

      2. 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.)

    4. 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.)

      1. 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.)

    5. 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.)

  1. The Wise Man and the City

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 9:13-14. What are the city's chances of success against the invaders? (Poor.)

      1. On what basis did you measure the possibility for success? (On power - the number of fighters.)

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 9:15-16. Have you ever played the game "Scissors, Paper and Rock?" What is more powerful than military power? (Wisdom.)

      1. What is more powerful than wisdom? (A poor memory!)

        1. 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.)

        2. 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.)

    2. 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.)

      1. How powerful are the arguments of sinners? (They can do a lot of damage.)

    3. 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?

  1. Next week: "Dead Flies and Snake Charmers: More Life Under the Sun."

* 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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