“Thank you very much, but I’ll be attending the funeral instead.” What an odd concept…
If you are like me, the notion of attending funerals is a bit, well, distasteful. They are usually uncomfortable, depressing, and usually long-winded social events that I’d prefer skipping. It would be an odd thing if one took pleasure, or made attending such events a priority when not obligated, wouldn’t it? Yet, this is the very thing wise king Solomon urges his audience to be participants with in Ecclesiastes 7:2-4. In fact, Solomon states that a funeral would be better company than that of a house of “feasting” (otherwise known as a “house of partying”). But let’s face it, this is beyond a foreign concept for us; a people in whom death makes squirm. You might find it an odd statement, but in actuality it has a lot of good behind it. But I don’t want to rely upon this particular advice too much. Rather, I want to use it to investigate a topic in the book of Ecclesiastes which Solomon alludes to quite frequently.
Please bear with me as I point out a few themes/verses found in Ecclesiastes (and follow along if you’d like!)…
- In 7:1, we see that he briefly states that death is better than the first day of life (depressing, eh?)
- In 6:7-9, it is noted that contentment ought to be learned, because the “appetite” of man is impossible to satisfy (by anything “earthly”, perhaps?)
- In 3:17, 8:10-14, and 12:13-14 we see that a righteous judgement will occur for all men everywhere.
- In 8:5-9, we see that no man can truly know what the future holds, not even the wisest of men.
What do each of these random thoughts seem to convey? Well, to a wise man such as Solomon, he seemed to know the importance and value of looking to and hoping for the future. It is for good reason too, because much of the book consists of Solomon observing the hardships that the righteous endure, as well as the emptiness (vanity) that a pursuit of earthly matters conclude in. It seems that after many years of looking for answers/satisfaction, he understood that the future is the place of hope and solutions. To hit the nail on the head, he observes that “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this” (7:10). If we were to leave it at this, we could depart with many life lessons on the importance of being thankful for our earthly future. A place where no matter how devastating our pasts may be, we can seek out God with new purpose, and with the assurance that the hardships we’ve endured have prepared us for such a future (no matter where it leads).
But I don’t think we ought to end here, rather, I feel as though Solomon knew what he was doing when he stated, “He [God] has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (3:11). While I am confident that it is fine fitting to be eager for the future in our physical lives (keeping James 4:13-16 in mind), I think the major aspect Solomon was directing at was the importance and the hope of our eternal life. He was a man who (after all), ruled kingdoms, married hundreds of women, sought wisdom, and still found emptiness. You see, it can be so easy to underappreciate a place like heaven that we may not quite know or understand. But despite that, it was a destination that Solomon urged his listeners to prepare for, to look to, and to rejoice with our fellow man about (hence the funerals, I suppose). Ultimately, I hope each of us takes special time this week with our family, friends, and in prayer to talk about, to hope for, and to remind one another what our ultimate destination is. Wise man Solomon seemed to know the value, why shouldn’t we?
P.S. perhaps listen to “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be” this week.
P.P.S Bastille’s “An Act of Kindness” is rather good.