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It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.

~Ecclesiastes 7:2

Lesson53-image001Materials Needed: None.

Notes to the Leader: There is often a pattern that develops with Bible Study in that the literal translation of Scripture is passed over without in-depth examination. You might call it teaching by snippets. The danger is that erroneous conclusions can be drawn, leading someone away from the very behavior God desires. In this lesson, we find a good place to observe the risks of taking Scripture literally. Solomon is dead wrong about his observations concerning death. The value is not in his words but the study of supporting Scripture and in understanding his errors of judgment. This study weaves Old and New Testament views of death together into a hope-filled story.

Introduction

How would you compare the social discussion that goes on at a wedding versus a funeral?

  • At weddings, all things point to the future. One’s expectations for life take center stage.
  • At a funeral, people tend to examine the life of the departed. There is even a tendency to do some reflection on your own life.

Why do you think that Solomon, the wisest and richest man in the world, should be so preoccupied by death?

  • Solomon viewed death as an end, rather than a beginning. Therefore, as he looked into the future, he saw that death stole all the profits of a man’s labor.
  • Solomon’s description of a house of mourning was meant to be a funeral while his reference to a house of feasting was meant to be a wedding. His methodology of investigating by looking ahead had hit a road block. Solomon’s vision ended at man’s death.

Section One: Why Death is Better than Life

Have someone in your group read Ecclesiastes 6:1-12.

What is the irony that Solomon struggles to understand?

  • People are blessed with affluence but are never satisfied. Contentment, therefore, cannot be achieved.

What is the strange relationship that Solomon sees between desire, possessions, and enjoyment?

  • Some desire but never posses. Others posses but never enjoy. Solomon sees the fact that a stranger gets to enjoy what is owned by another as a grievous evil and one of the cruel ironies that make life so meaningless.

In Old Testament times, a person with many children or a person with a long life were seen as blessed. Someone with both, were very blessed. Solomon concludes that even with these blessings, someone may not enjoy the prosperity or even have a proper burial.

Read Jeremiah 22:18-19 to your group.

What is the disgrace that is discussed here?

  • Jewish burials typically took place the same day a person died. Friends and neighbors gathered to show respect and mourn openly and loudly. All who saw a funeral procession were expected to join in. In contrast, Jeremiah cursed King Jehoiakim by saying that he would have a burial of a donkey.

Why is Solomon saying that a stillborn child is better off?

  • The family mourns and the child never had to experience and loose the many worldly blessings. Solomon states the ultimate in negative attitudes, “it is better to have never lived than to live.”

Re-read Ecclesiastes 6:7-8 to your group.

What does Solomon say about the human appetite (desires)?

  • Even when we get what we want, we are not satisfied.
  • The wise man has no advantage over the fool.
  • The poor man who knows how to live properly has no advantage if he cannot acquire what he truly wants.

Note: Solomon does admit that to be satisfied with what you have is better than wanting what you cannot have. But he attaches no real meaning to this fact either.

Re-read Ecclesiastes 6:10-12 to your group.

What does Solomon mean when he says, “what man is has been known from the beginning?”

  • The name of man, Adam, means “from the earth.” There is a Hebrew idiom that says to give something a name is to cause it to exist. Solomon confirms that the nature of all things have been defined by a Creator. Solomon concludes, that since God has named man “from the earth,” man is of the earth.

Section Two: Is Death Man’s Destiny?

Have someone in your group read Ecclesiastes 7:1-6.

Solomon is stating that the day of death is better that the day of birth. Why?

  • Solomon concludes, that to gain a greater perspective on live, one must contemplate death. On one’s day of birth, we cannot conclude whether that new life will be a happy one. However, on one’s death, one can look back and draw all of the necessary conclusions. Solomon’s four points are:
  • It is better to go to a funeral than to a wedding
  • The living should take their destiny (death) to heart
  • Sorrow is better than laughter
  • The wise prefer sober reflection (the heart in the house of mourning)
  • Reproof is better than frivolity
  • How has Solomon come to such a hopeless view of humanity?
  • He has limited his understanding only to that which he could observe, experience or understand. When coming to grips with our own faith in Christ, it is important we do not follow in Solomon’s footsteps.

Have someone in your group read Ecclesiastes 7:7-14.

Solomon draws the conclusion that we are not in control of our own lives. Why?

  • Even a wise person can fail by being a victim of extortion or bribery
  • The impatient and proud act hastily and can’t wait to see how things turn out
  • It is dangerous to let yourself be provoked to anger
  • The traditions of the past are poor guidelines for the present
  • Wisdom benefits the living (wisdom is no benefit to the dead)
  • Wisdom and money are both useful, but wisdom is more likely to extend one’s life

Note: Solomon has given us some good advice and stated a truth here. Only at the end of our life can we look back and tell whether our lives have been good or bad.

What are some of Solomon’s incorrect assumptions?

  • It is not true that by looking back, we can find any meaning to life
  • Biological life is not really the end of any individual’s existence

Section Three: Death in the Old Testament

Read Genesis 2:7 to your group.

What was unique about God’s life to man?

  • It was comprised of both a physical life and a spiritual state.
  • It involved the gift of an image or likeness.

What does this gift of God’s image or likeness do for us?

  • It lifts us above animal creation and makes each human being special.

Read Genesis 2:17 to your group.

What happened to Adam and Eve with respect to death?

  • They died both spiritually and physically (their bodies began to decay and break down)

What is spiritual death?

  • Being cut off from an intimate relationship with God and it also corrupts our relationships with others.

Read Genesis 3:21 to your group.

Why did God clothe Adam and Eve with animal skins? Why wasn’t this something Adam and Eve did for themselves out of shame and fear?

  • These were history’s first sacrifices. This is the first intimation in Scripture that the effects of sin could be reversed by the death of a substitute.

What did this first sacrifice do?

  • Adam and Eve were again able to fellowship with the Lord. While this was a temporary bridge over the chasm of spiritual death, it offered hope that one day, a permanent restoration would occur.

If God made this repair to their spiritual life, why wouldn’t He do the same for their biological life as well?

  • He did, but not until the resurrection of Christ.

Section Four: Death in the New Testament

Have someone in your group read Ephesians 2:1-5.

What similarity to you see here with regard to spiritual death?

  • God restores spiritual life that has been dead because of sin.

What does God do about our biological death?

  • His restoration through Christ is complete. While we live here in physical decay, we respond with hope in His Gospel that, through His love and mercy, freely given to us, we will gain eternal life.

What would you consider to be the most important benefit of eternal life?

  • The complete restoration of our intimate relationship with God.

Bible Truth Being Taught

Death may be the destiny of the living, but it is not the end.

Our Response

To consider our eternal destiny of greater importance than the concerns of this life.

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