Ecclesiastes 3:20 (ESV) – All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.
Until the Lord returns and implements a new phase in his process of bringing his kingdom to earth, this verse is where we’re all headed. We are all going to die.
The Preacher of Ecclesiastes is haunted by this stainless-steel, inflexible truth throughout the book. Whether a creature is human or animal, he eventually dies. Whether a person is wise or foolish, he eventually dies. Whether the person is rich or poor, male or female, smart or dumb, young or old, king or pauper, he is going to die. From one perspective, from the way things look under the sun, it doesn’t matter what you were, as long as you are alive now. A living dog is better than a dead lion (9:4). It’s almost as if he’s saying the most important thing is to be alive. Except he’s not.
The more I read the book, and I’m reading through it right now in hopes of preaching through it one of these days, I’m more and more convinced that the sage’s point is to encourage us to live our lives in such a way that dying becomes the most beneficial event that it could possibly be. It isn’t until somebody is prepared to die – and then lives his life in light of his inevitable death – that he is living well. Then, an only then is one really living. Life is a gift from God and death is its harshest and keenest teacher. So, obey God in fearful wonder of who he is as long as you are alive because one day, right after you die, you will give an account of yourself to God (12:13-14).
Death is a gruesome reality. The severing of the soul from the body is grotesque. It’s clearly not the way things were supposed to be from the beginning. If you’ve ever been around somebody who is dying, you can see it in the gasping, choking, wheezing, gurgling plea for just one more breath. It’s a dirty, filthy reality. But we have sanitized it as a culture. We quarantined death off to the side and separated ourselves from it. We know about it, but not too much. Few people see a dead body anymore much less watch somebody die. And we’ve lost a great deal of wisdom in the process. Death no longer teaches us, and we suffer the shallowness that results. We don’t value life because we haven’t valued death and what God intends to teach us through it.
Ecclesiastes is the musings of the wisest man the world has ever known looking back on his very pleasurable, indulged, pampered, and self-gratified life. He’s puzzled why all the things he pursued never brought him the satisfaction he was chasing. He thought they would, but trying to find satisfaction in life under the sunis like trying to bottle the wind. Now, in his later years, as the reality of his impending death seems more present to him than ever, he’s starting to understand what he failed to learn earlier. Life is lived well when it’s lived in preparation for death.
I’m not sure about you, but I long for a deeper walk with the Lord. I really do. I don’t want to miss out on anything God has for me, except death, that is. I’ve fallen into the trap of attempting to sequester myself from its inevitability, and I’ve missed out on some depth of joy in the process. I have no desire to be morbid, but I do know that I need to have a better perspective on death if I’m going to experience the depth I long for.
Lord, I really need your help! Please teach me, even from that darkest of your faculty members, from the dark-hooded rider of the pale horse himself, how to live in such a way that when he knocks at my door, the next thing I hear is, “Welcome, Good and Faithful Servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord!”
All for Jesus!