Dwelling on Death (Ecclesiastes 7:2)
I. Morbid or Meaningful?
It's probably not a term you use very often, but listen to this definition of the word, morbid:
morbid (adj.): characterized by or appealing to an abnormal and unhealthy interest in disturbing and unpleasant subjects, especially death and disease.
Ever known anyone who could be rightly described as “morbid”? Well, after this morning, you might just become one of those people. Why? Because this morning, God's word is going to encourage us to dwell on death. How often do you dwell on that topic? To be sure, there are many, many ways in which a person can dwell on death in an unhealthy way (a.k.a. “morbid”).
But God has a way to dwell on death that is anything but unhealthy. God's way is not morbid. In fact, it's meaningful.
Turn if you haven't already to Ecclesiastes chapter 7, and let's learn more about the strange fact that God has a life-transforming way to dwell on death.
II. The Passage: "The End of All Mankind" (7:2)
When I teach God's word, I tend to work with larger sections: mainly paragraph-long passages; but sometimes, even whole chapters. This morning, believe it or not, our main text is only one verse. Look at it with me. Ecclesiastes chapter 7, verse 2:
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. (let me say that again)
Now listen to another translation of that same verse. I like the simplicity of how the New English Translation expresses verse 2...
It is better to go to a funeral than a feast. For death is the destiny of every person, and the living should take this to heart.
Let's actually use some of the language from that translation to get us thinking about what we just heard in that verse. For example, think for a minute about the idea of putting...
1. A Funeral Over a Feast (v. 2a)
Can the writer Ecclesiastes be serious? “It is better to got a funeral than a feast”?... “better to go the house of mourning than... to the house of feasting”? Really? Do any of us believe that?
Apart from family obligations and other social pressures, would any of us really choose to go to a funeral rather than a feast? Hmm... coffin or coffee cake? Hmm... sadness or side salad? Hmm... talk of death or taste of dessert? I think we all the know the better choice, don't we?
So how in the world could the writer, how in the world could God's word, include something that seems so off-base? Well, if we continue on in the verse, we learn that there's a 'why' behind this statement. Why is it better to go to a funeral instead of a feast? Because...
2. Death is Your Destiny (v. 2b)
Look at verse 2 again... It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind... It is better to go to a funeral than a feast. For death is the destiny of every person...
I don't know if you've ever thought about it this way, but when you go to a funeral, you are getting an unvarnished, perfectly accurate preview of your own future. No, the cause of death, the time of death, the place of death may will most likely not be the same. But the end is the same. The conclusion is the same.
One day it will be you in that coffin. One day, people will be remembering your life; they will be saying their goodbyes... to you!
As much as we want to avoid the subject, as much as our culture wants us to avoid the subject, death is our destiny. It's unavoidable. It has to be faced. That's why “the house of mourning”, that's why going to a funeral, helps us do exactly that.
But like we talked about at the outset, our desire should be to face death in a healthy manner; with a healthy perspective; to dwell on death, not in a morbid way, but in a meaningful way. That's why, according to verse 2, we should...
3. Console, But Also Consider (v. 2c)
When you got to a memorial service, or when you go a post-funeral reception, go with consolations. Be ready to console those who have lost their loved one. But, as we read in verse 2, also consider that loss; consider it carefully. Ecclesiastes 7:2...
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.
If we're open at and honest after a funeral, that somber occasion usually makes us feel things we don't necessarily want to feel. But having your heart moved is different than 'laying or taking it to heart'. Now wait. What exactly am I taking to heart? Well, the fact that like Aunt Trudy, death is also my destiny.
But I think it's more than just taking the fact of my mortality seriously. Look at verse 4:
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Did you hear that? The heart of wise people is at the funeral rather than the feast. Why? Because taking the reality of one's death to heart leads to wisdom. In Psalm 90, Moses encouraged his readers with a prayer that expressed this same idea:
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
That's dwelling on death in a healthy way: numbering our days in order to cultivate a heart of wisdom. But I think we can get more specific. We might ask, “How can numbering your days, that is, how can facing the fact of your eventual demise, make you wiser?” When we bring that question to God's word, I think we hear two answers; answers that, at first, almost seem to contradict one another.
The first is this: numbering our days makes us wiser because it reminds us we will not live forever, and therefore, we should not live daily like we will.
Now, some might hear that and think, “Of course that's true. Therefore, 'let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'” Paul countered that very sentiment in I Corinthians 15:32. In fact, Scripture points us to the opposite idea. Listen to Psalm 39:4 and 6...
O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!...  Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
Jesus drove home this same point in one of his parables. Luke 12:16–20
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully,  and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’  And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’  But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’”
Do you see the common theme? All of us are tempted to live like we always live; to spend our days as if we were guaranteed day after day after day. But we aren't. To get and get and get possessions as if we were always going to possess them. But we won't. To put off important things for another time, as if time was an unlimited resource. But it isn't.
Knowing your time is limited should not lead you to waste your days, but to seize your days; to not take them for granted, but to live carefully and courageously, right? That is wisdom!
But this idea must be qualified by a second point: numbering our days makes us wiser because it reminds us that we will live forever, and therefore, we should live daily like we will.
Ok, hold on. That sounded like the exact opposite of the first point. Well... it terms of wording, it is the exact opposite. But when it comes to the meaning behind the words, these points are wonderfully complementary. The first needs the second. Let me explain. It is critical for you and me to accept that the lives we live are limited by death. But at the same time, we also have to accept that the lives we live lead to eternal consequences. As Russell Crowe's character succinctly expressed it in the 2000 film, “Gladiator”, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” Do you believe that?
If you don't want to waste this life, then become convinced that you will have to give an account for your life... to the One who gave you life. We hear this same idea in the final words and conclusion of the book of Ecclesiastes...
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14)
So again, numbering our days makes us wiser because it reminds us we will not live forever, and therefore, we should not live daily like we will. But this is informed by that fact that numbering our days makes us wiser because it reminds us that we will live forever, and therefore, we should live daily like we will. Brothers and sisters, friends, these are two sides of the same coin.
You and I only have so much time in this world. But after we leave this world, all of us will face eternity. Please listen: what we will experience then is directly connected to our choices now. That's why we should find time to dwell on death. No, not morbidly, but meaningfully.
III. Every Eye Will See Him
Now, any discussion of Ecclesiastes 7:2 in light of the total testimony of Scripture, any talk about a meaningful way to dwell on death, must bring us to Jesus Christ. Why is that? Well, just listen to these NT passages:
And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. [Acts 10:42]
...on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. [Romans 2:16]
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom... [II Timothy 4:1]
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ... [II Corinthians 5:10]
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,  because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30, 31)
Dwelling on death must bring us to Jesus, because in the end, at your end, you will see Him. All of us will. Every single person will see him. And all of us will face him as judge. But today, God offers you the opportunity to also face Him, and emrbace him, as Redeemer, as Deliverer, as Advocate. And if you already know him as such, God wants to encourage you this morning to meditate on that future meeting. What should it mean for you now, that you will see Jesus then?
In the coming weeks we are going to continue to dwell on death; we are going talk more about what happens when you die... no matter who you are. And we're going to see how Jesus is central when it comes to any person's eternal destiny. Let's ask God now for help as we do this.