What to Expect From
What is the meaning and purpose of life?
What is good and what is evil? What is the nature of the world? We have
all wondered about such things. Indeed, these are great issues that thoughtful
men have puzzled over for thousands of years. Inspired by the spirit of
God, Solomon, too, sought the answers to these great questions, both for
himself and for us.
I the preacher was king over Israel
in Jerusalem. And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning
all things that are done under heaven… (Ecclesiastes 1:12, 13; KJV).
I said to myself, "I have acquired great
wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has
great experience of wisdom and knowledge." And I applied my mind to know
wisdom and to know madness and folly (Ecclesiastes 1:16, 17: RSV).
And I turned myself to behold wisdom,
and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king!
even that which hath been already done (Ecclesiastes 2:12; KJV).
I turned my mind to know and to search
out and to seek wisdom and the sum of things, and to know the wickedness
of folly and the foolishness which is madness (Ecclesiastes 7:25; RSV).
All this I observed while applying my
mind to all that is done under the sun… (Ecclesiastes 8:9; RSV).
Wisdom having been my careful study, I
came to observe the business that goes on here on earth (Ecclesiastes
Solomon experimented with his own life. He tried
every kind of pleasure—the best food and drink, the best music and entertainment,
the finest material goods, the most beautiful women. He took on great challenges,
and tried to improve everything around him. Solomon pursued happiness in
every conceivable way.
I said to myself, "Come now, I will
make a test of pleasure; enjoy yourself."…I searched with my mind how to
cheer my body with wine—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—and how to
lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to
do under heaven during the few days of their life (RSV). I made
me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me
gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruit:
I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth
trees: I got me servants and maidens and had servants born in my house;
also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were
in Jerusalem before me (KJV): I also gathered for myself silver
and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces; I got singers, both men
and women, and many concubines, man's delight (RSV). So I was great,
and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom
remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them,
I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour:
and this was my portion of all my labour (Ecclesiastes 2:1, 3-10; KJV).
Solomon, it seems, pursued happiness with as
much zest, gusto, and vigor as any man. Certainly if any man was ever both
wise enough and wealthy enough to succeed, it was Solomon. The Bible states
that Solomon's glory—his riches, possessions, and honor—was unexcelled.
[God said]…wisdom and knowledge are
granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such
as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall
have the like (2 Chronicles 1:12; RSV).
So I became great and surpassed all who
were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me (Ecclesiastes
No king has ever had more personal resources
for the pursuit of happiness than Solomon. Yet he failed. He discovered
that neither pleasure, nor possessions, nor anything else would bring lasting
But this too was vain. Mirth is madness,
I reflected, and what is the good of pleasure? (Ecclesiastes 2:2; MOFFATT).
Then I looked on all the works that my
hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold,
all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the
sun (Ecclesiastes 2:11; KJV).
He pursued happiness but found frustration,
disappointment, and emptiness. Ironically, his great quest lead him to
Then I said to myself, "What befalls
the fool will befall me also; why then have I been so very wise?" And I
said to myself that this also is vanity. For of the wise man as of the
fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come
all will have been long forgotten. How the wise man dies just like the
fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous
to me; for all is vanity and a striving after wind.
I hated all my toil in which I had toiled
under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after
me; and who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will
be master of all which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This
also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over
all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a man who has
toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed
by a man who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
What has a man from all the toil and strain with which he toils beneath
the sun? For all his days are full of pain, and his work is a vexation;
even in the night his mind does not rest. This also is vanity (Ecclesiastes
In sum: Solomon discovered that every avenue
in his pursuit of happiness led only to frustration and disillusionment.
Solomon's failure to find lasting happiness
was not a personal one. He failed because of the very nature of life. Alas!
Vanity, Solomon discovered, is the nature of this world. It is a divided
cosmos at war with itself. It is a world of order and disorder in continuous
conflict, and there is no sure defense against its evils. Its best promises
are only good probabilities; there are no absolute guarantees; all its
rules have exceptions.
I saw all the things which were done
under the sun and truly, all is worthlessness and chasing of wind. What
is crooked cannot be straightened, and what is lacking cannot be counted
1:14, 15; MLB).
Solomon gave many examples to illustrate the
vanity of life; examples of cruelty from without and within; of the failure
of riches, wisdom, even righteousness; of its pervasive injustice, evil,
He saw hopeless oppressions.
Again I saw the oppressions that are
practiced under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they
had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power,
and there was no one to comfort them (RSV). Wherefore I praised
the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.
Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not
seen the evil work that is done under the sun (KJV) (Ecclesiastes ·1:1-3).
one man tyrannizes over another to his
hurt (Ecclesiastes 8:9; NAB).
He even saw self-imposed oppression.
Again, I saw vanity under the sun: a
person who has no one, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all
his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never
asks, "For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?" This also
is vanity and an unhappy business (Ecclesiastes 4:7, 8; RSV).
He saw the failure of riches.
There is a grievous evil which I have
seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those
riches were lost in a bad venture; and he is father of a son, but he has
nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again,
naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil, which he may carry
away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall
he go; and what gain has he that he toiled for the wind, and spent all
his days in darkness and grief, in much vexation and sickness and resentment?
There is an evil which I have seen under
the sun, and it lies heavy upon men: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions,
and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does
not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them; this is vanity;
it is a sore affliction. If a man begets a hundred children, and lives
many years, so that the days of his years are many, but he does not enjoy
life's good things, and also has no burial, I say that an untimely birth
is better off than he. For it comes into vanity and goes into darkness,
and into darkness its name is covered; moreover it has not seen the sun
or known anything; yet it finds rest rather than he. Even though he should
live a thousand years twice told, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the
one place? (Ecclesiastes 6:1-6; RSV).
In this vain world he even saw the failure of
Moreover I saw under the sun that in
the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness,
even there was wickedness (Ecclesiastes 3:16; RSV).
In my vain life I have seen everything;
there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is
a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evil-doing (Ecclesiastes
And so I have seen wicked men carried
to the tomb and praised from the holy place and lauded in the city where
they had acted thus. This too is vanity
(Ecclesiastes 8:10; AAT).
Here also is a futility that goes on upon
the earth: there are righteous men who fare as though they were wicked,
and wicked men who fare as though they were righteous. I said that this
also is vanity (Ecclesiastes 8:14; AMPLIFIED).
He found that the inevitable climax of every
life is death. No matter how rich or poor, wise or foolish, good or bad,
happy or miserable we may have been death is the ultimate "reward" for
all our efforts. It is the supreme injustice, which itself encourages men
to live selfish, desperate lives.
Because to all there is one event, to
the upright man and to the evil, to the clean and to the unclean, to him
who makes an offering; as is the good so is the sinner; he who takes an
oath is as he who has fear of it (BAS). There is no evil like this
in the world, that all men have one fate; it makes men seethe with evil
aims and mad desires during their life, and then they join the dead—not
one is left (AMPLIFIED) (Ecclesiastes 9:2, 3).
Solomon saw universal injustice in this evil
Again I saw under the sun that the race
is not won by the swift, nor the battle by the valiant, nor a livelihood
by the wise, nor riches by the shrewd, nor favor by the experts; for a
time of calamity comes to all alike (NAB). That man indeed no more
knoweth his time than the fishes which are enclosed in an evil dredge,
or than birds which are caught in a net. Like them the sons of men are
drawn into an evil time when it cometh upon them suddenly (Ecclesiastes
He saw the power of wisdom despised.
Also I have seen this example of wisdom
under the sun, and it seemed great to me. There was a little city with
few men in it; and a great king came against it and besieged it, building
great siege works against it. But there was found in it a poor wise man,
and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no one remembered that poor
man. But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man's
wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded (Ecclesiastes 9:13-16;
He even saw the spectacle of folly exalted to
There is an evil which I have seen under
the sun, as it were an error which proceeds from the ruler: folly is set
in great heights, and the rich sit in a low place. I have seen servants
upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth (Ecclesiastes
Solomon has revealed to us that the very best
life in this material realm (under the sun) is very grievous compared with
what life could be like in a paradise. It is a great tribulation, and we
are hopelessly incapable of ever achieving contentment and fulfillment.
The whole of our mental being, like the waves of the sea tossed about,
is ever filled with conflicting thoughts of different kinds and intensities
from which there is no escape even in sleep; and we can no more achieve
lasting inner peace than the waters of the seas can remain still.
Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful;
and the end of that mirth is heaviness (Proverbs 14:13; KJV).
All things are full of weariness; man
cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled
with hearing (Ecclesiastes 1:8; ASV)
it is an unhappy business that God has
given to the sons of men to be busy with (Ecclesiastes 1:13; RSV).
the day of death [is better] than the
day of one's birth (Ecclesiastes 7:1; KJV).
Better is the end of a thing than the
beginning thereof (Ecclesiastes 7:8; KJV).
And certainly the eyes of man never rest,
day and night (Ecclesiastes 8:16; JB).
The hearts of men are full of evil; madness
fills their hearts all through their lives, and after that they go down
to join the dead (Ecclesiastes 9:3; NEB).
In my own personal observations, I have seen
the same kind of evils today. Pleasure and escape from pain are brief fleeting
experiences that this modern generation desperately tries to prolong with
drugs and entertainment. The more pleasure we get, the harder it is to
keep; and those who get too much degenerate and risk an early death. Pain
and discomfort is the normal experience. We enter the world crying in protest,
and we leave it surrounded by tears. All the babies I have known cry more
than they laugh. As we mature, I suspect we only inhibit the expression,
but the feeling remains. We suffer to pay many fold more than we get back
It is a general rule that suffering strengthens,
whereas pleasure weakens. It is through "blood, toil, sweat and tears"
that we grow strong and succeed, whereas relaxation and play deplete resources.
There are countless evils that assail us as we live; evils from nature
and evils from our fellow man. Injustice and frustration abound; and the
innocent suffer as do the guilty. No time of life seems better than any
other. Youth has strength and abundant energy, but lacks the money, power,
and talent which the elderly have. But the elderly are cursed with worn-out
bodies. And the years in between are filled with too many burdens and responsibilities
to relax and play. The beauty, strength, and glory of our youth last for
only a fraction of our lives; a score of years, more or less, out of the
threescore and ten that we live. The more we live and perceive, the more
disillusioned we tend to become. A vice of the young is naiveté;
a vice of the old is cynicism. Whenever we think we have made it, that
we have "arrived," then we must struggle to keep it. All our benefits—money,
knowledge, beauty, strength, power, popularity—are slippery things that
keep us busy just hanging on to them. And, of course, at the end everything
It is a cruel system. The species may survive,
but the individual never does. The individual is the perpetual and ultimate
victim in this vain world. Life thrives on death, and death thrives on
life. Eat-and-be-eaten is the nature of earthly life. Nature is a dog-eat-dog
existence, a competitive survival of the fittest, and the individual never
survives; each one ultimately succumbs. Every generation must face the
same hopeless vanity, Solomon found, because it is the nature of the system,
and the system never changes. It is a fixed order.
A generation goes, and a generation
comes; but the earth remains for ever. The sun rises and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south, and
goes round to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits
the wind returns, All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again (Ecclesiastes
Change, it seems, is deceptive. Details and
individuals always change, but the pattern remains. I am not the same today
that I was yesterday. The chemicals that compose my body are ever changing.
Everything is always new and different, if we look only at individual things.
But the system never changes. It is a fixed order. The laws of nature are
established and the world operates with or without this speck of dust or
that, this drop of water or that, this individual or that. The system cycles
around and around with or without you and me.
If the clouds be full of rain, they
empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south,
or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall
be (Ecclesiastes 11:3: KJV).
Each generation, it seems, believes that its
evils are worse than those of the past. We as individuals come and go and
do not live long enough to see the tiresome sameness of it all.
There is no remembrance of former things;
neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with
those that shall come after (Ecclesiastes 1:11; KJV).
Do not say: How is it that former times
were better than these? For it is not in wisdom that you ask about this
It is an incurably imperfect and vain cosmos.
I have seen all the works that are done
under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That
which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot
be numbered (Ecclesiastes 1:14, 15; KJV).
Considered in itself life on earth, Solomon
said, is a senseless exercise in futility; a conclusion he found to be
inescapable. Throughout the world in every age, life is an unhappy, frustrating
experience; and the evil system cannot be beaten no matter how we may live.
There is no man that hath power over
the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death:
and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver
those that are given to it (Ecclesiastes 8:8; KJV).
Solomon expressed this ultimate conclusion about
our earthly existence in the opening words of the book of Ecclesiastes:
The words of the Preacher, the son of
David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity
of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which
he taketh under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 1:1-3; KJV).
The wisdom of Solomon reveals the hopelessness
of life here on earth. This is why the greater wisdom of Jesus is called
the gospel (meaning "good news"). He said:
In the world ye shall have tribulation:
but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33; KJV).
True hope is for a better life - an eternal
life - in a better world in another realm where justice reigns because
God's will is done. But that is another story.
In sum: It is a mistake for a man to put
all his hope in this life, for it is an incurably unjust and cruel system
filled with disappointment and grief where even, the best and most successful
survive only for a while.
Although Solomon was deeply disappointed
by what he discovered about life, he still concluded that life is better
than death. And, indeed, in spite of all our suffering, virtually everyone
chooses life over death.
For to him that is joined to all the
living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For
the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither
have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also
their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither
have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the
sun (Ecclesiastes 9:4-6; KJV).
Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant
thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: but ifs man live many years,
and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for
they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity (Ecclesiastes 11:7, 8;
Furthermore, God has given us compensations
- joys to ease our sorrows. He has made the simple, common experiences
of life the most reliable sources of happiness: the pleasure of our food
and drink, our occupations, the material goods which enrich our lives,
the comforts of married life.
There is nothing better for a man than
that he should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in his toil. This also,
I saw, is from the hand of God; for apart from him who can eat or who can
have enjoyment (Ecclesiastes 2:24, 25; RSV).
I know that there is no good in them,
but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every
man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the
gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13; KJV).
So I saw the best thing for man was to
be happy in his work; that is what he gets out of life (Ecclesiastes
Behold, that which I have seen to be good
and to be comely is for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy good in all
his labor, wherein he laboreth under the sun, all the days of his life
which God hath given him: for this is his portion (ASV). Any man
to whom God gives riches and property, and grants power to partake of them,
so that he receives his lot and finds joy in the fruits of his toil, has
a gift from God. For he will hardly dwell on the shortness of his life,
because God lets him busy himself with the joys of his heart (NAB)
And I commended enjoyment, for man has
no good thing under the sun but to eat, drink, and enjoy himself, for this
will go with him in his toil through the days of life which God gives him
under the sun (Ecclesiastes 8:15; RSV).
Come, eat your food with joy and drink
your wine with a glad heart, for to do this has God's approval. Wear white
robes always, and spare not oil for your head (MOFFATT). Live joyfully
with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity,
which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for
that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under
the sun (KJV) (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9).
It is good, Solomon said, to partake of life
and its activities, remembering that true survival comes from obedience
to the Lord:
It is good that you should take hold
of this, and from that withhold not your hand; for he who fears God shall
come forth from them all (Ecclesiastes 7:18; RSV).
But he also advised accepting our lot, and avoiding
excessive ambition, for the gains of this life are vanity.
What advantage then in facing life has
the wise man over the fool, or the poor man for all his experience? (NEB).
aim at what lies in view than hanker after dreams. But indeed all is frustration,
and labor lost (KNOX) (Ecclesiastes 6:8, 9).
In sum: God desires that we enjoy the ordinary
pleasures of life. They are the true sources of our earthly happiness.
Solomon went beyond the pursuit of happiness.
He also pursued the explanation and meaning of life. He tried to understand
the world and find the reasons for its vanity and injustice. But in this
effort he also failed. The world is just too massive, too complicated,
too deep and mysterious for anyone to understand no matter how wise he
The more words, the greater the vanity
of it all; and what does man get from it? Who knows what is good for man
in his lifetime, in those few days he lives so vainly, days that like a
shadow he spends? Who can tell a man what will happen under the sun after
his time (Ecclesiastes 6:11, 12; JB).
All this I have tested from the viewpoint
of wisdom; I said, "I will be wise," and it was far beyond me. What exists
is beyond reach and unfathomable; who can master it (Ecclesiastes 7:23,
Behold, this is what I found, says the
Preacher, adding one thing to another to find the sum, which my mind has
sought repeatedly, but I have not found (Ecclesiastes 7:27, 28; RSV).
Wisdom having been my careful study, I
came to observe the business that goes on here on earth. And certainly
the eyes of man never rest, day and night (JB). Then I saw all God's
work, that man is unable to discover the work which is done under the sun
inasmuch as man may labor in its search, but he will not find it; and even
if the wise man thinks that he is on the point of knowing it, he will be
unable to find it (AAT) (Ecclesiastes 8:16, 17).
…a man cannot tell what shall be; and
what shall be after him, who can tell him? (Ecclesiastes 10:14; KJV).
Solomon did discover that God created mankind
to be a noble creature, but many have corrupted themselves.
Here is all I have been able to discover:
God made the race of men upright, but many a cunning wile they have contrived
(Ecclesiastes 7:29; MOFFATT).
Moreover, Solomon found that God knows precisely
what he is doing with the world. He has his own lofty reasons for whatever
happens, and he has limited our power to comprehend.
I have seen the business that God has
given to the sons of men to be busy with (RSV). He has made everything
to suit its time (NEB); but for the mind of man he has appointed
mystery, that man may never fathom God's own purpose from beginning to
end (MOFFATT) (Ecclesiastes 3:10, 11).
I know that whatever God does endures
for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has
made it so, in order that men should fear before him (Ecclesiastes
Consider the work of God: who can make
straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful,
and in the day of adversity consider; God has made the one as well as the
other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him (Ecclesiastes
7:13, 14; RSV).
Just as you know not how the breath of
life fashions the human frame in the mother's womb, so you know not the
work of God which he is accomplishing in the universe (Ecclesiastes
There is truly an underlying logic and purpose
in the apparent senselessness of life. And every stage in the cycle of
life-whether for construction or destruction, joy or sorrow, pleasure or
pain—serves God's grand purpose.
The Lord has made everything for its
purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble (Proverbs 16:4; RSV).
To every thing there is a season, and
a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time
to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to
build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time
to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get,
and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to
rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a
time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. What
profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? I have seen the
travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it
(KJV). He has made everything to suit its time… (NEB) (Ecclesiastes
I said to myself, "God will judge the
righteous and the wicked, for there is a time there for every purpose and
for every work." I said to myself, "For the sake of men God is testing
them and causes them to see that in themselves they are but animals." For
the fate of the sons of men and the fate of animals is the same; as one
dies, so dies the other (MLB). They all have the same breath, and
man has no advantage over the beasts; for all is vanity (RSV). All
go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who
knoweth the spirit of man, whether it goeth upward, and the spirit of the
beast, whether it goeth downward to the earth? (ASV) (Ecclesiastes
For all this I laid to my heart, even
to explore all this: that the righteous, and the wise, and their works,
are in the hand of God; whether it be love or hatred, man knoweth it not;
all is before them (Ecclesiastes 9:1; ASV).
In sum: It is impossible for a man to understand
the world, or even all that happens in his own life. It is enough to know
that God has a purpose for it all, and those who trust him will prevail.
Therefore, it behooves us all to keep the
future in mind as we live our lives. There is a modern song (lovely but
melancholy) that tells the tale of a young man who chased pleasure until
old age caught up with him, and payment became due. It is an old theme.
Solomon warned the young to look ahead, and not forget that age catches
up with us all. Do not live selfishly and for the moment, he said, because
(although it cannot be seen) our spirit does go upward to be judged by
how we have lived.
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth,
and let your mind be glad in the days of your vigor, and walk in the ways
of your mind and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these
things God will bring you into judgment (AAT). Rid thy heart, then,
of resentment, thy nature of ill humour; youth and pleasures, they are
so quickly gone (KNOX) (Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10).
Remember your Creator in the days of your
youth, before the evil days come, and the years approach of which you will
say, "I have no pleasure in them" (AAT). While the sun, or the light,
or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after
the rain (KJV): in the day when the legs tremble and the arms weaken,
and the teeth chew no more because they are few, and the eyes are dimmed.
And the ears shall be so dulled that the sound of women grinding at the
mill is low, and a man shall rise up at the song of birds; and the sound
of women singing shall be low (LAM); they are afraid also of what
is high, and terrors are in the way: the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper
drags itself along and desire fails; because man goes to his eternal home,
and the mourners go about in the streets; before the silver cord is snapped,
or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is broken at the fountain,
or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as
it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities,
says the preacher; all is vanity (RSV) (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8).
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole
matter: fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty
of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret
thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13,
In sum: Everyone will surely be held accountable
to the Lord for how he has lived in this life.
Copyright 1997 by Walter
L. Porter may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to