A good name is better than fine perfume,(Eccl. 7:1-6 NIV)
and the day of death better than the day of birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person
than to listen to the song of fools.
Like the crackling of thorns under the pot,
so is the laughter of fools.
This too is meaningless.
The fool and the wise have two different views of the house of mourning. The fool can’t wait to leave the house of mourning to get back to the house of pleasure because that is where his heart is. The heart of the wise remains in the house of mourning to watch and see what he can learn. He can learn as he stares at the coffin that one day soon that will be him, ‘for death is the destiny of everyone.’ We may feel a little impatient with the Preacher and say something like, ‘Look, we get it, we’re all going to die, can we move on and cheer up please? Some encouragement here might be better than all this doom and gloom.’ But the problem is, we don’t get it, we want to be away from the thought of death as fast as the fool wants to get away from the house of mourning and back to the house of pleasure. The fool would no doubt accuse the wise for being morbid in their thinking and focus on death. But the wise have a grasp of reality here. This is what the Preacher, and ultimately God, wants us to pay attention to. The Preacher invites us, ‘to be a person who realises that living a good life means preparing to die a good death.’ Someone like this is fully alive, engaged with the world and their family and the goodness of creation because they know that they have it all on loan. ‘Death is not your lord and does not own you – it never, ever can be if you are in Christ – then it can teach you.’ ‘Death dons a preacher’s robe to teach us that life is finite, and we must use it well.’
The Psalmist says
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.(Ps. 90:12 NIV)
But our shock is not just limited to what is said about death. The things that the Preacher describes as better, we didn’t expect to hear them described that way. How can sorrow be better than laughter? But the Preacher says that sorrow can instruct the heart better than sorrow can.
The Preacher says that the rebuke of a wise person is better than the praise of a fool. The praise of fools is like the burning of crackling thorns in the fire. We should shun this shallow praise. The Preacher wants us to be wise. The foolish things are short-lived, they disappear like vapour (heble).
We should value the tough experiences wisely. It is not wise to deny the tough times and their lessons and then pretend that they never happened.
The Preacher helps us get a proper perspective on life. Perhaps it is not dying that we fear the most. We are afraid of never having lived, of coming to the end of our days with the sense that we were never really alive, that we never figured out what life was for.
Lord God help us to live wisely in life and learn all the lessons from Your word. Help us especially to come to understand and come to terms with what You want to teach us through Ecc. Lord we want to hide away from the reality of death, but teach us what we have to understand about life through our thinking about death because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.