Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun – all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labour under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.(Eccl. 9:7-10 NIV)
The Preacher says, ‘GO, eat your food with gladness.’ The addition of ‘GO’ provides significance to the dining. Make it an event with gladness and joy. The Lord takes pleasure in our pleasure. One of the most amazing verses in the OT is
The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”(Zeph. 3:17 NIV)
The Lord takes such delight in us that He bursts into song rejoicing over us with singing. It is a joy to see the look on the faces of the children as they open their presents at Christmas. We have video recordings of our children when they were small opening their presents early on Christmas Day. Our oldest daughter used to squeal with delight as she opened her presents. She is now in her thirties and still gets excited. What a pleasure it is to give when you see the excitement that it brings. There is pleasure in heaven when God our Father sees us enjoying the gifts that He has given us. The simple things that we learn to do is living life the way God intended. The Preacher wants us to reprogramme our hearts and minds to see that life is not about the quest for profit but rather acceptance of the gift. I’m reading a book from the Duchess of Cornwall’s recommended reading list. It is about a Ukrainian lady who was recruited by the British before the 2nd World War to gather intelligence on Germany. Her cover story was that she was a journalist working for an agency that sold stories to the media and newspapers. Over a meal with a spy colleague she ‘found herself wondering as they talked, and not for the first time, about what tiny part she was playing in an invisible grander plan that only Romer (her boss) really understood. Her recruitment, her training, her posting all seemed to betoken some form of logical progression – but she could not discern where it was leading. She could not see the Eva Delectorskaya (her spy pseudonym) cog in the big machine – she could not even see the big machine, she realised. Ours is not to reason why, Morris (her spy colleague) had said, and she ruefully conceded that he was right, as she carved off a square inch of turbot and popped it in her mouth – delicious. It was a pleasure to be in Brussels.’ I thought the story sounded so like what the Preacher was saying in Ecc. The big machine is God’s plan – yes we are a cog within that big machine, but we just don’t know all about the part we are playing, we do our work with all our might, we eat our food and enjoy our companions because one day it will all end.
What does it mean to always be clothed in white and always anoint our head with oil? Back in OT times, the garments of sackcloth and ashes were to show mourning and grief. Perhaps we thought because the Preacher is getting us to think about death that those would be appropriate attire for us to wear. The white garments were to reflect the heat of the sun and the oil was for protecting and nourishing the skin. Just because we’re going to die doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter how we dress or how we look. Look at how God has arrayed His creation. The world was meant to be a place of colour, life and beauty.
We’re also to enjoy life with our spouse. A married partner is a gift from God, and we’re intended to enjoy each other’s companionship. We got to know an elderly retired couple in Tiptree. The lady told us how they enjoyed playing dominos after breakfast each morning. She pointed to a little plastic cup on the mantel piece. Whoever won the game of dominos was awarded the cup and it was placed on their side of the mantelpiece for the day. Sadly, the gentleman died but the lady still takes delight in telling us stories about her and her husband. It brings a smile to your face when you listen to her stories. God is delighted to see His children enjoying each other’s company.
This is our lot in life to enjoy the gifts that God has given. ‘Dying people, who truly know they are dying, are among all people the most alive. They are not here to live forever. They are here to live now, for today – and most of all they are here to live with and for others.’
When Jesus was here upon earth, we find Him often at a table eating. Heaven will have its banquet in the marriage supper of the Lamb. One commentator named his commentary on Ecc., ‘A Table in the Mist’. We eat and drink as we vanish from the earth like a vapour (Heble). But one day we will eat and drink in the city of the King.
Lord our God, thank You that You have given us life. Thank You that during lockdown we have a lot of things cut off from us, so that we have fewer things that we can do, but also that we have time to learn the lessons of Ecc. and appreciate the gifts You have given us. Lord, help us to see light in Your light and to not rush through so many things that we do every day and never giving them a second thought. Lord thank You for every gift that You have given us. We offer our thanksgiving in Jesus’ name. Amen.