A Living Dog Is Better Than a Dead Lion

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 9:4–6 (ESV)

But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We read of the reality and consequences of death. It is the end. It is the end of everything for the dead person. The dead no longer partake in the things of life and they are soon forgotten by all. As the writer says, “…for a living dog is better than a dead lion.” A dog was considered a dirty scavenger while the lion was a noble predator. Yet, with the realty of death, it is better to be alive than dead.

Many Christians seem to minimize death, but the Bible does no such thing. Scripture teaches that death is the consequence of sin. It is not the way God designed the world, but is an intruder into creation. If sin is the disease then death is the final outcome of our sickness. Scripture calls death our final enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). It takes away the life that was given by God and separates us from those we love.

Thankfully, God has done something to cure our disease and free us from the sentence of death. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die in our place. Jesus died and was buried, but he rose from the dead to conquer death for us and promises eternal life to all who will trust in him. The end of the Bible tells us of a new creation where sin and death are no more and all of the pain and suffering of death are removed. This is the hope of Christianity.


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The Certainty of Death

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 9:1–3 (ESV)

But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

Understanding and Applying the Word

No matter who you are. No matter what you have done. There is one thing that is true for every one of us. We are all going to die. The wicked and the righteous, the moral and the immoral, as well as the religious and the irreligious all face the same end. This all seems like vanity. How can we make any sense of life where death is the reality for all?

The clue is in the first verse. We are all in the hand of God. It is God that makes the difference. Yes, we will all face physical death, but because Jesus conquered the grave, those who trust in him are promised that the grave is not our final destination. There is resurrection and eternal life for all who believe and belong to Jesus. So, the true final destination is not the same for all. The wicked and rebellious will face eternal condemnation, while the righteous and those of faith will live in the presence of God in a new creation where sin and death are no more. All is not vanity in Christ.


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Better Off Dead

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 4:1–6 (ESV)
1 Again I saw all the oppressions that are done 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.
2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive.
3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
5 The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.
6 Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We live in a world where the powerful oppress the weak. The powerful exploit and take advantage of everyone they can. This results in pain and sorrow for the oppressed. It leads to tears, but there is no one to comfort those who grieve. Things are so bad for the oppressed, death would be better. In fact, it would be better still if they had never been born at all.

This passage is especially dark. We must remember that Solomon is making his remarks based on a naturalistic view of life. He is saying that if what we observe is all there is, it would be better to have never been born at all. Without something more, without God, there is no fulfilling purpose to life. Nothing lasts and there is great injustice, pain, and suffering in life. For life to have meaning there must be something greater. Jesus assures us that there is. He came into the world preaching about the kingdom of God and then rose from the grave to prove that he was who he said he was. Turn to Jesus and he will be the one who comforts you.


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From Dust to Dust

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 3:16–22 (ESV)
16 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.
17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.
18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.
19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity.
20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.
21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?
22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again, Solomon comments on his observations of life in this world. In the beginning of this passage he speaks of the prevalence of wickedness and the lack of justice and righteousness. He then goes on to observe that both humans and beasts suffer the same fate. They both die. Some may wonder what Solomon means when he says that “all go to the same place.” He is referring to the grave. In such a cruel world where death waits, Solomon surmises that people must find fulfillment in their work, for that is all there is.

The words of this passage seem terribly negative, but they reflect the reality of a life without God. The world becomes a cold, dark place without meaning. Even work actually becomes meaningless in such a world because whatever we are able to produce will eventually fade away and be forgotten. By contrast, in a world with God, we know that wickedness will be judged and that there is hope beyond the grave. Mankind is promised an eternity in the presence of God for all who will repent of their wickedness and trust in Jesus Christ.


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The Fate of the Wise and the Fool

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 2:12–17 (ESV)
12 So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done.
13 Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness.
14 The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them.
15 Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity.
16 For of the wise 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 dies just like the fool!
17 So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.

Understanding and Applying the Word

There are advantages to living wisely in the world. The Book of Proverbs speaks to many of those advantages. However, even with those advantages, there is an undeniable fact: the fate of the wise is no different than the fate of the fool. The wise dies just like the fool and before long, both are forgotten.

There are many things we can pursue in life to find meaning and purpose. Solomon has already shown us that some of the very things we pursue today are simply vanity. They leave us empty. The things we have seen so far include wisdom, knowledge, and pleasure. The reality of death undoes anything we hope to find lasting purpose from in this world. If there is to be any true meaning, there must be something more. Thankfully, we know that there is more because God has revealed himself through his word and through his Son, Jesus Christ. God’s word and the life and works of Jesus tell us that death is not the end and there is hope for all who trust in Christ. There is an eternity waiting and it is filled with purpose.


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We Will All Be Changed

1 Corinthians 1555–57 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Corinthians 15:50–58 (ESV)

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55 “O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We live in uncertain times. The world is in constant turmoil due to political division, economic stress, natural disasters, and the sinfulness of the human heart. It can become overwhelming if we let it. However, as Christians, we know the future is bright. The things we face today are only temporary because God has a plan in place and his plans never fail.

What is the plan God has for the future? It is the same plan that we saw in the days of Jesus. The will be resurrection and new life for all believers. The dead will rise and those who have not died will be transformed. We will be made new and ready for an eternal existence in a new heaven and new earth. When that day comes, there will be no more death because sin will be no more. The troubles of this world will be gone and we will live in the presence of our Savior forever. What a wonderful future is waiting!

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Hope in a Hopeless World

1 Thessalonians 414 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 (ESV)

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As a pastor, this passage is very familiar. It is a passage that I turn to again and again to give comfort to the grieving when a loved one has died. Paul tells us that Christians should not grieve like the world. We do not grieve as those who have no hope. This is true because we know that Christ died and rose again and has promised that all of his followers would be resurrected just as he was. There is coming a day when all believers will be together with Jesus forever. So, we may grieve when a fellow Christian has died, but we know our time apart is only temporary. We have hope.

The secular world has no hope. In a world where there is no God and no afterlife, everything is meaningless. Some try to take away the sting by saying you live for your children or to be remembered well or to leave the world a better place. However, what will all of that matter in the future when the sun has burned itself out and the earth is a cold rock? None of it will matter and none of it will be remembered. In a world without God, death marks the end of a meaningless existence. Now is all there is. Grief is all there is.

Remember Jesus and the resurrection. It changes everything and gives hope to the grieving heart.

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The Crucifixion

Wondrous Cross Quote

Reading the Word

John 19:16–30 (ESV)

16 …So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Understanding and Applying the Word

All four Gospel writers record the crucifixion of Jesus. I would encourage you to read the account of each of the four books. It is truly incredible to read what Jesus Christ endured and suffered as he was hung on a cross to die.

When we come to these passages, we must reflect on the seriousness of the matter. It is a reminder of the ugliness of our sin for it is for this reason that Jesus had to die. He went to the cross as a sacrifice for us so that we could be saved. It took the infinite worth of the blood of Christ to pay our debt. We should never treat sin as a small matter.

Christ’s death at Calvary also reminds us of how great our God loves us, despite our sin. He has gone to the greatest lengths to rescue us. The Father gave his Son for us. That is incredible to think about. Why would the Father do that? Love.

As we spend this Good Friday thinking about Jesus’ death at the cross, let it serve as a reminder of the serious nature of sin and let it also remind us of God’s great love for us.

If you are wondering why Jesus had to die, know that the Bible teaches us that all people are sinful and deserving of condemnation. There is nothing that we can offer to make up for our sin. We cannot buy forgiveness or do religious rituals or do enough good deeds. But God has done something for us. He gave his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the debt for us by going to the cross and dying as a sacrifice for us. If we repent of (turn away from) our sin and trust in what Christ has done for us (and not trust in our own merits), God promises to forgive us and give us new life. Would you do that as you think about why Jesus had to die?

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Desire Gives Birth to Sin

photo of tombstones on grass field

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

James 1:12–15 (ESV)

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Desire gives birth to sin and when sin is fully grown, it brings forth death. Sin is a serious problem. In fact, it is our greatest problem. It is why Jesus came into this world and died on a cross. He came to give us freedom from our sin and its end result, death.

So, if sin is such a huge problem, why do we treat it as such a small thing? We even put a positive spin on it when we mention that our dessert was “sinfully delicious”. The truth is we like to sin. We desire to sin, which is why James tells us our desires lure and entice us to sin. We must be aware and resist these constant temptations. We must ground ourselves in the word of God and ask him through prayer to help us to desire the things he desires. And mostly, we must repent of our sin and place our trust in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ to save us from ourselves. It is through his death and resurrection that death is defeated and that we receive eternal life.

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Walk by Faith, Not by Sight

2 Corinthians 57 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

2 Corinthians 5:6–10 (ESV)

6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Paul tells us that “while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” What exactly does he mean? First, to be at home in the body speaks of living our lives in this world. Until we die or Jesus Christ returns, we are away from our Lord and must live in this fallen world. This brings us to his second point. While we live in this fallen world, we must live by faith and not by sight. This does not mean, as some suppose, that we live according to wishful thinking and in contrast to obvious truth. Faith is not just hoping something hard enough that it becomes reality. Faith is believing in the promises of God even though they have not yet been fulfilled. The Lord has promised that one day we will be with him, so we live our lives knowing this is true.

If you are reading this, you are living in this world and still awaiting the fulfillment of the promises of God. During our time in this world, we will face many joys and trials, but we do so always knowing what the future holds for all who belong to Christ. We live out our days knowing what the word of God says and knowing that God’s word will be fulfilled. We walk by faith and not by sight.

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