Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy your life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. (Eccl. 9:7-10)
It is all about focus. Younger people often focus on the future while neglecting the present as they think about what life will be like in five, ten, or even twenty years. Older people are often amused by how these young people are unable to enjoy the present because of their future focus. Older people have the opposite problem as many of them dwell on what is often called the good ole’ days. The problem for both groups is their failure for enjoying the present gifts of God. Often when I watch television, I hear the catch phrase, “We are living in unprecedented times.” People are focused on the future when they can leave their homes without the fear of contracting the Coronavirus. Let us be reminded that this is the day the Lord has made, and we should rejoice in it regardless of the dangers around us. We will look at Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 as we consider how to live our life during these unprecedented times.
Ecclesiastes was written by the one who is often identified as the preacher within the book. The preacher is King Solomon and he lived during a time of unprecedented peace unlike his father David who such a man of war God left the building of the magnificent temple to Solomon. The book of Ecclesiastes portrays the king as an observer of life as he sees people living out their lives within the covenant community. He sees much of life as folly and in at the end of his book he informs the reader what really matters when he writes, “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.” Throughout the book, the preacher has many carpe diem, seize the day, statements that would benefit us if we were to heed them. In other words, we live in an unprecedented time where the temptation is to live for yesterday or tomorrow, but not today. We must reject this tendency and live for the glory of God today.
Find Happiness in the Sustenance God Provides
The author mentions three areas of life we should find happiness and he begins with what we eat and drink. Many people have an unhealthy relationship with food as it becomes a coping mechanism for what they are going through in life. Also, there is a tendency for us to eat our food and drink our beverages in a mindless way as we watch television. So much so, we forget to enjoy it as we eat through bags of chips, popcorn, 1.25-1.5-quart containers of ice cream, or whatever we choose to eat. Even if we do sit at a dining table with others, we rush through it without savoring the flavor of the foods. When was the last time you took your time and really enjoyed the flavor of a meal? In this passage, the author says, “eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with merry heart.” He does not want his people to eat without joy, but every bite should lead to their happiness.
Is it wrong to find happiness in food and drink? Absolutely not, because it is a gift from the Lord. When we eat our food, we should thank the one who prepared it for us, but above all things we should praise the Lord for his provision that sustains and grants to us happiness. Solomon does not find his pleasure only in the food but in God who gives. It is obviously wrong for a creature to worship the creation rather than the Creator, but the believer can worship God as he eats and drinks. Think about this point for a moment. The very next time you put food in your mouth, it can become worship as you glorify God by enjoying what he has given you to eat.
Also notice the phrase, “God has already approved what you do.” I think within the context of this book it means God does not want you to live devoid of happiness. He wants you to enjoy your life because it is temporary. Think about it in this way. We glorify God when we truly find happiness in his provision. A giver of a gift finds greater delight when the recipient truly finds joy in the gift. The Christian should have more happiness and delight over a meal than a nonbeliever because she knows who has provided the meal. When Solomon says clothing should be white and oil on the face it is a statement of a joyful life. The opposite of white clothing is the darkness of sackcloth and ashes representing one who is mourning in crisis. Mourning was always temporary in the Old Testament as the day arrived when the dark clothing was cast aside for clean garments. I think this has a current context as well. There are a lot of things we are not permitted to do in this current hour, but can we joyfully receive our food and drink? Worship is not just what we do at church on Sunday morning, but it is a decision we do everyday in response to God’s daily provision. The Lord’s Prayer includes God’s provision of our sustenance and our appropriate response to it.
Find Happiness in the Relationships God Provides
Solomon instructs the reader to enjoy life while that remains a possibility. He does not say to enjoy it when everything is going your way, but this should be a general practice among God’s people. Life is precious and short so we should enjoy it while we still have it. Some people are not finding much joy in life and certainly our lives have changed a lot recently, but does that mean we cannot find joy? Paul was content with his life and wrote these words to the Philippian church while he was under house arrest, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. . .I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” A few observations from this Philippian passage comes to mind. First, Paul’s rejoicing is focused on the Lord and not outward circumstances. In other words, we should still be thankful and joyful if we are focused on the Lord regardless of what is going on in our world and lives. Second, Paul knows that life is full of mountains and valleys of circumstances, but God never changes. Third, Paul understands God is his source of strength and not outward circumstances or help by others.
Christianity is certainly about relationships as we think about God’s relationship with us as he created us to be the children of God. We also think about our relationships with one another as we are brothers and sisters. All of us are created to have a variety of relationships with others and this time has made it increasingly difficult to draw near to others, but it should cause us to reflect and be thankful for those relationships. Solomon tells husbands to enjoy life with their beloved wives. One thing is for certain, married people will have great difficulty enjoying life if they do not love their spouses. Once again, your spouse is a gift from God for which you should be thankful and should lead to joy in this life. Once again, the danger is when we elevate these relationships to a level of idolatry. We do not love the gift more than the giver of the gift. God is to be loved and worshiped above our spouse. We, of course, understand that if we love God like we should then it is more likely we will love our spouse the way we should. Oh, Christian, think about all the wonderful relationships God has given to you throughout your life. I attempt to say this with sensitivity, because I know many have lost their spouses through death already, but God should still be praised as you think about the years God gave you with your beloved. There is also hope as you know there is an approaching day when you will be reunited with your loved one. It is to this point, that he uses the word “vain.” Life is vain not because it is pointless but because it is temporary. He is saying to enjoy your life and wife before death arrives.
Find Happiness in the Work God Provides
I hear people complain often about their jobs and how they cannot wait to retire. The only problem with this desire is that God created us to find delight in work. Work is not a result of the Fall but a call of God in creation. Do you believe Adam awoke in the mornings hating the fact that he had to tend to the Garden and had to name the animals? Certainly not, the temptation to not delight in work occurred after the Fall. We should find happiness at our tasks we perform in this life and sometimes it is not until they are taken from us that we finally see how important they are to us. I have heard of many retirees who wish they were able to go back to work after they discovered its importance in their lives.
In this passage we learn of work as being temporary as he instructs his hearers to toil with all their might. He obviously is referring to daily work the laborer is to perform, and he also states that the ceasing of work will be brought on my death, and not an announcement of retirement. When we become older, we still need to labor although we may need to slow down. Just as the text says concerning work, “whatever your hand finds to do,” which means it does not need to be a 9-5 job but something. As Christians, we should also remember that God has given to us a large task we are to be a part of working for his Kingdom. The Great Commission calls us to proclaim the gospel to our lost and spiritually dead world, and Jesus even instructs us to pray that God would send our workers in the field. I do not know about you, but there is great joy seeing a spiritually dead person being raised to life by the power of the gospel of our great Lord Jesus.
In conclusion, our lives have been changed over the past few weeks, but we should delight in God and the gifts he has given to us. So often, we can become unthankful and stressed because of what is going on around us, but isn’t God greater than our circumstances? Hebrews 13:15 reminds us of our delight as believers, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” This praise is not lessened because of our circumstances but emboldened because of our circumstances.
To God be the Glory!
Pastor Steven Lookabaugh has been our pastor since 2016 and is passionate about proclaiming the gospel of God through the weekly exposition of God’s Word; believing application is possible when one understands the historical/cultural meaning of the text. He leads our church in fulfilling our purpose toward the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, and to the Great Commandment as we seek to love one another. He has a Doctor of Ministry degree in Expository Preaching from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with an emphasis on parabolic exposition. He is married to Jennifer and they have three children, Andrew, Kate and Olivia.