“Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4).
What Solomon is saying sounds nothing like what the world teaches. The world teaches us that we deserve to be happy all of the time. However, Solomon says “Surely oppression destroys a wise man’s reason” (Ecclesiastes 7:7). This is because the Lord doesn’t want us to trust in our own capabilities. Instead, He wants us to trust in Him. God knows that when everything is going well and we are experiencing nothing but pleasure, we tend to forget our need for Him just like the Israelites did when they entered the promised land. Therefore, the Lord uses oppression in this world to draw people toward Him as we saw Him do in the Judges Era, and as He continues to do throughout the entire story, even today. Solomon explains how the Lord is sovereign over both our pleasure and pain:
- “Consider the work of God; for who can make straight what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him” (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14).
The Lord desires for His people to walk by faith, trusting that He is good and His word is true, and He often uses pain and suffering to teach His people. At the end of the Israelites’ forty years of wandering in the wilderness, Moses said to the people – “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).
Moses warned the people not to forget the Lord or His word when they enter the promised land and become prosperous – “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end— then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth’” (Deuteronomy 8-11-17).
“And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:18-20).
Solomon, like Moses, also exhorts us to fear the Lord and walk in His ways so that it will go well for us – “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God” (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13).
The Lord saved the Israelites out of Egypt and trained them in the wilderness to walk in His ways so that they would be set apart as His people. The Lord desires His children to live lives of hope in Him so that we might shine brightly in this dark world, drawing others into the light — into a relationship with Jesus Christ. God does not promise us a life without pain and trouble, but He does promise to be with us through the struggle just as He was with the Israelites through their difficult journey in the wilderness before He brought them into the promised land. And God also promises to bring us into a better land, the land of the living as David wrote about in his psalm – “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13).
As Charles Spurgeon said, “In this land of the dying, it is our blessedness to be looking and longing for our fair portion in the land of the living, whence the goodness of God has banished the wickedness of man, and where holy spirits charm with their society those persecuted saints who were vilified and despised among men. We must believe to see, not see to believe; we must wait the appointed time, and stay our souls hunger with foretastes of the Lord’s eternal goodness which shall soon be our feast and our song.”
Tomorrow concludes the Kingdom Era and we begin the Divided Kingdom Era, so keep reading. (Ecclesiastes 7:1-11:6)