Ecclesiastes 9:1-5. 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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 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.
Just when we thought that the Teacher couldn’t get any more depressing. He continues to question life and meaning, but now the argument shifts to questioning God himself. Yes, God is sovereign, and everything is in his hand, but is the hand of God the hand of love or the hand of hate? – Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him.
The Teacher is asking us to join him as he questions life and death itself. His premise is that death is evil because everyone dies. Not just the wicked people, but even the righteous. It is the same for all. Good or evil. Clean or unclean. Sacrificer or withholder. But also, everyone is evil. And mad. Crazy mad, not angry mad. And then they all die. Oh…and are forgotten forever.
Even when the Teacher seems to offer hope – He who is joined to the living has hope – it’s just a sarcastic trap. It’s better to be living than dead – a living dog is better than a dead lion – but only because being alive lets you think about dying – For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing.
The Teacher’s argument in Ecclesiastes has reached its lowest point. The great equalizer, death itself, forces us to ask if God himself is love or hate? Yes, everyone is in the hand of God, but is this a comforting thought or a terrifying thought? Can we trust God or not?
The Teacher is asking the right question. He’s just not offering the final answer. For that we must look to the cross. At the cross we find Jesus the lion being crucified as a dog. Facing not only the inevitability of death for us, but also the evil of death for us.
Remember, the Teacher perceived that death is evil because even the righteous die. But the truth is that there has only been one righteous death in all of history. Only One who was good not evil. Clean not unclean. A sacrificer not a withholder. Only One whose death therefore was evil. And yet only One whose death was the ultimate good. Jesus Christ’s death in our place paid for all of the evil done under the sun. He suffered our same event, death, so that we might experience his same event, resurrection, glorification, exaltation!
And now, as we gaze upon the cross of Christ we find the answer to the Teacher’s question – Is the hand of God love or hate? Now we know the answer without a doubt. We know that the hand of God is love, for the hands of God bear the scars of our evil, our sin, our death. We know that the hand of God is love, for the cross has shown us that even God’s hatred of our sin, results in everlasting love for us.
Do you question God’s love for you today? Like the Teacher, are you asking if the suffering that we all face each day is God’s hatred or God’s love?
Look beyond the crisis to the cross. Look to the life of Jesus offered for you. Join your life with the Living and find hope. Look to your union with Christ and know that you will never be forgotten. Trust the death of Christ with all your heart and know that “to live is Christ.”
Does your crisis cause you to question whether God loves you or hates you?
You in Christ
How does the cross and knowing that you are in Christ allow you to trust that God loves you?
Christ in you
How can you display the hope of God’s love to a dying world today?
Playlist: The Love of God.
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