Passage: Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
Death is a tragic reality that every one of us must face in a fallen world. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes is aware of this, and in Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8 he instructs us in how to live wisely in the short time we have before we die.
First, the Teacher urges us to rejoice in the gifts of life while we still can. We should rejoice in the sweet and pleasant gifts God gives for as many years as God gives us (11:8-9), and particularly so “in the days of our youth” (11:9-12:1)—that period of life where we have more capacity for enjoyment, though (sadly) less perspective. It is all the more urgent to rejoice while we can, because “the days of darkness will be many” (11:8), and because decline and old age are fast approaching.
Second, the Teacher wants us to remember that death is coming. Unlike the carefree attitude that is so often idolized today—which celebrates youth, while pushing reminders of death and aging out of view—the Teacher wants us to meditate, at length, on the inevitability of our own physical decline and death (12:1-8). Through an extended poetic meditation, we are reminded that our bodies will tire and fail, before ultimately our life ends. Though it’s sobering to think about, doing so will give us a more resilient faith, and will also make us wise.
The Teacher, then, wants us to hold these two realities in tension—the exhortation to rejoice in God’s gifts while we can, with the reminder that death is coming. It can be very difficult, however, to continue rejoicing if we believe that death is our end—and this is precisely where the gospel gives us great hope and fresh perspective. What the Teacher may have hoped for, dimly and feebly—some sort of life after death—Christians hope for with robust certainty. At the heart of our gospel message, of course, is that God triumphed over death through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and that he now offers resurrected, bodily immortality, in a new heavens and a new earth, for all who cling to Jesus in faith: “Not only has God raised the Lord, but he will also raise us up through his power” (1 Cor. 6:14).
Christians throughout the ages, then, have confessed belief in “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting”. Having this great hope transforms the way we receive the Teacher’s wisdom. We do rejoice in the gifts of God in this life—not as the best we’ll ever experience—but as forestates of the joy he is preparing for us. We can meditate deeply on our own death—but in anticipation, not in fear. And finally, we can do what the Teacher was never able to do—we can rejoice in the “days of darkness” themselves, knowing that “life and immortality” are on the way.
• Rejoice in the Gifts of Life While We Can (11:7-10)
• Remember that Death is Coming (12:1-8)
• Remember Whose We Are (12:1; 7)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage(s): Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8
Rejoice in the Gifts of Life While We Can (11:7-10)
Q) Re-read Ecclesiastes 11:7-9. What is the Teacher urging us to do? What are his reasons? Why does the Teacher focus particularly on our “youth”?
Q) In Ecclesiastes 11:8, the Teacher says that “all that comes in vanity”—that is, our life passes by so quickly. How and when have you experienced life passing by quickly? How has that made you feel, and what has it taught you?
Q) How well are you able to rejoice in the simple gifts that God gives in life? Are you able to be present and grateful in the moment, thanking God for them, or do you find yourself to be frequently distracted and ungrateful?
Q) Re-read Ecclesiastes 11:10, which tells us to “remove vexation from our heart”. “Vexation” means being bitter, frustrated, and disappointed with the realities of living in a broken world. How might we distinguish between legitimately lamenting the frustrations of our broken world, and unhealthy “vexation”?
Remember that Death is Coming (12:1-8)
Q) In the sermon, Ben mentioned some of the ways that our culture seeks to minimize thinking, experiencing, and speaking of death. Have you noticed this tendency (of avoiding meditating on death) in yourself or in people you know? What does this look like for you?
Q) Re-read Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 and meditate on these verses slowly together. Consider:
• What are you thinking and feeling as you read these verses?
• Which of the images/metaphors sticks out to you, and why? What do you think t’s meant to communicate?
• Where have you personally experienced the truths of this passage—either in your own life or in a loved one’s life?
LEADER NOTE: Don’t rush this part, but really linger over the imagery. Take the images one by one, though you don’t necessarily have to “figure out” what each one means.
Q) How frequently do you think about your own death? What thoughts come to mind when you do?
Q) What would it look like for a local church to meditate deeply together on the reality of death, and the finiteness of life? What would be the impact on its worship, its evangelism, its sense of community, etc?
Q) Re-read Ecclesiastes 12:8, which concludes the passage. In the sermon, Ben said “death is the ultimate hevel (vanity)”—that is, death undoes all of our best attempts at finding ultimate meaning in pursuits “under the sun”. What would be different in your life if you remembered this truth more frequently? Try to be as specific as possible.
Remember Whose You Are (12:1; 7)
Q) In the sermon, Ben spoke about the hope that Christians have of their own bodily resurrection. Read 1 Corinthians 15:20-25 together:
• What does this passage teach about the bodily resurrection of Christians?
• What hope does this give you?
• How does this impact the way you read and seek to obey Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8?
Q) How might the truth of the resurrection make you personally hopeful, in thinking about your own death, or the death of someone you love?
Q) What is your one main takeaway from the passage and sermon from this week? (It might be
a truth you want to cling to or remember, an attitude you want to embrace, or an action you want to take).
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.