“Even if he should live a thousand years two times over, but goodness he has not seen, is it not to one place that every man goes?”
No human being that has ever walked the face of the earth has ever made it to his thousandth birthday…none. Methuselah was the oldest recorded living man at 969 years with Adam “close” behind at 930 years, but no one hit 1000. And so, Solomon’s point is driven home — even if one were to live as long as Methuselah and then live that lifetime all over again, but has not enjoyed goodness which comes from God and a proper understanding of the works of our hands, his life was not worth living. He will go to the same spot as that stillborn baby.
There are two ways to apply this. The first would be to highlight the hyperbole that Solomon is making and illustrate the fact that no matter how many good works you do, no matter how many children you father (or mother), and no matter how much wealth you accumulate, you return naked to the grave and your corpse will return to dust. You cannot merit God’s favor, even if you had two-thousand years to do so (or, as Abraham ibn Ezra, the medieval Jewish commentator renders it… a thousand times a thousand years). Yet, this idea we have previously explored as we have worked through Solomon’s text, so we will leave this one as it stands.
The second way to apply this is to look at the text in its more literal application. Though no human being has ever lived 1,000 (let alone 2,000) years on the earth, we must remember that humans are immortal. Thus, in a real sense, one can talk about those who have “lived” (in the broadest sense of the term) for thousands of years. When one dies, his spirit goes either into the presence of God or the presence of Satan based and this anticipates a resurrection to life and a resurrection to death that will take place at the second-coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The believers will be resurrected to glorified bodies and the blessedness of life-eternal in God’s perfect presence. Unbelievers will be resurrected to bodies of death that will be able to sustain the eternal torments of Hell — always dying but never eternally dead or annihilated.
And, in this latter case, we can talk confidently of those who dwell for ages, even millennia but who experience no goodness. And Solomon’s words echo back to us that this too is not worth living…it is a waste from the perspective of the one living that life. Truly, in God’s economy, there is no such thing as a truly wasted life, for even the wicked who will be under the wrath of God are so punished as a demonstration of God’s power (Romans 9:22-23).
John Piper wrote a book a few years back, entitled: Don’t Waste Your Life. Solomon’s response to this idea would be to say to us that if we live our lives devoid of the goodness of God, then our life is truly amongst the things we have wasted.