“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.
One of the things we talk a lot about in church circles is the authority of scripture—that it is given by God and is designed to instruct us in every area of life. One of the terms that we use when we speak of why the scriptures are authoritative is the term “inerrant.” But I have found that while we often throw that term around, a lot of times, people aren’t entirely sure what the term means.
To be “inerrant” means far more than something has no errors in it. When I was in school, I regularly had “error-free” mathematics tests; when I was in seminary, many of my Hebrew vocabulary tests were found to be “error-free,” but none of these were inerrant. The word inerrant means not only that something has no errors, but that it is incapable of making an error. The Oxford American Dictionary defines “inerrant” as “incapable of being wrong.” One writer described the inerrancy of the scriptures in this way: “They are exempt from the liability to mistake.”
So why do we ascribe such a nature to the scriptures? To begin with, they are God’s word, and if God is incapable of making a mistake, then his word also must be incapable of making a mistake—remembering that those who wrote down God’s word were “moved along by the Spirit” as a ship is blown by the wind filling its sails (2 Peter 1:21). In the language of the Apostle Paul, scripture is exhaled by God (2 Timothy 3:16) and thus is the source of all training and guidance for the believer. These are God’s words and not man’s and thus we ought to expect them to carry the authority and attributes of God’s character and not man’s character.
It is granted that there are many these days that doubt the inerrancy of scripture. For some, it is a plain matter of unbelief. For others it is misinformation or not having studied the evidence. For others it is the fear that if one acknowledges these words to be the inerrant word of God then one must submit one’s life to scripture’s authority and demands, and such is true. Regardless of the reason that people doubt, Scripture has withstood every test and challenge that has been leveled at it.
There is one other thing that is worth noting about such a book as we have. Not only are the scriptures our only guide for faith and life, but they are the only book to guide us as we go to our deaths. The Bible shows us Jesus Christ, our need for him as a redeemer, and his promise that if we trust in him in life, confessing him with our lips and believing in him in our hearts, he will confess us before the Father and guarantee us eternal life in paradise. For the one who is facing death, this is the kind of knowledge that brings peace and enables them to leave this world with grace and not fear. It is no wonder that the Scriptures are what most people ask to have read to them on their deathbeds, and not Shakespeare or Coleridge. The Bible is the one book that transcends death because it was written by a God who died and rose again—promising that he would do the same for us.
“And you, being dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive together with him, forgiving us all trespasses.”
“And yet God demonstrates his own agape love to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
(Romans 5:8 )
We who have nothing to bring to the table, we who have no righteousness of our own, we who stand guilty in our sin, we who stand as gentiles without the law, we who deserve God’s wrath and the fires of hell, it is for us that Christ died. We initiated rebellion; God initiated restoration. We sinned; Christ bore the punishment for our sins. We have hated and despised the good and righteous law of God; Christ has loved us with a sacrificial love that loves regardless of whether that love is reciprocated and has fulfilled the law on our behalf. In the fall, we rejected the earthly paradise that God has prepared; Christ prepares for us a heavenly paradise that cannot be spoiled. Beloved, what more can I say? Jesus did it all, how is it that we so often do not feel a compulsion to honor him with all of our beings in our worship and our lives? How is it that we as believers so often live for ourselves? Loved ones, give all of your life to Christ, holding nothing in reserve. You cannot hope to pay him back for what he has done, but oh, how you can glorify him as you live out your lives in this world!
And when, before the throne,
I stand in him complete,
‘Jesus died my soul to save,’
my lips shall still repeat.
Jesus paid it all,
All to him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.