“Delighting in God’s Word leads us to delight in God, and delight in God drives away fear.” David Jeremiah
Scripture & Devotion: Scriptural focus: Ecclesiastes 9:1-4
So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him. All share a common destiny – the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good man, so it is with the sinner; as it is with those who take oaths, so it is with those who refuse to take them…The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. Anyone who is among the living has hope…
I am not someone who can stay up very late, even if I have a good reason to do so, such as celebrating on New Year’s Eve or being at a women’s retreat. At a few minutes to ten, like clockwork, the yawning begins. Last night, however, I had been watching a television show that did not end until 11:00, so I switched on the Eugene news and became immediately engrossed in the story of an incident captured on a convenience store’s security cameras. A young black man coming out of the store with his purchases was accosted by a complete stranger, a white man on a bicycle, who proceeded to harass and threaten him. The cyclist threw down his bike and pursued the young man, who dropped his groceries and fled back into the store. At this point, a white bystander intervened, pushing the attacker out of the store and yelling for him to leave, which he did. The man then helped comfort the visibly-shaken victim, insisting on walking home with him to make sure that he got there safely. Then he left a note behind saying how sorry he was that this had happened and offering the man his friendship and support.
The story concluded with a reporter from the television station interviewing the two men. The white man commented that he had tended to think hate crimes happened elsewhere, not in his own community, until he witnessed one firsthand. The young black man, holding his rescuer’s note out to the reporter, said that he was grateful to God that out of this very frightening experience, he had gained a new friend. Then the two men hugged each other. What a powerful testimony!
When I was approached about continuing to write these scripture reflections, I was somehow drawn to the book of Ecclesiastes, although I really didn’t know why. At that time, the COVID crisis was in full swing, but the tragic incidents of the past few weeks that have resulted in increasing racial, social, and political tensions in our country had not yet occurred. In studying this Old Testament book again, I have been continually astounded at the ways in which this scripture, written so long ago and for a people a world away, has such an immediate and relevant application to the specific time and place in which we live.
I am sure that the young man in the aforementioned news story was completely shocked at being the victim of such an unprovoked attack. Yet, it is true in a sense that, every time we leave our homes and go out into the world to accomplish our daily tasks, “no man knows whether love or hate awaits him.” In recent weeks, we have seen more than our share of “evil and the madness in people’s hearts.” Solomon’s main point in this scripture is that all people share the same destiny: everyone, whether righteous or wicked, will die someday, and once death comes, there is no longer an opportunity to make better choices. But, he reminds us, while there is life, there is still hope.
The challenge that this passage holds for me is to recognize and remind myself that, even though I am a professing Christian who desires and attempts to live a Godly life, I am not so very different from those who have chosen other paths. If it were not for the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ, we would all be headed to the same place, a place without hope of rescue. Jesus has intervened for our sake, protecting us from attack and offering to accompany us throughout life’s journey until we come to the place that is truly, eternally safe, a home with him in glory. May we continue to trust, even in this conflict-ridden and fear-filled time in our history, that God’s love is stronger than anything and that his power will prevail.
We are grateful for the promise of your very presence with us in all that we face. Thank You that Your love is strong and never-ending.