Ecclesiastes is a book about extraordinary things that everybody knows to be true. That is why people consider it to be a difficult book. We all have strong ideas about what ought to happen in this world. And those ideas are so strong in our minds that we constantly try to deny the facts.
But these things clearly are facts, although we do not like them. We think that good people deserve better lives. But that does not happen in this world. Here, there are clear benefits for people who choose to behave in a wicked manner. It is those wicked people who often seem to have better lives.
We need to understand what people mean by Ďa better lifeí. Most people use that phrase to mean health, wealth and happiness. People desire health and wealth so that they can be happy. But although many people are rich and healthy, they are still not happy. So clearly, happiness is what matters most in peopleís opinions.
And people express their happiness most strongly when they are at parties. They eat the best food. They drink plenty of wine. They laugh and they sing. This is the kind of behaviour that the author warned about in Ecclesiastes 7:1-6. There, he was warning people not to carry out such foolish behaviour. They were neglecting the fact that they must die. They were not preparing for the day when God will be their judge.
But here in Ecclesiastes 8:17, the author is explaining what good people deserve. He realises that nobody is completely good (Ecclesiastes 7:20). So, he means people who respect God (Ecclesiastes 8:12). Such people understand that God will be their judge. So they behave in a serious manner (Ecclesiastes 7:3).
Such good people may seem sad. But they have every reason to be very happy! They deserve to know constant joy! The author describes this as a party, as Jesus did in Luke 15:22-25.
Sometimes people ask whether the author intended to give advice in Ecclesiastes 8:15. If so, we must ask for whom he intended that advice. Clearly, he was not telling wicked people to enjoy their lives. He did not believe that wicked people should enjoy any good thing.
We know that Ecclesiastes 8:15 does not contain the authorís advice to foolish people. In Ecclesiastes 7:1-6, he advised them to stop their parties. They should be serious. They should think about the fact that they must die.
But, of course, the author is not advising good people to behave like fools! The person who behaves like a fool soon becomes a fool himself.
In this world, Godís people must be serious and sensible. That is necessary because there are so many wrong things here. Now their happiness is just for a few special occasions. And wicked people have parties while good people suffer (see Mark 6:21-28). In very many matters, this world is the opposite of what God desires.
But it will be different in the future world, where God rules. None of Godís people will be sad in heaven (Revelation 21:3-4). Heaven is like a wonderful party (Luke 14:15-24). But wicked people cannot go there (Revelation 22:15), although now, on earth, Godís invitation is for everyone (Revelation 22:17).
Please use the links at the top of the page to find our other articles in this series. You can download all our articles if you go to the download page for our free 450 page course book.
© 2014, Keith Simons.