Rats, Beasts, and Jesus
A few weeks ago, I fired up the grill for the first time this year. As I wheeled the grill from its winter hiding place along the fence line, a rat screeched and sprinted frantically across my backyard. My black lab, Zoe, sprang into action and chased down the rat, killing it just before it made it to freedom. Zoe is not so young anymore herself, and she, too, will die in the next few years. Suffering and death are just part of this life. My mom has cancer. And our church just held two funerals in three days. Both in nature and in humanity, death is all around us and it often seems unfair. In today’s text, we see that Solomon wrestled with some of the same things we do every day.
- Think about a specific time in your life that felt unfair. How did God use that to point you to him?
Read the Word
Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 (ESV)
16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. 19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward, and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?
- In what two places did Solomon find wickedness in verse 16? How did he then move so quickly to trusting in God in verse 17? What is your go-to response when you encounter sin and injustice?
- Reread verse 18. We are often guilty of wanting justice for others but mercy for ourselves. To what level are you aware of the ways in which you’re currently struggling to obey God?
- Only humans are made in the image of God, which makes us distinct from animals. In what ways are humans and animals the same? What is the inevitable end of both humans and animals? (vss. 19-20)
- Solomon expressed similar confusion and exasperation at the prospect of death, especially after a life that often seemed unfair (vss. 21-22). How do his questions ultimately point us to our need for Jesus? Think specifically about the last question in verse 22.
Respond to God
It is easy to echo Solomon’s frustration in his search for justice. Yet, I wonder if we are quick to look at our own lives as a source of that injustice? When Solomon called us beasts (vs. 18), he was faithfully pointing out sin, our sin, as the ultimate cause of injustice.
Since death will one day come to us all, we need to allow the confusion and hurt of this life to point us to the Savior who secures a home for us with him forever in the next life. “Who can bring him to see what will be after him?” Only Jesus can!
- Thank God for sending Jesus to save us from injustice, sin, confusion, and death.
- Ask God to help you remember the temporary nature of this world and to live on mission accordingly.