this summer, Whether holding a Kindle version or the book, Sanctuary will draw your imagination to enter the time-lost, South Georgia town of Shiloh and walk alongside newcomers Theo and Liddy Phillips seeking solely to retire near their country roots. But, God reveals other plans for them before they can kick back and relax on their porch. god uses Happenstance as the harbinger of past secrets, surfacing in the present through unexpected providential encounters.
This is the crux of why Sanctuary has become a must read for “all audiences” this summer.
Go, eat your bread with pleasure, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for God has already accepted your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and never let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days. For that is your portion in life and in your struggle under the sun. Whatever your hands find to do, do with [all] your strength, because there is no work, planning, knowledge, or wisdom in Sheol where you are going. Eccl 9:7-10 (HCSB)
Sheol to the Hebrews, especially in days of Solomon, represented the destination for the dead – both the wicked and the righteous. God reigned as Lord over Sheol and the dead could be ransomed from the grave where darkness and nothingness swallowed all hope. However, we are encouraged to realize that God knows the condition of our heart, soul and mind so intimately our future destiny is pre-determined.
Because of God’s omniscience, we are encouraged to rejoice during our present lifetime. Celebrate in our limited days anticipating our future destiny. We are either celebrating the expectant joy of being ransomed by God into his dwelling place, or condemned to eternal darkness and separation from God. Either way, celebrate now while you can. Take joy in our marriage, our family, and even our career. Take nothing for granted and embrace every opportunity to enjoy life’s pleasures. Not an excuse for hedonistic pleasure but a plea to not waste the gift of life in the present, because no one knows when their life will end. Our destiny is in God’s hands, whether for good or bad.
Since the days of Jesus, mankind has learned God’s message of love, mercy and justice. Jesus revealed God’s will, ways, and wisdom alone – and not our will, ways or wisdom – offers eternal life with him to all who acknowledge this fact. Sheol has no hold on us in the present; we have the ever-present God, our heavenly Father, as shared and exemplified by Jesus.
We certainly have good reason to celebrate life to the fullest, enjoying to the fullest the light of his way, truth and life.
Was Solomon saved? I don’t know, but you can know about your destiny…
There is a sickening tragedy I have seen under the sun: wealth kept by its owner to his harm. That wealth was lost in a bad venture, so when he fathered a son, he was empty-handed. As he came from his mother’s womb, so he will go again, naked as he came; he will take nothing for his efforts that he can carry in his hands. This too is a sickening tragedy: exactly as he comes, so he will go. What does he gain who struggles for the wind? What is more, he eats in darkness all his days, with much sorrow, sickness, and anger. Eccl 5:13-17 (HCSB)
In ancient Egypt the great pharaohs entered elaborate, ornate tombs, known to us as the pyramids. Their carefully preserved bodies entered these pyramids with their worldly wealth and even a few unfortunate servants to meet their ongoing needs in death. They believed the afterlife offered a reward for the righteous. If their heart arrived without sin, they would be able to continue in the lifestyle they had enjoyed on earth. However, grave robbers, archaeologists and museums testify a different reality. What does this revelation tell us about trying to build great storehouses of treasures in this lifetime as we prepare for the end of our days? Have we learned anything over the centuries?
Not the first newborn has ever arrived into this world sporting a diamond ring or toting a purse of gold from out of the womb. As our passage declares, we enter this world naked and empty handed, just as we will also exit this world. Then why does man work so feverishly at pursuing riches in this lifetime? Why hoard wealth? What does having more money than you can spend in a lifetime mean in the big scheme of things?
Fact: the top 5% of society controls 80% of all the wealth of the world. The pyramid schematic to reflect the direction of the “distribution of wealth” is a very shallow pyramid. 95% of the population scrambles daily for the remaining 20% of all the world’s wealth as the top 5% seek to swell their control on even more wealth. Wealth seems to defy gravity and flows inward and upward, not outward and downward. What actually trickles down is a pittance of what pours upward.
Outside of a fancier coffin, does our fate with death change the fact that our wealth accumulated in this world, whether little or much, is inevitably left behind for others to squander and squirrel away? The real tragedy though lies in how focused we humans have become upon material things, yet how futile that pursuit actually fits into the big picture, the grand purpose of one’s lifetime.
For those who trust God’s will, ways, and wisdom there is hope for something far more precious than treasures valued on this earth. It is truly the “something” that one can take with them beyond the grave; a personal relationship with the Lord of life, temporal and eternal. The Lord promises us in this temporal life there may be various trials and tribulations, but in good times and in bad he will be there and will make sure our needs are met in this lifetime. Our Creator knows what we truly need, and what we are responsible enough to care for properly. Wealth and our accumulation of it is not evil, but the lustful pursuit of it is! When our passion for valuing relationships with others and God succumbs to our growing lust for accumulating wealth and status in this lifetime then evil hardens and invades our heart. God certainly blesses some people with wealth but they have a heart for the need of others and they use their wealth and its influence in a manner that pleases the Lord; their generosity inspires, not conspires.
In the stories of the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, or Frank Capra’s Its a Wonderful Life this message resonates. Maybe thats why we are inspired year in and year out to watch them. The stories of Ebeneezer Scrooge and George Bailey remind us of the price we can pay when we forget “as we come, so we will go” in this lifetime, but redemption lies within a genuine change of heart.
I also observed under the sun: there is wickedness at the place of judgment and there is wickedness at the place of righteousness. I said to myself, “God will judge the righteous and the wicked, since there is a time for every activity and every work.” I said to myself, “This happens concerning people, so that God may test them and they may see for themselves that they are like animals.” For the fate of people and the fate of animals is the same. As one dies, so dies the other; they all have the same breath. People have no advantage over animals, for everything is futile. All are going to the same place; all come from dust, and all return to dust. Who knows if the spirit of people rises upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth? I have seen that there is nothing better than for a person to enjoy his activities, because that is his reward. For who can enable him to see what will happen after he dies? Eccl 3:16-22 (HCSB)
The question at the end of this passage reveals the difference of those who know God and those facing death alone. Outside of faith, is it possible for anyone to factually know for certain what happens after death. Certainly there is a lot of speculation and there’s been much research since Socrates poisoned himself in the pursuit of the truth about death.
Are we unlike the animals, who we believe are born and eventually die in some simplistic, beneficial cycle of life on earth? Can we dismiss their death so casually as if God does not care about the animals he created? How can we truly know what happens to animals after death? As the Teacher in the passage above proclaims, mankind shares the same breath of life, and death arrives to man and beast when that same shared breath ceases to sustain life in either man or beast.
The Teacher reveals the futility of understanding death beyond this life. He, like so many today, reckons what he does not know for certain does not affect him. Life now is all that matters. There is no understanding beyond this life.
However, if that were so, what would be the purpose of living rightly in this life?
When we choose to live life guided solely by our own limited understanding and wisdom, we espouse the philosophy of hedonism, the pursuit of self-serving pleasure as life’s main motivation.
However, if that was true, then why don’t the animals reflect the same motivation in their lives, if there really is no difference between man and beast? Animals are instinctive in their life choices.They will defend themselves to preserve their life and they will even put their own lives at risk to protect the lives of their offspring, but what they fight to preserve is their present right to life. Man however is more than an instinctive, reactive thinker as he or she makes choices in this life. Man is endowed with a conscience revealing what are good or bad choices. As a result, there are times when our life choices reveal our life motivation transcends mere survival instincts like the animals. Man recognizes their connection to God and this temporal life maybe finite, but the life that God created for us is eternal and mortal death merely is the divide between the two.
On the other hand, what happens for certain to animals beyond death, only God knows that answer? We have no gained no insight from God on the matter. Yet, we have received plenty of firsthand assurances from God about the prospects of our future beyond death. Even long before the days of the biblical testimony man believed a time of judgment between the wicked and the righteous awaited all of mankind. But, throughout history the struggle has been in defining what about our life makes us righteous before God. Is it our heritage or bloodline? Is it our deemed righteousness or wickedness a personal, a family, or a communal accountability before God? The biblical testimony declares that we all will stand individually before God, accountable for our own life choices. Those who live in denial that there will be such an accounting for our righteous and wicked choices by God seem to prefer to believe there exists no difference between man and the animals beyond the grave. Sadly, there is a difference. Animals made their instinctive choices in life because that’s how God made them, but man was created with a conscience by God to rationalize and dream to direct his or her life choices.
Therefore, I believe when we seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom, not selectively seeking what appeals and dismissing the rest, then little doubt should remain as to how we should strive to live this life, impacting our life choices that are rooted in the belief God awaits beyond the grave.
Thank you Lord God for the heritage of your word entrenched in the biblical testimony, because it clearly guides us in the making right life choices in this lifetime to realize your blessing on that day when all of us will humbly stand before you.