Same Time, Same Station

For he sees that even wise people die; the foolish and the stupid alike perish and leave their wealth to others.  Psalm 49:10  NASB

Alike – “because the wise man, just like the fool, is not remembered forever; for, as the succeeding days roll by, both are forgotten.  Alas, the wise man dies, just like the fool” (Ecclesiastes 2:16 JPS).  “What advantage then has the wise man over the fool, what advantage the pauper who knows how to get on in life?” (Ecclesiastes 6:8  JPS).

Looks to me as if Kohelet borrowed some thoughts from the sons of Korah. 

The problem with living is the equality in dying.  All our pretentious standards, all our posturing, acquiring, self-serving are for nought.  She’ol swallows it all.  The psalm captures this trauma, this “great evil” as Kohelet says later, with the word yāḥad.  Actually, it’s not a bad word.  It typically means “to be united, to be joined.”  It’s the word for community, togetherness and (in a derivative) an only son, like Isaac.  But, of course, context contributes.  The sons of Korah see that this rather positive word has a flip-side.  We are all gathered together in another way—death.  In the end, it ends.

If the sons of Korah are right (and it’s hard to see how they could be wrong), then the real question about life isn’t, “Where will I go after I die?”  Assuring my eventual eternal home is a hope, not an observable fact.  [And, by the way, the most significant conclusion about the resurrection of Yeshua is not forgiveness of sin.  It’s the observable fact that there is life after death.]  From a strictly empirical point of view, the view of the sons of Korah and the author of Ecclesiastes, what matters is what I do while I am living.  What happens afterward is, until Yeshua, unknown.  Death might make us allyāḥad, but life doesn’t. 

That’s where the positive side of yāḥad comes into play.  Being human is being connected.  The sons of Korah point out that we’re connected at the end, but the real question is, “Are we connected in the middle?”  We arrive alone.  We leave alone.  But we don’t have to be alone in the in-between.  In fact, even God noticed that it isn’t good to be alone.  Unfortunately, it seems that most of us spend a lot of our valuable time in the in-between trying to protect our isolation.  We build more fences than bridges.  We live in self-constructed castles with moats.  And then we wonder what’s the point if we all end up together at the end.  Maybe the point of reflecting on the community of the dead is to push us out of our protective walls and connect now, when there’s still time.  What was it that Paul Tournier said about being human?  Oh, yes, “We think that by being cautious we are protecting life, whereas we are slowly smothering it.”[1]  “We become fully conscious only of what we are able to express to someone else.”[2]

“Grace is given drop by drop.”[3]

Topical Index: death, community, yāḥad, Ecclesiastes 2:16, Ecclesiastes 6:8, Psalm 49:10

[1] Paul Tournier, The Meaning of Persons, p. 211.

[2] Ibid., p. 17.

[3] Ibid., p. 172.

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Richard Bridgan

Those who have “the life,” the life freely given from the very depth of God’s grace, find no need to hoard that given so freely, because love is a persuasive ambassador of the freedom it conveys.

The freedom of God’s grace displayed though his profound love is seen in the ‘prosopon’—the very ‘face’ and form and enacted role—of Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord.

“For from his fullness we have all received (freely and fully), grace in place of grace.” (John 1:16)