A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Last night I attended the funeral of a dear friend. As I sat there quietly meditating prior to the service the above scriptures entered into my thoughts. Initially it seems strange that the first half of verse one states, “A good name is better than precious ointment;”. Upon reflection though, the meaning becomes clear. These verses are discussing that event which we all must give way to; we all have an appointment with our own death.
What type of name will we leave behind?
Our demise is inevitable. There is no postponing of it, nor rescheduling. Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
It is appointed, fixed and established; there will come a moment when you and I will step over into eternity. The enormity of this concept is mostly lost to us in this temporal realm where the immediacy of the moment so captivates and overwhelms our sensibilities. However, we must consider eternity- a point from which there is no return, an everlasting finality where once our position in it is set, it will never be altered.
God knows this.
He has complete understanding of the concept of eternity. He has no lack of understanding time. He resides outside of time, as He created time itself. And because of this knowledge and His love for us, He sends us warning. God uses death which entered into the world with sin to remind us of the temporary position we occupy. So He had Solomon the wisest king render for us the reminder; “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart”.
The house of mourning (bayith `ebel). A cursory look at Strong’s tells us that bayith can be defined as ‘house, dwelling habitation’, and `ebel can mean mourning for the ‘dead, or rites of mourning’; or in modern terminology- a funeral. Here is wisdom. God is reminding us at funerals that we too have an appointment with eternity and with this knowledge we should be shaken from our denial and refusal to admit our own mortality.
Thanks be to God it works at times and for some.
However, upon further consideration of these particular scriptures, I have come to conclude that there may be a more immediate and longer lasting application if we will see it. Strong’s states that bayith and `ebel have alternate definitions as well, consider:
bayith,‘inwards, temple, human body’ and `ebel, ‘mourning garb, period of mourning’, this I find interesting because without changing the meaning of the aforementioned discussion I can say that Solomon could be saying that we should be the house of mourning.
We are told that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of God abides within us, and that our time here is temporary. Let’s look at the scripture again.
“A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”
A good name… Mark 10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. So it would stand to reason to truly have a good name one must serve the Lord.
It is better to go to… better than laughter…the heart is made better…
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Space does not allow me to mention the many hundreds of verses throughout scripture that relate to this theme, if we mourn God will comfort us. But further it is not simply the act of mourning, but more to the point what we are mourning over. God draws us to repentance and Godly sorrow, over our sins. With the conviction of the Holy Spirit he brings us to mourning our own sinfulness. The closer we draw to Him the more we mourn our own foulness before Him. And in this we find redemption and this comforts us. It is during times of ease and fullness (house of laughter) where we find the danger of being distracted from the will of God.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning;
Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
Lord, let us ever be mindful to remember that our days are indeed, numbered.