Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Eccl 9:7
Death is the great equalizer. It is the same for all, the good and the sinner both die. It happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice (9:2). The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing (9:5). In light of the reality of the inevitability and finality of death, with rather unusual urgency, Qoheleht, ‘the Preacher’ of Ecclesiastes, exhorts his audience to live life to the fullest (see 9:7-10). He has recommended enjoyment before (2:24-26, 3:12-13, 22, 5:18-20, 8:15) and will do so again (11:7-9), but never quite like he does here in this passage, using imperatives and in such vehement terms.
We must realize that it has always been God’s plan for His people to enjoy life. In the beginning, God created all things and gave them to mankind to enjoy. Eating, drinking, marriage and worshipful service were among the gifts given to humanity; but sin ruined all of this. After the fall, men could only eat and drink “by sweat,” strife and dominance plagued marriage, and “toil” ending in death replaced a joyful life of worship. By grace God brought His chosen people into a land where they could enjoy some of the blessings of paradise restored – pleasant food and drink, joy in marriage and family, and satisfaction in work. However, because of Israel’s sin, they were driven into exile where they yearned for many of the surrendered joys they had while they were in the land. By grace, a remnant returned, and God promised that He would “create new heavens and a new earth, wherein His people would be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. … no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit … and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands (Is 65:17-21).
In chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes Qoheleth is merely exhorting us to live in a manner in which God had always intended us to live. Yes, death is inevitable; yes, relationships are beleaguered with difficulties; yes, food and drink are abused; and yes, work is difficult in this life. As slaves had to stand at the table to serve and could not enjoy fellowship with those at the banquet, humanity is born into a life of sickness, hostility, and hard labor; but in Christ, we are redeemed; we are no longer slaves to the elementary laws of this life. As a ransomed people, set free, we are not only invited to the King’s banquet, but can recline at the table, enjoy the food, drink, and the company. Such is your birthright as sons of the King. You are, in a sense, called to enjoy your best life now.
So is Joel Osteen correct? Is this life our best life? Of course not! As John Macarthur observed, the only people who are living their best life now, are those who will spend eternity in hell. If you are a Christian your best life is not now, it is most assuredly later when you see Christ face to face in your renewed body; but does that mean that you cannot enjoy your best life, now? Qoheleth would exhort even command us to!