Monday, October 1, 2012

Of living dogs and dead lions

Ecclesiastes 9:4

But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.

As a general rule, lions are cooler than dogs.  They are stronger, mightier, kingier of the jungler, manier, growlier, etc...  In a fight, smart money is always on the lion.

Dogs at the time of the writing of this proverb were not as they are now.  They did not have clothes or hotels or prescription medication or psychologists or special doctors.  They were scavengers, cast aways, mangy, street-dwelling, grifters.  To place it more in context, think of a raccoon.  Wild, untamed, hungry, and not something with which you want your child to play.

Dogs represent the lowly.  Lions represent the regal.  If there was a metaphor to be applied to the loftiest aspirations of man, lion-type language would be ascribed.  If there was a metaphor to be applied to the most despised, dirtbagged, depravities of man, dog-type language would be ascribed.

Dogs represent despair.  Lions represent pride.

Even so, those who are alive are better off as dogs than to be a dead, useless lion.  Dogs have the opportunity to be blessed by God, to know Him, to love Him, to worship, to serve, to be alive.  For all that lions are and represent, the defining characteristic of a dead lion is not his "lionness" but his "deadness."  Dog or lion is less meaningful a quality than dead or alive.  Whatever you are or where or hope to become will never be more defining than your being alive or dead.

The Good News is that dogs, though depraved, may be seen as lions through rebirth.  One who is alive in Christ, even though a dog, is better than one who is dead, even though a lion.  In this life, lions may devour dogs daily, but again the dominating characteristic is not doggedness or lionness, but aliveness or deadness.  A living peasant rules more than a dead king.  It is better to be a living fool than a dead professor.  It is better to be a living whore than a dead virgin.  It is better to be a living murderer than a dead pacifist. 

If God grants you the ability to see your sin in poverty, foolishness, perversity, hate, etc... and in so doing makes possible your dependence on His righteousness for you, it is a far better position than to be convinced of your own goodness in riches, wisdom, morality, niceties, etc... and in so doing reject the provision and gift of God in Christ in order to rely on your self-made and hard-earned righteousness.

The Good News is that we can be defined by what has been done for us rather than what we have done.

Living is an adjective granted.  Dead is an adjective earned.

1 comment:

  1. i never read this verse in terms of being alive in christ - insightful!