Verses 8 and 9 seem a little weird: what’s the problem with adding houses to houses to fill all the space, and God judges them? What he’s saying is that all our accumulations and hoarding is meaningless, and ultimately valueless. The things we think are so important can be taken away quickly and easily. It is better to invest in what moth and rust can’t corrupt and what thieves can’t break in and steal. That’s what Jesus said later, because we put our focus and energies into what won’t last, ignoring what will. We’re trading the world for our souls. God doesn’t have to make sure that it backfires on us—that will happen all by itself. Even the land, which we consider to be somewhat invincible, can be poisoned, made toxic, or rendered useless and ruined. You may think, “I might lose my house, but the land will always be there.” But even the land is perishable. Later we’ll be told that even gold, which doesn’t corrupt, doesn’t have the worth of faith. The point is that there are things we think are always reliable and stable in this life, but there aren’t. We must learn to value what is truly valuable.
Verse 11: “Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. Again here’s the problem: We’re supposed to rise early in the morning to seek the Lord (Ps. 63.1). Jesus rose early in the morning to go to a quiet place to pray (Mk. 1.35). In the morning we are supposed to impress on our children the commands of the Lord when we get up (Dt. 6.7). What kind of sadness, emptiness, or depravity goes for the bottle first thing in the morning? Only a life without hope, trying to escape, or trapped in a cycle of addiction—a sad state of affairs when the alternative—living a life walking with the Lord—was right at hand.
But it’s not like they’re lazy, cheap, or deprived. They want good music and are willing to pay for it (v. 12). They have time to arrange for the entertainment. They want good wine and are willing to pay for it. There are many good things in this life, and it’s not as if we can’t have any of them. But when they distract us from the Lord and cause us to disregard and disrespect him, we are in the wrong (Mt. 6.25-34).
13: Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding. So you see, there is no excuse. The people have been taught and warned. They have had examples and time to make changes, to repent—to shape up and fly right. But their lack of response condemns them. Knowing human nature, they will blame others, but they have no one to blame but themselves. Everyone will be affected: the rich and poor, educated and uneducated—no matter what your status, job, or reputation.
14: Therefore death will expand its jaws. Sounds like a snake, doesn’t it? In 1 Pet. 5.8, Satan is like a lion seeking whom he may devour. In Gn. 4.7, sin is like an animal desiring to have you. Satan, death, and sin—all animals wanting to destroy us. Death is like a serpent and can swallow things bigger than itself. Its bite is poisonous and lethal.