Search the Scriptures: Ecclesiastes
Life “under the sun” is depressing (Ecclesiastes 1:3,9,14). When life is seen in an earthbound way, with nothing above and beyond it, there is no hope, no glimmer of light. The preacher is not saying that this is the only way we can look at life. He is saying that this way of thinking about life is a dead-end street. He is inviting us to see the meaninglessness of a life that is no more than life “under the sun.” He shows us the hopelessness of life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:17,20,22). We can never be satisfied by life “under the sun.” There is always a sense of something more. This dissatisfaction, this longing for something more, comes from God: “He has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 4:1,3) offers nothing to those who are searching for a real sense of meaning, purpose and direction.There is an emptiness at the heart of life “under the sun.” Attempting to find something more, through our own efforts, is a never-ending task, a fruitless exercise – “trying to catch the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6,8). We need more than life “under the sun.”. We need life in the Son. We need the One who came from above – Jesus Christ, our Saviour. He alone can bring something different into our life. He brings something lasting – eternal life (1 John 5:11-12). As we read Ecclesiastes in the context of the whole of Scripture, our thoughts turn towards another life, a better life – life in the Son. This is a life that is filled with glorious, heavenly, eternal hope. Without God, life is hopeless.With Him, life becomes hopeful. By placing before us these two very different ways of life – life without God and life with God, Ecclesiastes invites us to choose. We are to choose life – the life that comes from above, the abundant life, which is the gift of God’s grace to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ (John 10:10). When we receive life in the Son, our life is transformed. It is transformed by the life of Christ – new life, eternal life.
The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the books of Wisdom. Much of it reads like the wisdom of the writer, as he reflects on his life. There is, however, another dimension in this book. There is God. We are encouraged to see our life in the light of God: “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). The call to “fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7) lies at the heart of this book. This is more than human wisdom. This is the wisdom that comes from above. It’s the wisdom of God. This wisdom comes to us from divine revelation. True wisdom always recognizes that God is at the centre of life. There are times when this book seems to be the writer’s own practical philosophy of life. Sometimes, it seems like God isn’t in his thoughts. In chapter 6, God is only mentioned in verse 2. We should not, however, ignore the fact that he recognizes the reality of God. It is one thing to mention God only occasionally. It is something else when we ignore Him altogether. The fact that Ecclesiastes (the Preacher) does not have ready-made answers for every question does not mean that he is not listening for the word of the Lord. It does mean that he recognizes that the answers lie with the Lord – not with ourselves. This is what he means when he says, “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Our wisdom is limited. Sometimes, we are wise – but we are not always wise. True wisdom comes from God. As we seek Him, we find that He gives His wisdom to us. It comes to us in and through Christ, who is “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). As we look at our life, we are to “consider what God has done” (Ecclesiastes 7:13). When we look at the good things in our lives, we must not forget to say,”this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19). True wisdom is given to us when we recognize that God is the living God, the God who has done great things for us, the God of our salvation. Recognizing that He is the living God, the God of revelation, doesn’t mean that we’ll understand everything. Throughout our life on earth, there will be matters which are beyond our understanding. We must be content to put our trust in the Lord, with this simple confession of faith: “As for God – His way is perfect.” This is the point the Preacher makes in Ecclesiastes 8:16-17. This is a call for humility. It’s based on the fact that only God understands all things. We must learn to content ourselves with trusting in His wisdom, even when we don’t understand all that He’s doing.
* As we learn to trust Him, He teaches us that the quality of our life – learning to live according to His purpose for us – is more important that the quantity of our years – living for a long time without really understanding what our life is all about, without coming to know the true joy that He alone can give to us (Ecclesiastes 5:3-6).
* As we learn to trust the Lord, He teaches us that “patience is better than pride” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). We learn to stop acting like we know it all. He teaches us to say, “God loves me. He knows what’s best for me. He will not fail me – even when I fail Him. He gives me His peace and His joy – even when I don’t really understand much of what’s going on in my life.”
* When we are learning to walk with God, He teaches us that it’s better to seek God-centred holiness – “God made mankind upright” – rather than self-centred happiness – “men have gone in search of many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:19).
* As we seek to put the Lord first in our lives, He teaches us that His way, for us, is not the way of seeking “power” for ourselves (Ecclesiastes 8:4,8). We’re not to assert ourselves – ‘I did it my way.’ We’re to submit to Him – “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
The Lord is leading us beyond our own human “power” to achieve our human ambitions. He’s showing us His way. As we walk in His way, we learn that there’s a greater power – the power of the Holy Spirit. His power is at work in us – to give us a real sense of meaning, purpose and direction: less of ourselves and more of the Lord.
We are to “pay more attention to calm words from wise people” (Ecclesiastes 9:17). This combination of calmness and wisdom is highlighted also in James – “the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure. Then it is peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good deeds, impartial and sincere.” This description of wisdom is followed by these words of comment: “A harvest that has God’s approval comes from the peace planted by peacemakers” (James 3:17-18). In Ecclesiastes 10:2, the wise person and the fool are contrasted – “A wise person’s heart leads the right way. The heart of a fool leads the wrong way.” At the heart of the call to wisdom, there is the call to remember our Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1-6). How are we to remember our Creator? – “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
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