Before diving into Ecclesiastes, here’s some assurance:
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
These last few weeks have been challenging, not the end of the world, but difficult nonetheless. We faced the trials knowing that God would be with us and his perfect plan was in action, even though we have a hard time understanding just what that plan is at times! It’s comforting to read the words of the psalmist, “I will be with him in trouble.” Thank you Lord–all glory to God in the highest!
In January of 2015, Pastor Mark Gasque led Hope Fellowship through an 11-part series titled Meaningless, Applying Meaning Through a Study of Ecclesiastes. It’s kinda funny when I think this was the first teaching series we heard after moving to Anderson. Welcome to South Carolina, everything in meaningless! We had no idea what was in store for us over the course of the past two years. Life is interesting.
Before diving in and getting completely depressed by Ecclesiastes, I had to fast-forward to Solomon’s conclusion:
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.
As we read through Ecclesiastes, it’s important to remember Solomon’s fundamental point: without God, everything we do is indeed meaningless.
I imagine that King Solomon, as the ultimate wise judge, heard it all. Reading through 1 Kings we discovered that surrounding countries were amazed at his wisdom, so they came to him to ask the toughest of questions. Rather than just dismissing them with the phrase, “believe in God you fools,” or some such rhetoric, Solomon heard their arguments and wisely provided answers for those earnestly seeking an answer. In my mind, this was one of the motivations for writing Ecclesiastes, a remarkable book that lays out all the cards on the table — all face up — no secrets.
For those who are far from God, I hope these words will encourage you to seek the truth found in the Bible. For those who are committed to Christ, I hope we will gain understanding of what it must be like to live without the assurance we have in Jesus, increase our empathy, and become a better witness. Without God, all is indeed meaningless. Here we go!
Wisdom, pleasure, folly, toil — all meaningless
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.
For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!
What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 2:22-23
I’ve read through a handful of books on Christian Apologetics which explore the arguments for the existence of God to encourage the atheist or agnostic to consider such philosophical ideas. If I were to embrace a worldview in which God does not exist, I can imagine reading Ecclesiastes and nodding in complete agreement. It’s easy to move toward moral relativism if there is no centerpiece.
Ecclesiastes challenges us to consider what a world would look like without God. There is much wisdom in the words here. I still hear the song by the Byrds playing in my head, Turn! Turn! Turn!, that uses the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart;
yet no one can fathom
what God has done
from beginning to end.
No one can fathom, but all can observe and see the beauty that God was placed before us. We are curious beings, bent on asking questions and filling our minds with lofty thoughts. We’re wired to question everything. Solomon feeds that hunger with words that entice us, the invite us to partake. The song, Beautiful Things, has been playing in my mind all morning. Lord, you make beautiful things out of dust–an amazing thought.
The featured image for this post is that of a banquet hall for a feast, tables and chairs with white linen are set anticipating a great party. The door is open for those who would choose to venture in, there are plenty of seats. Lord, help us to learn through your words here, to gain understanding and insight into the hearts that are far from you so we can be the ambassadors of Christ you have called us to be.