Friday, December 16, 2011

Meaning In The Seemingly Meaningless - A look at Ecclesiastes.

At some point, I don't remember when, I wrote a post about people ignoring certain books of the Bible. It seems like horny people read Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs, if the translators didn't want us to get the wrong impression of a dude with 700 wives). Sometimes I wonder if the book of Esther was inspired by God just because He knew, in his Omniscience, it would become the perfect topic for women's Bible studies.

And then there's Ecclesiastes. What a bummer, right? Depending on your translation, you may have been shocked to find the Bible calling everything "meaningless".

Whoa, wait. Everything?

Well, Solomon (the Teacher, or Preacher, again depending on your translation), talks about the futility of man's pursuits on earth. We're born, we die. We try to educate ourselves and end up with more questions than answers. We seek pleasure, but keep enduring pain. We work hard, but our work crumbles over time. All we gain we leave behind when we die.

When it comes to God and His purposes, the text takes a very different tone. 3:14 says, "I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before Him." In 5:1-6, we learn that God alone should be taken seriously and has the power to destroy the work of our hands.

While it may seem like Solomon's mood would kill a party in this book, he actually encourages the opposite. Verse 5:18 says, "Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot."

My feelings toward Ecclesiastes have changed during the last two years. I used to ignore that book because I didn't expect to get much from a guy saying, "Ah, what's the point?" But now I think this is the big statement of the book - People get too caught up in all the wrong stuff. They worry and work themselves to death for meaningless reasons. If God's efforts are all that will endure, then shouldn't our focus turn to what He is doing and then join in His work? If we have the proper perspective by putting our trust in God despite the hardships, frustrations, sin, and death around us, won't we look at the things in our life differently?

I think God wanted this book in the Bible because it teaches an extremely important lesson many Christians need to hear. At the end of the book, in 7:14, we're told, "In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him."

Did you catch that? God has made good times and hard times. When things are good, people thank Him. When times are hard, people call Him mean. But He has purpose for everything, He is in control, and He wants you to both enjoy and consider your life.

1 comment:

Joe Martino said...

I think the transverse of your argument can be made. (I missed that you responded to me on the thread). You say this.
Proposition A= Good things happen, people take credit, but bad things happen and people "call God mean." Poor God.
I'd argue that many Calvinist and other religious people do the opposite.
Proposition B= Good things happen, we must praise God because He is in control of all things. God gave me a car, praise God! God is so good. Bad things happen, you can't ascribe that to God, that's Satan. You were raped and your child was murdered, well get over it because God is going to use that to make you more like Jesus and besides you're not all that good anyhow.
An interesting thought out of this is that the "there are no good people" argument is usually born out of Romans 3, which says there is none righteous. We seem to be the ones to equate good and righteous even though the text does not.