Monday, August 11, 2008

Ecclesiastes 1

I wanted to take a break from the gospels for a couple of reasons. First, I like having a break because it allows me to approach each one from a fresh perspective. Second, I felt called to go back to the Old Testament and wrote on the book of Ecclesiastes. I don’t think I am alone when I say that I feel this book relates to me. It is a book that asks some tough questions. It’s a cynical book, one in which the author is not afraid to talk about the doubts he was struggling with when it comes to faith. Many of these doubts are the same ones I have experienced.

Doubt is a natural part of life. I think even those that have been the strongest pillars of faith, such as Abraham, have gone through periods of deep doubt. This doesn’t make us terrible people. It shows our humanity. Lately I have gone through a period where I have felt that a number of things are meaningless. I have let it consume me, which is a dangerous thing to do. When it consumes us we lose sight of God. Ironically, it is losing sight of God that causes us to feel that things are meaningless.

3 What does man gain from all his labor
at which he toils under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,

but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,

and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south

and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course. – Ecclesiastes 1:3-6

It is easy to feel meaningless. We’re all born, and we’re all going to eventually die. Sadly, it is an immutable truth. The cycles here represent humanity’s desire for something more. We always want more money, more power, more prestige. When we look for more of the things of this world we find that they are empty. We cannot take them with us, so they ultimately mean nothing. This is where we must rise above the wants and needs of this world and keep our focus on God. In God, we have the only thing that gives our lives meaning and purpose.

12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
15 What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I thought to myself, "Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge." 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. – Ecclesiastes 1:12-16

Once again the author is making the point that apart from God, life is meaningless. It is believed that king Solomon was the author of this book. He was famous for asking for wisdom above all other gifts from God. If this was Solomon, he realized that even such a powerful gift as wisdom is meaningless. It pales in the face of the awesome power of God. We will see that the central theme of this book is that God makes all things on this earth seem trivial to the point where we have no choice but to trust in him. That is where we find true value.

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