Day 158

Standard

Ecclesiastes 1:12-6:12

Nick Bonsall, Worship Team

A Matter of Perspective

What if the wisest, richest, most powerful man in the world told you that all of your life’s work—your achievements at your job, your financial portfolio, your effort poured into raising your children—was meaningless; that it was “vanity?” Would you believe him? Or would your desire to clobber him overshadow any thoughts regarding his believability? And not only your best efforts in productivity and philanthropy, but your pleasures, hobbies, and leisure as well? All meaningless; all dust blowing away in the wind. Would you receive the news well?
Most biblical scholars attribute the writing of Ecclesiastes to Solomon. Solomon was exceedingly rich in terms of material wealth. He was also extremely wise. If it could be had or experienced, Solomon could pay for it, and if it had power in the hearts and minds of men, Solomon could apply useful understanding to it through his wisdom. Yet for all of this, the man was unhappy and unsatisfied. In his experiences and observations, he saw injustice, oppression, toil, waste, and death all over the place. He saw the things that men did, are, and have–the good and the bad of it all. And he saw that no matter what, eventually it all blew away and the grave opened up to swallow the little that was left behind. Solomon is rich, yet not comforted; wise, yet sorrowful. He wants more than the vanity of the temporary things he sees filling the earth. In chapter 3, verse 11, Solomon gives a clue as to where his (and perhaps our own) vexation comes from. He says, “He also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” I usually find that the most frustration in my walk with God occurs when I do one of two things: try to prove my spirituality to God through toil, or try to figure out what God is doing and why He’s doing it.
“He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…” Do you ever feel like something is missing? Something you can’t quite positively identify, yet at the same time is something that seems so familiar? Like a word you can’t quite find to complete a thought, or perhaps a dream, half-remembered in the morning and barely a footnote of thought by noon. We are longing for something. We reach for it in our efforts to attain peace or seek adventure. There will be peace, and adventure, and beauty, and love and life beyond anything we could hope or ask for, yet what the longing is for is not just any one of those things. If I had to wrap it up in a word…well, I suppose “home” is the best I could do. Home unlike any you have known in this world. It will be the place you have been made for “before the foundation of the world,” and not merely that which you have labored to make into your space of comfort.
In chapter 3, verse 17, it is written, “God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed.” Even for all of the vanity, injustice, pointless toil and death seen by the writer, there is recognition of the truth that God is over everything and will someday shine the light of His purifying fire on all that has happened under the sun from the beginning of time. God shall have the last word—and it will be heard by all.

Advertisements

5 responses »

  1. Thank you for your devotional on this section of the Scripture. You completely capture what Solomon was trying to say and apply it to each of us.

  2. Thank you Nick for a great devotional today.

    Within todays reading is a verse that I was lead to when I came to EAC for the first time (that wasn’t a wedding or a funeral) in 31 years. I sat in the pew and took a bible from it’s spot in front of me and it fell open to this page and this is what I read.

    Ecclesiastes 2:11(NIV)
    Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
    everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun.

    I was so moved by this verse, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I know God was speaking to me through it in a way that I had never experienced before. I had just learned a life lesson.
    I had held my fathers hand as he took his final breath on this earth and felt him lift his paralyzed arm (and mine) up to the heavens much like a child raising their hands to be picked up. The lesson came after, when I witnessed the out pouring of love and support that had come to my mother from the congregation. Every day there were phone calls, dozens of cards with long hand written messages of love, caring and support, food… so much food. This went on for weeks. These were the people I had run from 31 years prior and spent my life ridiculing for hypocrisy, never recognizing or acknowledging my own. I still considered myself a Christian, a believer.
    I had worked all my adult life building my career as a builder, climbing every ladder in front of me and rising above all those around me into roles of leadership every where I worked. I was highly respected by subordinates, peers, superiors, vendors, business owners and clients. I literally had thousands of highly honorable relationships. I called upon God when I needed Him and never denied being a believer but He was definitely not the focal point of my life.
    I had picked on my parents in the past for their faithfulness and tithing to the church, saying that your wasting your time on people that will never be there for you.
    My lesson came to me when through my fathers passing, I received 1 sympathy card from a coworker. 2 came to his wake. This verse hit home!!! How could I have been so wrong? My life was meaningless, all I had done to that point meant nothing to me. I knew from that moment, where I needed to be and that the Lord would be my Shepherd from that day forward. No turning back.
    It was a painful lesson but one that I needed.
    Thank you Lord.

  3. I see sparks of hope in Ecclesiastes. If you take a little weight off the term “vanity”, if instead of frowning when you say the word you just grin ruefully, it seems that Solomon is saying something more like “Don’t try to understand everything God has done and is doing: you won’t be able to. But you can enjoy what you’re doing in the here and now.” A recurring phrase in Ecclesiastes is “Eat, drink, and enjoy your labor” — not because “tomorrow we die”, but because this is the gift of God. What we build won’t last forever, and will pass on to someone else when we die (or be destroyed), but we can enjoy it now as God’s blessing and let Him deal with the future. But if you try to control everything, if you try to be eternal on your own… well, that effort is going to be pretty frustrating, kind of like chasing the wind. “Vanity”, as Solomon put it.

  4. “Everything I wanted I took – I never said no to myself. I gave in to every impulse, held back nothing. …but when I looked, I saw nothing but smoke.” – Eccl. 2:10-11

    When lighting a campfire, it’s a good sign when you see smoke…for it means flames are not far behind. But in life, having smoke as the result of your life’s work is a poor reward, and extremely disappointing. Solomon took “everything I wanted”…but in the end, it was not fulfilling. The apostle Paul said only three things last in life:

    “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” -1 Cor. 13:13

    This helps me boil down my priorities in life when I find myself striving after “things”.
    1. Is it faithful? (God-honoring)
    2. Is it hope-producing?
    3. Is it loving?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s