Life is meaningful! Today we depart from the lectionary after more than a year and start to delve into the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. It feels a bit like going out of the frying pan and into the fire! This oft-ignored book, nestling in the middle of the Old Testament, within the section referred to as ‘wisdom books’, seems to be very negative. Perhaps it echoes the temperament of many weighed down by the long period of lockdown we are experiencing. But the book shows that the Bible and God himself, recognise true feelings we have, and allows us to be honest and truthful to him and ourselves. Yet if we read on, and realise what he has in store for us, we can face life with confidence.
Everything is meaningless
1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem:
2 ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.’
3 What do people gain from all their labours
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains for ever.
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.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
‘Look! This is something new’?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.
The author is either Solomon, or someone who wants us to believe he is. Solomon was the king of Israel who was the internationally recognised wisest man. He had everything, and yet study of the Bible and his supposed words here, do not make him someone to be envied. On the face of it, life is meaningless, we toil and overall, it doesn’t seem to amount to much. The word ‘meaningless’ used could be translated as ‘emptiness’, or something transitory and unsatisfactory. If you want to believe this teacher, as he describes himself (verse 1), our efforts count for nothing. These are real feelings we sometimes have, yet we need to hold on to our faith. Jesus did not advocate this philosophy. He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10.
So, any doubts we have, should be the classrooms of learning to drive us to God to receive the answers we need to reach a new level of faith.
Like the book of Job, we need to read on and not stop here. So, as we start to swim in the deep waters of these challenging scriptures in the weeks ahead, let us keep our eyes on our eternal lifeguard, Jesus. Amen
You know how I feel today, allow me to see you and your saving power in my circumstances and my life. Reveal to us the rich treasures of a fulfilled life in you and help us to be a light to those around us, to bring the truth of your gospel to those we meet. In your precious name, Jesus.