Daily Update #256

Today’s reading:  Ecclesiastes 3:15-22

I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.

Ecclesiastes 3:18

Few books in the Bible are quite as incisive as Ecclesiastes. Like a surgeon’s knife, the Preacher explores life and how well, or otherwise, people are able to live. There are a few clues as to how to read passages like this. Wisdom literature is observation, so how man is seen, or compared, e.g. ‘I saw under the sun,’ verse 16 is important, it includes everything that can be seen, but not God.

The verse that most spoke to me in this passage was verse 18. Up until then the Preacher has observed wickedness where there should be justice. It seems even under reasonable expectations, man is unable to do the ‘right’ thing and see it through. Someone said the road to hell is paved with good intentions, could have been Bernard of Clairvaux, or CS Lewis, or Samuel Johnson. The Preacher makes the same observation. Compared to God, what is man’s justice like? The point is that knowing what to do and doing it are fundamental issues for all mankind. I think we all know it.

My own ‘to do’ list on Google is a mix of satisfying things that have been done. But there are also other things that keep getting bumped down the list……they seem never to get addressed. If it is important enough to make a list, why can’t I get around to it? Should it have made the list? Why is it still there? Can I delete it without feeling guilty? I think we all live a bit like that. Perhaps we take too much on, or we are unrealistic about what we can really achieve, or ignore the difficult things such tasks present. We need to recognise our limits. Which is the thrust of this passage. Tough words, but the truth is plain enough.

Verse 18, illuminates this by pointing out two things. Both are challenging.

God is testing them. When God puts something on our hearts, there is usually a reason. God knows we struggle with prioritising our lives, but can we see for ourselves what we need? He tests us and is ready when we fail. He doesn’t expect us to get it right every time. He knows what we are made of. He is willing to inspire, to guide, to comfort. To help.

They themselves are but beasts. Without God’s inspiration, we are little more than ‘naked apes,’ living and reacting like ordinary creatures. But we were not created to be natural, but to be supernatural. Expressions of the living God’s creative love, joined harmoniously with him. Can our words, our actions and our reactions then flow out of our union with God? Or will we rely on old patterns that have gotten us this far?

I wonder how that plays out in your life though, in your diary, in your to do list. Do we take even the simpler things to God? It is a big leap to commit big issues in our lives to God if we haven’t developed the habit of living with God in the little things first.

What about today? Who are you hoping to express God’s loving kindness to today? What are your good intentions that are going to remain important until they are done? And I wonder what Jesus would say, if you asked him about the ones you find hardest to do?


Lord, you created me to live in freedom.
Mostly I take this gift for granted.
Inspire me to live in the freedom you intended,
with a heart untroubled and undistracted, 
and with complete trust in you. 

Almighty God,
in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Tomorrow’s passage:  Ecclesiastes 4:1-6