Ecclesiastes 101

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Again, while reading through Ecclesiastes over the past week, I wanted to share some very basic (101-type) lessons that come from this book of wisdom. Although these lessons sound like they are a 101 level college course on life, I think in reality, these are deep levels that touch the life of pilgrims who are walking with limps, bumps, and bruises.

The broad scope of this book encourages my heart, not in the way that life is going to get better, but that God is better.

Life is often “unfair” as we experience in so many ways (ourselves or as we see life in general) a lack of justice.

Ecclesiastes helps us understand that life comes with ups and downs — these ups and downs are normal (yet we don’t want them to be or even deny it). The Teacher helps us keep an eternal perspective without having all the answers. Without having all the answers is where “the rub is.”

Three powerful (and challenging) lessons that help pilgrims with navigating the messiness of life by having this perspective…

  • 1. Life is messy
  • Ecclesiastes is honest about life being messy and the questions that messiness causes. The key, repeated, word throughout is the Hebrew term hebel (“steam, vapor, smoke”). Our English bibles translate this as “vanity” or “meaningless,” but the idea is more of something fleeting – “there one moment and gone the next.” As the Teacher explores all the avenues available to him, he quickly reaches the conclusion that there are no formulas that give us certainty. In this earthly life, there are no guarantees. Well-thought plans, yes even those, can be washed away by the next wave.

    Life in this fallen world, warped by sin, is messy. God help me to realize this, to gain your eternal perspective, because you are the God who untangles the mess in the end!

  • 2. We are finite, but God isn’t
  • The first part (me being finite) can be unsettling, but the second part (God isn’t finite) is hopeful!

    In the mess, there is one constant — God. Everything else is fleeting, but God isn’t. In fact, the Teacher notes that God has set the patterns and times in place in order to help us realize that He is eternal and in control (and we are not). Therefore, my hope rests in God’s eternal character and in His promise to set things right again one day (like stated in 3:17).

    My soul needs to hear this everyday: the power and nature of God are responding appropriately to the mess!

  • 3. Lasting meaning only can be found in and through relationship with God
  • Lasting value and meaning are only possible through a relationship with our eternal Lord. We were created to be in awe of our Creator and to love and glorify our Redeemer. My focus has to be on tending to my side of this relationship! Not fixing the mess, but cultivating awe in God and living for him in fear, through obedience that comes from a heart of love for Him.

    When we walk through suffering, there are a few verses that jump out from chapter…and drives this last point home for me.

    “Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies–so the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.” (7:2-3).

    Grief from the messes that surround us and press in on us, have a refining influence on us! Sorrow brings us into a place of deep fellowship with God.

    No more surface level talks, its about the hard stuff, driving us to acknowledge God in the mess as we “go through deep waters, [He] will be with [us]. When [we] go through rivers of difficulty, [we] will not drown. When [we] walk through the fire of oppression, [we] will not be burned up; the flames will not consume [us]” (Isaiah 43:2).

    The mess is one thing, but God walking with me through the mess makes all the difference in the world!

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