I have had some thoughts from Ecclesiastes stirring in my heart and mind the past two days since Annie and I had the chance to participate in Brett and Jen’s small group study on Sunday Night. Every now and then I seem to come back around to this mysterious little book and discover it like new all over again. If you have never read it, I would encourage a full sit-down read sometime. Taking a couple of weeks to go verse-by-verse can be good, but we must not neglect to read the whole or we run the danger of dividing a meaningful journey into hard to discern little visits.
Have you ever felt like we spend a lot of our life looking for something that we cannot quite put our hands on, and are not even sure how to describe. It is like a child going from box to box at Christmas looking for THE gift, but the box never quite has what he was looking for. We may call it satisfaction, but then we never really know whether we are satisfied and quickly long for something else, something more, something exciting, something different, something permananent. We open box after box, hoping to find the gift to end all gifts, the key that will unlock the meaning to everything else in life. We eagerly open the box of a new relationship. We look for it in productive work. We search for it vigorously in health and long life. We expect to find it in significance or honor. We open the gift of knowledge and wisdom. We hope for it in justice. And we thirst for it in celebration, but it is always so elusive. The emotion fades or the lover dies. The wealth and production of work causes worry, and produce spoils before we can consume it or is left to those who follow after to enjoy. The disease breaks forth uncontrollably despite the best efforts of doctors. The fifteen minutes of fame and honor are followed by an eternity of forgetfulness and the trophies of accomplishment tarnish with each passing day. The knowledge and wisdom we do gain only serve to awaken us to how little we actually know and we despair because of what we do. The righteous often suffer and the wicked prosper, and the cry for justice can never satisfy our own guilty soul. This is life under the sun and Ecclesiastes reminds us that our search for that which will end all searching isn’t to end in acquiring any one of these. It’s not there; the box is empty. It is a vanity of vanities…a chasing after the wind.
The power of Ecclesiastes is that the writer is not quick to rescue us from this despair. He works harder and harder to underscore it and make it more palpable and real with every line and chapter, offering only a mall concession here and there that things are not as bad as they could be. Even in the end we are not so sure we are glad to have taken the journey in verse, because for all the artful display of the inherent meaninglessness of every aspect of life, we are left with a seemingly terse instruction.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll try to be more positive. To be continued…