Amazing this world we are in. We are all visitors here, passers by to the next life. I just learnt of the sudden demise of a close friend! It has become a reality, sisi ni wageni hapa!
I love the book of Ecclesiastes, see the introduction:
Eccl.1.1 – These are the words of the Quester, David’s son and king in Jerusalem: 2 – Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.] There’s nothing to anything–it’s all smoke. 3 – What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone? 4 – One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes–it’s business as usual for old planet earth.
This Book, Ecclesiastes amuses me though. That is, when it isn’t making me totally depressed! Let’s put it this way – Ecclesiastes may not be the book to read when you’re already having a bad day.
The best-known verse in the Book of Ecclesiastes is probably: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (1:2). “Vanity” is the typical English translation of the Hebrew word hebel, which literally means “vapor” or “breath.” The word is used 86 times in the entire Bible to describe the fleeting and even futile nature of life. The Good News Bible (not known for its technical accuracy, but pretty good at capturing the “gist” of things) even goes so far as to translate the verse this way: “It is useless, useless. Life is useless, all useless.”
“Vanity of vanities,” lamented Solomon, “all is vanity!” Solomon used the word “vanity” 38 times in Ecclesiastes as he wrote about life “under the sun.” The word means “emptiness,” “futility,” “vapor”; “that which vanishes quickly and leaves nothing behind.” From the human point of view, life (“under the sun”) does often appear futile; and it is easy for us to get pessimistic. But we should not mistake brutal honesty with pessimism.
Ecclesiastes is the kind of book a person would write near the end of life, reflecting on life’s experiences and the painful lessons learned. Solomon wrote Proverbs from the viewpoint of a wise teacher, and Song of Songs from the viewpoint of a royal lover, but when he wrote Ecclesiastes, he called himself “the Preacher.”
But how do I live this life? If all is meaningless!!
Words related to joy are enjoy, rejoice, etc., are used at least 17 times in Ecclesiastes. Solomon does not say, eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die!” Instead, he advises us to trust God and enjoy what we do have rather than complain about what we don’t have. He is saying to us – life is short and life is difficult, so make the most of it while we can.
Solomon initially opened with three bleak observations: 1). Nothing is really changed; 2). Nothing is really new; 3). and Nothing is understood. After experimenting and investigating life under the sun, he initially concluded, life is nothing but “vanity of vanity!” He gave himself four arguments to support his conclusion: that life is nothing but vanity of vanity;
1. The monotony of life; Uniformity or lack of variation in pitch, intonation, or inflection. 2. Tedious sameness or repetitiousness: the monotonyof daily routine. [Greek monotoniā, from monotonos, monotonous; see monotonous.]
2. The vanity of wisdom; Eccl.1.16 – I said to myself, “I know more and I’m wiser than anyone before me in Jerusalem. I’ve stockpiled wisdom and knowledge.” 17 – What I’ve finally concluded is that so-called wisdom and knowledge are mindless and witless- nothing but spitting into the wind. 18 – Much learning earns you much trouble. The more you know, the more you hurt. But there is an exception to this statement, the knowledge of Jesus has no negative side effects whatsoever. We are told to be filled with all his fullness.
3. The futility of wealth; Eccl.5.10 – The one who loves money is never satisfied with money, Nor the one who loves wealth with big profits. More smoke. And,
4. The certainty of death. Eccl.5.13 – Here’s a piece of bad luck I’ve seen happen: A man hoards far more wealth than is good for him. 14 – And then loses it all in a bad business deal. He fathered a child but hasn’t a cent left to give him. 15 – He arrived naked from the womb of his mother; He’ll leave in the same condition–with nothing. 16 – This is bad luck, for sure–naked he came, naked he went. So what was the point of working for a salary of smoke? 17 – All for a miserable life spent in the dark?
But we bless the name of the Lord for sacrificing his only son Jesus Christ, to make things easier for us all. Grace is sufficient. Halleluyah.
Solomon being a wise man, meditated on chapters 3 to 10, reviewing his arguments and this time brings God into the picture. What a difference it makes for him by re-examining each of these impressions more carefully. He realized that life was not monotonous, but filled with challenging situations from God, each in its own time and each for its own purpose. He also learned that wealth could be enjoyed and employed to the glory of God. And man’s wisdom and knowledge could not explain everything!
Live by God. Let Go and let God.
Solomon concluded that it was better to follow God’s wisdom and knowledge, than to practice man’s folly. And as for the certainty of death, there is no way to escape it!
Examining more of these verses ought to motivate us to enjoy life now and make the most of the opportunities God gives us. So he asks his listeners to look up , look within, look ahead , and
look around , and take into consideration time, eternity, suffering and death. These four factors God uses to keep our lives from becoming monotonous and meaningless.
4 Important pictures of life:
In his final conclusion and personal application, Solomon then presents four pictures of life and attaches to each picture a practical admonition for his readers to heed:
- Life is an ADVENTURE; live it by faith.
- Life is a GIFT; enjoy it gracefully.
- Life is a SCHOOL; learn your lessons diligently.
- Life is a STEWARDSHIP; fear God always.
These four pictures parallel the four arguments that Solomon had wrestled with throughout the book: Life is not monotonous; rather, it is an adventure of faith that is anything but predictable or tedious. Yes, death is certain, but life is a gift from God and He wants us to enjoy it. Are there questions we can’t answer and problems we can’t solve? Don’t despair. God teaches us His truth as we advance in “the school of life,” and He will give us wisdom enough to make sensible decisions. Finally, as far as wealth is concerned, all of life is a stewardship from God; and one day He will call us to give an account. Therefore, “fear God, and keep His commandments.”
Here we have practical advice about life from one of the wisest, richest, most powerful men to have ever lived. His insights about life, money, values, and ordering one’s personal priorities are priceless: Ecclesiastes is a rewarding guidebook to the reader, you and me who looks behind the initial impressions to find the wisdom this remarkable man gleaned from his unique career.
Cling on Jesus, our Savior and you will be safe from the vanishing winds; the troubles of the world. Only Jesus can do what no man can do.