Friday 11th February 2000
Epistle to The Cyberchurch
To my dearest beloved,
I just learned that layman believers do not retire from their secular jobs. They "re-tyre". They get a new set of wheels, so that they can do kingdom work. Happy Re-tyrement, Burt! I am retyred too.
At momenuous cross roads like retyrement, a passage of scripture comes
There is a time for everything,
and a season for everything under the sun.
And this points us to our text for the day.
Today we look at Ecclesiastes, The Preacher.
12 Chapters. The book just after Psalms & Proverbs. Before Song of Songs.
The simple understanding of the authorship points to Solomon (Ecc 1:1) Critics claim that the writing is post-Exilic: perhaps a compiler later put together the writings of Solomon.
The superscription to the text is the Hebrew word, Strong's Concordance #6953, qoheleth, "ko-heh-leth", an assembler, a lecturer, a teacher, a preacher. The Anglicised version of the Hellenic rendition in the Septuagint gives us "Ecclesiastes".
Say "Ecclesiastes, and what comes to my mind is:
"Vanities, vanities, all is vanities..." but I never quite understood it.
Any one verse or phrase taken out of context (either in the bible or lay writing or every day conversation) will not carry the intended meaning. In a text as deep as the one we address here, more than ever we need to understand the mindset of the author:
In the 12 chapters of the book, we find "vanities" and "under the sun"
repeated 34 times:
The author, a wise man, having experienced much of life, finds emptiness (vanities, uselessness) in things performed for the sake of worldly gain (under the sun). He seeks to point us to a higher plane: not focusing on worldly goods and worldly pleasure, but on things above the earth: Not below the sun or below heaven, but up, where God is, in a bold emphatic conclusion (Ecc 12:13-14).
The Hebrew word in the text is the Strong's Concordance #1892,
emptiness, vanity, transitory, unsatisfactory.
My concordance suggests that the root word is linked to vapour or breath:
(see Is 57:13, Prov 21:6)
If a vapour is intangible,
how much more so a whisper of a vapour,
a breath of a breath,
a hint of a breath of whispered vapour,
that you can not grasp with your hand,
can barely see with your eye,
and when you look again, in a blink of an eye it is gone.
Such is the vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
referring to "all" without a capital A,
referring to all things under the sun,
all things on earth, all things on a mortal plane.
They count but naught.
They add to zero.
You can not take them with you when you go.
None of the silver, none of the gold,
none of the pearls,
none of the fame, none of the glory.
And the teacher sets out to prove his hypothesis that "all things under the sun add to zero"
Even on a physical plane, man is transient, outlived by the earth, the sun. the winds, the streams, the seas (Ecc 1:4-7).
The more things change, the more they are the same: (Ecc 1:8-10)
The good that men do are buried with their bones (Ecc 1:11)
Worldly wisdom, without focus on higher things, is all in vain (Ecc
Worldly pleasure, without focus on higher things, is all in vain (Ecc 2:1-16)
Even work for works sake, or for the sake of accumulating earthly treasures, in in vain (Ecc 2:17-23)
The first four words of the bible says it all (Gen 1:1):
In the beginning God!
We the created, will not receive everlasting peace
until we are made right (by grace) with our maker.
And we will never see God if we we busy with our nose to the grindstone,
running the rat race, climbing the corporate ladder, scanning the stock market,
and feeding the terrible trio (I, me and myself).
Even as the Preacher did.
In his daily bread.
In his daily drink.
Acknowledge that the good shepherd leads us to green pastures and still waters.
And a good protestant work ethic can be firmly grounded on this verse:
that we find satisfaction in our labours:
knowing that God has provided work for us,
so that we may work his purpose out. ( Ecc 2:24, 5:18)
A TIME FOR EVERYTHING:
The wisdom of the wise points out a series of contrasting circumstances:
ups and downs:
good times and bad
in sickness and in health
for richer for poorer...
And as we learn to lift our eyes above the circumstances,
not complaining and asking "Why God?", "Why me God?"
but instead focusing on Who is in charge,
we understand that in an eternal perspective these events are not in vain,
for they help to mould us into the person that God wants us to be.
When times are good be happy,
but when times are bad, consider:
God has made one as well as the other (Ecc 7:14)
Indeed our Father is the Chief of chief executive officers.
He has plans for us: plans to give us hope and a future! (Jer 29:11)
We may not understand the timing, but God's timing is always perfect:
He never makes mistakes.
We may not see the whole picture: but we can see the tiny piece of jigsaw
we are in charge of.
Put together they will forma beautiful perfect picture.
He hath made every thing beautiful in his time (Ecc 3:11)
A wonderful anchor of reassurance when we are storm tossed.
Our puny human minds are too small to grasp the fullness of God's wisdom,
yet suffice for us to know
"there is nothing better than
for men to be happy and do good" (Ecc 3:12)
The Preacher shares with us a great truth:
How to rise above your circumstances:
Focus on God and do good.
Depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it (Ps 34:14)
Be kind and compassionate
Share your bread to the hungry
Bring a cup of cold water to a little child (Matt 10:42, Mark 9:41)
And do not forget to do good and share with others (Heb 13:16)
The injustice in the world makes it all seem so unfair:
the righteous perish but the wicked live long (Ecc 7:15)
The wicked get rich:
the good suffer:
The greedy grab, the oppressed get grabbed.
If the only justice was worldly justice,
the law of the jungle,
where he with bigger teeth wins,
we would be miserable indeed
But in Ecc 3:17, the Preacher sees hope in The Judge.
There IS a God!
We are created to be social beings.
Loneliness is indeed a curse.
And there are some of us who can be lonely despite being in a crowd.
When we can pair up as husband and wife: what a joy, what a divine plan:
and when God is the third strand to a marital cord,
this indeed fulfills plans to give us hope and a future! (Ecc 4:12)
The Preacher teaches us to consider God and have the correct perspective:
Do not make vows you do not intend to meet.
Stand in fear of God (Ecc 5:1-6)
RICHES AND WEALTH; POWER AND POSITION
The Preacher looks and sees:
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely (Ecc 5:8-9)
He who has a million dollars wants a second million:
He who has two million dollars wants a ten million: (Ecc 5:10)
Some people love things and use people (Ecc 5:11)
Filthy rich people are not happy (Ecc 5:12)
People who hoard may come to grief (Ecc 5:13)
TRANSIENCE OF LIFE
Life itself is transient, like a vapour, like a shadow (Ecc 61-12)
If our total existence was limited to the mortal frame, it would indeed be total confusion, and impossible to come to terms with: but thanks be to God we were all made in His image: with body, mind and spirit: and we have an eternal relationship with an everlasting God.
There follow a series of pithy sayings: (Ecc 7:1-11:10)
Concentrated ancient wisdom of the wise:
Proverbs: to goad us into action:
To fix our feet firmly on the straight and narrow path (Ecc 12:11)
Ecc 12:1-7 is a poetic picture of old age:
the dark = when our eyes close for the last time (Ecc 12:2)
keepers = hands
strong men = legs
grinders = teeth
windows= cataract eyes (Ecc 12:3)
doors = ears
almond tree blossom = white hair (Ecc 12: 5)
grasshopper = bent stiff old man
desire = hmm...
Remember Him (Ecc 12:6)...
In the beginning God
In the end God
Now and forever God
I shall leave you to mine this treasure trove and let God's word speak
to you direct:
I can not claim to understand it all:
Yet I trust God will meet you at your very point of need.
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgement,
including every hidden thing
(Ecc 12:13, 14)
indeed if we keep our eyes focused under the sun, all is vanities:
Teach us to focus on You.
In the name of Jesus
Return to ROMANS Main Menu