Ecclesiastes 1: 1-18 & 12: 9-14
There are phrase that are in common use that folks quote regularly that are sourced from the bible; and there are popular songs that use words based from scriptures...
And today we read from a book that is often used as a source.
The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the wisdom books: a collection that provides advice and reflection and philosophy... and it is from here that we get such phrases as
“cast your bread on the waters”And of course – immortalised in song in the 1960s: For every season – Turn, turn, turn, the Pete Seger song written in 1952, and popularised by the Byrds in 1965, that is taken right from Ecclesiastes Chapter 3. And which, if you were asked to quote from Ecclesiastes is the one that is most likely to be identified: a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance, etc...
“nothing new under the sun”
“eat drink and be merry”
“what goes around comes around”
“a time for everything”
So, to today’s reading, for one of the other most easily identified phrases, is “vanity, vanity, all is vanity” which is the King James Version.
All is hevel to use the Hebrew word (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The refrain runs throughout the book (25 times in all).
Though traditionally translated “vanity”, the Hebrew word hevel is better translated “absurdity, meaninglessness, vapour.”
There is clearly much debate for the word hevel is translated differently in virtually every translation:
Meaningless; vanity; useless; smoke; nothing makes sense; futile; and pointless to name but a few!
I chose the NIV translation today because I feel that for us the word meaningless is the most clear. We know what it means. We can understand the phrase at least...
And here’s the thing!
I have studied Ecclesiastes many times; and very often, especially if you use a study guide, the focus is on all the things the Teacher (King, Philosopher, ruler...) tried in his quest to gain some understanding of the ways of the world. He tries good and he tries evil – and finds that both ultimately are meaningless – a chasing after the wind (you’ll never catch it!)
He tries hard work and toil; and he tries laziness and pleasure – and finds they carry no satisfaction either. They are simply vanities; they are pointless occupations; they carry no deeper sense of meaning or importance when you break down what you are doing.
This may sound like a pretty dismal way of looking at life – at what we do. But when reading Ecclesiastes, and the musings of the Teacher, and all of his research, contemplating, reflecting really will be meaningless, unless, you do as we did today, and read to the very end of the book. For the conclusion is the most vital ingredient, it is the key to all that has gone before.
If you read the order of service you’ll see the title for today’s sermon is a question “Where do you put your trust?” the longer working title went like this:
Try all the Things and ask the question– where do you place your trust?
Because that is the whole of Ecclesiastes in a sentence: try it all if you must, but at the end of it all there really is only one question, one conclusion worth anything: where is your trust?
The answer comes in those final few verses:
"Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."
When it all comes to the end; when we take the tally – however you want to phrase it, the end of all things comes down to one thing only: trust God (remember that phrase from our look at Psalm 27 last week?)
trust God, keep God’s commandments;
in the church Good News Bible the phrase “fear God”, is translated “have reverence for God”.
I like that – have reverence for God
Imagine what the world would be like if we all did that?
If we all gave God due reverence, and kept God’s commands; if we treated our brothers and sisters with respect and honour – that would be a world!!
Treating everyone – no matter their creed or race or colour or gender with honour and respect – that, that would be something!
That would be the world as God created it to be.
And that would be a wonder.
And we, God’s people – all God’s people
Would be blessed