Ecclesiastes Chapter 3
Our mini-series on the Wisdom books comes to an end this week with a review of Ecclesiastes – a review of life the universe and everything.
It is supposed that the teacher referred to is none other than King Solomon; well known for his wisdom and grace; his closeness to God and his great wealth. It is perhaps lesser known that Solomon drifted from God in his latter days; sought only his own counsel and ultimately abandoned God in favour of pleasure.
The very end of the book (which I preached on last summer!) contains the philosophical and theological reflections of an old man who found that his life was meaningless because he had not relied fully on God.
Today we are examining the third chapter; the one immortalised by the Byrds in the 1960s – To everything, turn, turn, there is a purpose, turn turn… etc.
I chose for the reading to be split because those first 8 verses are so very difficult to read without it sounding like a shopping list. Breaking it up as we did helps us to listen to the words.
The second half is deeper and more philosophical; it is about how to balance life; it is about how to deal with evil in the world; it is all about faithfully living – working hard and accepting our lot.
Easy to say. More difficult to live out!
There are some wonderful things in this passage: God makes everything beautiful in its own time.
He sets eternity in out hearts – I believe this is the longing we have to know there is more than this earthly life – that sense of knowing that there is something else to come.
The teacher is observant of all around him: and once again we see – that nothing changes! Still evil and good co-exist; what will be, will be.
We are born; we live; we die. Some things will never change.
This could be really depressing!!
There’s a fatalistic air; a sense of everything being inevitable; so why bother? Why make an effort?
Well – because this is our lot and it is up to us to make of it what we can.
We all have moments of surety and moments of doubt
We all have questions; and occasionally find answers.
We all see evil in the world and feel the pain of it; the terrible destruction – both natural and man-made. And we feel the loss keenly.
The teacher observes it all; records it; reviews it; and then concludes that what we can do; the only thing to do is to work hard; enjoy what we do – make the most of it, the best of it – because what else is there to do?
On Friday morning I came up to church; as I was going in I saw someone wandering around the graveyard; not an unusual sight people frequently visit and wander around our cemetery. As I was leaving I noticed that the man was now sitting on one of the benches and taking in the view. I waved and said hello, and then decided to go over and chat to him. He told me he found great comfort in sitting there and I agreed it was a peaceful place. He then asked me where I thought God was? Because with the world as it is today it didn't seem like God was anywhere to be found. I then told him I was the minister - and he looked truly shocked! He said that his memory of ministers did not include anyone like me!
There followed a long and interesting conversation about the world and the evil that we witness; about the goodness and kindness of some people; and about how it is up to us to choose. It was a great conversation; far reaching, deep and insightful. I invited him to come and join us one Sunday to see what church is like now.
I find, that whenever I stop, pause, reflect… whenever I take a moment to be intentional about what I am doing, and where I am going then God puts opportunities in my path.
I had meant to call in to the church earlier in the week – but didn’t
I was going to go up earlier that day – but I didn’t
I almost didn’t stop to chat – but the simple good morning grew into something much more meaningful.
Life can be full of vanities; of the meaningless – but it can also with no notice, no clue, suddenly become full of meaning
A chance encounter
To paraphrase vs 12 & 13:
“There is nothing better for us than to be happy and do good while we live. That each of us may eat and drink and find satisfaction in our work – this is God’s gift to us”
Work hard and honour God
This is our lot.
And this is our reward.