GEMS FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT
(Please read Ecclesiastes 2.)
Many find Ecclesiastes rather gloomy. They think it says that life and everything in it are meaningless. What it actually says is that life is meaningless “under the sun.” (verse 11) That expression limits the view to that of a life on earth without regard to eternity or God.
The secular mindset seeks comfort, happiness, and meaning here and now under the sun. “I’m going to live for what I can have and experience right now.” On those terms, is life satisfying?
Ecclesiastes 2 begins with a search for lasting meaning in pleasure. “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure.” (verse 10) This approach seems to dominate our culture, even though it’s always like “grasping for the wind.” (verse 11) The wind is real, but try to grab it. When people live for pleasure, it often feels good in the moment but then fades quickly. They think pleasure will make life bearable; but, without fail, it disappoints. That makes them more miserable and desperate to pursue the next pleasure—which will also disappoint. The sense of emptiness increases.
How about the pursuit of wisdom and intellect? It is observed “that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.” (verse 13) Great philosophers and universities in our land strive to discover the meaning of life and how we should live, but yesterday’s cerebral celebrity is today’s fool. Both intellectuals and simpletons occupy the cemeteries. If we’re all going to die and rot, who cares? If the sun eventually burns out and all life with it, what’s the point? It won’t matter whether we’re nice or nasty, rich or poor, clever or dull.
What about all for which we’ve worked so hard—our achievements? “Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” (verse 17) Our worldly accomplishments and all the things that kept us awake at night will mean nothing in the not-too-distant future.
It’s inescapable. Everything that is under the sun is meaningless, so beware of how engrossed you become in earning money, making a name for yourself, or your team winning the Super Bowl. If the things you treasure most in life are things that can be taken away, then you will be devastated because you will ultimately lose them all. Death will make sure of that. The One who is not under the sun, however, declares, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54)
We do have responsibilities here and now in this world. Jesus points out an important one in John 20:21, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Our mission is to share and live the Gospel, because our final destination is not under the sun but in eternity. We embrace God’s promises and confess with the patriarchs that we are “strangers and pilgrims on earth.” (Hebrews 11:13) We are looking “for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13)
Baptizing our children, confessing Christ, and supporting mission work are examples of investments that pay eternal benefits!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:3, 4)
Rather than living “under the sun,” we live “under grace.” (Romans 6:14) Thanks be to God for giving real meaning to our lives!
Delwyn Maas is pastor of Gift of God Lutheran Church in Mapleton, North Dakota.