November 12, 2015.
Daily Reading: Ecclesiastes 5-6.
Background: Ecclesiastes 3-4.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Few words before God: Chapter five of the book of Ecclesiastes opens with a discussion on the relationship between God and man, reminding us of where we stand before the Creator of the universe and how we should approach Him. Note the emphasis on listening to the Lord and having few words before Him, careful not to speak hastily or vow rashly. In fact, he tells us that we would be better off not to vow anything at all than to vow and not pay our vow (see also Numbers 30:2, Matthew 5:33-35 and James 5:12). There is much wisdom in silence, especially before God, as many words increase vanity. Here it is said that a fools voice comes with many words (see Proverbs 10:19, 17:27-28, 21:23, James 1:26). Let us fear God and not allow our mouth to lead us to sin.
2. Satisfaction in labor: After a discussion on God, the preacher moves on to giving some practical wisdom to unlock satisfaction in our life. It is interesting that he moves on to this, as it would seem from chapter 2 that he couldn’t find much satisfaction in this life, at least in his possessions or activities. However, that is the very premise on which he bases this section. You cannot find satisfaction in things or entertainment. They are but fleeting joys that pass away in a moment. He who loves money will never be satisfied with money. So where does satisfaction come from? Our labor. We are to gain satisfaction in what we do, not the rewards we get from what we do. This is the gift of God. Perhaps it makes sense to put this wisdom here, as true satisfaction can only come from God, and without a focus on the things above, we cannot find ultimate satisfaction in the things under the sun (see chapter 2). Time and again we see in this chapter that the love of money and hoarding wealth are the downfall of the rich, but it is the sleep of the laborer that is sweet. We brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing with us when we die (see Job 1:21), and thus we must ask ourselves, what is the point? What is the meaning of life? What is our purpose? The preacher here reminds us that as one dies, so does the other. What will become of our wealth when we are gone, and what will it matter to us then? We cannot find ultimate satisfaction in this world, because this world is finite. The practice wisdom here is to enjoy the gift of God, and find the satisfaction we can in our labor, for it is on going, and ultimately in God which will become apparent as the book progresses.
Dissatisfaction: Continuing on the thought from the last chapter that satisfaction cannot be found in materialism, the preacher here speaks more on the inherent dissatisfaction the comes when we chase heath, possessions and honor in this life. Even if we obtain everything we could ever want, so that we last nothing at all that we would desire, we are still dissatisfied. The preacher relates this in chapter 2 when he tells of his own journey and realization of this when indeed he gathered everything that he could ever want under the sun. We must find satisfaction in not what we have, but who we are and what we do. Notice how the preacher says a stillborn child is better than a man with hundred children and many years that cannot find satisfaction in his life. He did not see life’s good things, but rather always searched for more. We must not seek satisfaction in this way, for even if we lived two thousand years, we would never obtain it. The preacher then turns back down a gloomy road, remembering that whether wise or foolish, all men die alike. And if this is all there is to life, then it truly is a dim, depressing life. Even if we achieve the highest honors, receive the biggest rewards, or show the greatest love, in the end we still die, and none of it will matter to us. When those we helped die, none of it will matter to them. If all we have is that which is under the sun, then the conclusion that the preacher comes to about the meaning of life if precisely this: life has no meaning. It is vain, worthless, meaningless- vanity of vanity. We will never be satisfied. Fortunately, this is not all there is, which the book will reveal in the end. From a materialistic standpoint, this life is completely meaningless. But from a spiritual stand point, this life has all the meaning in the world. Let us take in the preacher’s point here in order to juxtapose this realization with the one given in the end.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Nahum 1-3.
Sweet is the sleep of the laborer.