Ecclesiastes 1 The Message (MSG)
These are the words of the Quester, David’s son and king in Jerusalem
2-11 Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.]
There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke.
What’s there to show for a lifetime of work,
a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives,
but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old
The sun comes up and the sun goes down,
then does it again, and again—the same old round.
The wind blows south, the wind blows north.
Around and around and around it blows,
blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind.
All the rivers flow into the sea,
but the sea never fills up.
The rivers keep flowing to the same old place,
and then start all over and do it again.
Everything’s boring, utterly boring—
no one can find any meaning in it.
Boring to the eye,
boring to the ear.
What was will be again,
what happened will happen again.
There’s nothing new on this earth.
Year after year it’s the same old thing.
Does someone call out, “Hey, this is new”?
Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story.
Nobody remembers what happened yesterday.
And the things that will happen tomorrow?
Nobody’ll remember them either.
Don’t count on being remembered.
I’ve Seen It All
12-14 Call me “the Quester.” I’ve been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I looked most carefully into everything, searched out all that is done on this earth. And let me tell you, there’s not much to write home about. God hasn’t made it easy for us. I’ve seen it all and it’s nothing but smoke—smoke, and spitting into the wind.
15 Life’s a corkscrew that can’t be straightened,
A minus that won’t add up.
16-17 I said to myself, “I know more and I’m wiser than anyone before me in Jerusalem. I’ve stockpiled wisdom and knowledge.” What I’ve finally concluded is that so-called wisdom and knowledge are mindless and witless—nothing but spitting into the wind.
18 Much learning earns you much trouble.
The more you know, the more you hurt.
Mark 8:36 New International Version (NIV)
36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
Solomon, the writer of Proverbs and Song of Songs, is credited by scholars with the authorship of Ecclesiastes. He speaks not as himself, an oh so rich and powerful king, but as a wise teacher…the Quester. Solomon uses reminders of our mortality to poke and prod us into the realization that if all we do is work at gaining worldly possessions we will lose ourselves in the pursuit…a concept stated by Jesus in Mark 8:36 (see above). Scholars generally accept that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes at the end of his life. At one time, Solomon followed God’s instruction manual for life, but as he married foreigners in a seemingly unquenchable thirst for more power and territory, he fell into worshipping the idols his wives shared with him and fell away from God. Therefore Solomon, who sought after wisdom his whole life…even teaching wisdom to others of his day…now in his twilight years poses the question: Isn’t life meaningless?
Solomon could have been talking about his efforts to be the center of his self-created universe when he wrote, The sun comes up and the sun goes down, then does it again, and again—the same old round. Simply put, Solomon became weary with his life. He had it all. What was there left to seek?
Solomon writes: There’s nothing new on this earth. Year after year it’s the same old thing. It’s a battle, isn’t it? Deep down we know that meaning is found in the Creator, not in the created, but still we struggle. Here’s me heading out the door of the ice cream shop with my double dip cone, taking a big lick as I approach my perfect little car…joy on wheels. There I see the huge scratch on the passenger side door and instantly the joy flows out of me like air escaping from a balloon. It never fails! The feeling we desire from getting and loving the good stuff is addicting, but oh so fleeting…Solomon calls it hevel and uses the word 38 times in Ecclesiastes. The Hebrew word hevel best makes sense to me when it is defined as vapor. It’s here one moment and gone the next. We pile up all this stuff (like my cute little car) and then we die. Like the TobyMac lyric says, I’m “building up my kingdom just to watch it fade away….”
Bottom line is that life without Jesus is vapor, but life with Jesus is a double dip of joy and peace. Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s it! It’s all about the riches of the spiritual realm. It’s not about what we can get, rather what we can give. It’s remembering that no matter what we acquire or how hard we try in this life we can’t ever save ourselves from death. Only Jesus can and only Jesus did! I actually have a daily reminder programmed into my phone that says simply, “Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about Jesus.” I’m suffering from fifty-first dates syndrome when it comes to this truth from God’s word.
God has many interesting ways of shaking us out of our comfortable places and teaching us unforgettable lessons about what is truly important. Have you noticed that? Have I the faith to put the things He has blessed me with on the line? Will I grasp the blessings He’s bestowed on me with a tightly closed fist or will I release them to help and bless others? What’s more, am I constantly looking for blessings to reinforce my faith or do I have the spiritual fortitude to trust Him in every circumstance? Can I do a trust fall into God’s arms? Recently that is exactly what we did.
My husband Brian and I are empty-nesters. Brian will plainly tell you that he is loving this phase of life. Secretly, however, I have felt it getting a little too quiet at our house. So when we received an invitation to host a graduate student from Johnson we talked about it and agreed to the adventure. We’d hosted people in our home previously, but for much shorter times. Comparatively speaking, this was huge trust fall, but we thought…”One graduate student, a little more noise and disorder and not break a sweat, right?”
You know God always gives us more than we can ask or imagine, so it was not one, but two kids who were assigned to us…darling newlyweds! They came last August with their cute little blue car jam-packed with all their stuff plus not one, but two dogs…one huge boxer, one tiny white fluff ball…to live at our house for the school year. And as an extra surprise, this little family of two have so many people that love them that we’ve had all kinds of bonus guests coming to stay with us too…two sets of moms and dads, siblings, and numerous friends. Some weekends it’s been more like a youth lock-in than a family home!
Truly, saying yes to having a graduate student and his wife in our downstairs bedroom has taught me boatloads about how truly meaningless my house and my stuff are unless I give it back to God. I have learned more from these bright, gentle, devoted Christians in one year than I had learned on my own in the ten years previous. Both of them give, give, give of their time and talents and I don’t have the time or space here to tell you of all their talents. They are two amazing young people! Seriously, I could write a book. But if I had hung onto my covetous feelings for my sanitized and tidy house (there I said it…I like a clean house) I would have totally missed out on so much joy. Have my house and yard taken a beating? Yes. Would I forfeit this crazy wonderful year for a perfect house and yard? No way! I’d have missed out on so many wonderful conversations, meals and outings with these smart, talented, beautiful children who will be our friends forever! Their next move? God is calling them to return to Memphis, their hometown, to plant a church. Mind blown, God!
Ultimately, I can live a life of joy as long as I live a life that pleases God and places Him in the center of it all, not my possessions or my accomplishments. Jesus must rule and reign in my life or indeed, all is meaningless. Jesus’ words from John 4 sum it all up: Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this [world’s] water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst — not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
Jesus, I’m thirsty for the water only you provide! Please give me more…fill me up! I praise and adore You! I can never repay the debt I owe. Your death and resurrection took care of that! Thank you for all you give me. You know what I need and always provide it right on time. Why do I get anxious and think I have to stockpile anything? Forgive me for my greed. Show me how to release and to share. When I see you face to face I want to be guilty of only one thing…storing up my treasures in heaven. Amen.
Here’s a great overview of Solomon’s book: Reading Ecclesiastes from Rightnow Media. If you’re unfamiliar with Solomon’s wisdom, take a minute to read the story in 1 Kings 3:16 about the two women and the baby. It’s a good one. Finally, worship with Reckless Love or dance around the kitchen with That’s Me Without You. Choose joy!
Today’s post was written by Cindy Koopmans.
Cindy is married to her college sweetheart, Brian, for 38 years. She has three grown boys, two sweet daughters-in-law and a gorgeous little grand-man named Oliver Brian. Cindy teaches fifth grade at Sorrento Elementary and serves at the Mount Dora campus as their Worship Coordinator. Cindy’s passion is music, so her happy place is at the keyboard. She also enjoys reading (so many books, so little time), thrifting, and hanging out with Kramer the wonder Bichon. You can find her on Sunday mornings worshiping at our Real Life Mount Dora campus.