Ecclesiastes on Monday

Most Mondays on campus I lead a lunchtime Bible study on Ecclesiastes. We have got to chapter 5 so far and it has been a really interesting ride. Watching students who have been fed the optimistic, “you are capable of anything, achieve your dreams, everything is going to be great” kind of talk their whole life suddenly be faced with the reality that there are a whole lot more questions that are not being discussed, is fascinating.

As Ecclesiastes raises many questions and observations they agree – yes, that resonates with my story, my experience. And then The Teacher (Solomon or someone assuming a Solomon persona) takes us to his logical conclusion of this kind of thinking and observing… what is the profit? (1:2)? Meaningless/vanity/vapour/a mist (1:3) – that is life under the sun (e.g. 2:17). I watch the students get quiet, despairing… and I start to panic that no-one will come back next week!

But then I remind them that this is not actually the Teacher’s answer, his aim is to disturb us, ruffle us up, shake us from our overconfident complacency and practical atheism (or Proverbs abuse – wisdom that does not have take the sovereignty of God into account and instead treats wisdom as guaranteed laws!). What is life really like under the sun? You don’t understand what is happening? (3:10-11) Wisdom brings sorrow and a burden because the more you understand the more you realise that nothing ever changes (1:12-18)! Pleasure stops you from thinking but ultimately you are just denying reality (2:1-14). So you work and work, and then you die. And you do not know whether what you have worked so hard for will be used wisely or squandered by your children. And then you and all your achievements are forgotten (do a test – how many people know the names of their great grandparents?) (2:15-23) So what was the point of all your toil – meaningless! Death makes a mockery of life. (2:23; 3:18-21)

And we live in a culture that does all it can to avoid the topic of death… But that is just what Ecclesiastes is about – the Teacher wants to rattle you, disturb you, force you to stop ignoring the reality and take a hard look at life under the sun… chew it over, deal with reality and then maybe, just maybe you are ready to consider a God who is above and beyond the sun…

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~ by John on May 5, 2008.

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