Friday, July 18, 2014

Ecclesiastes 1-6

We begin another book in the Bible written by Solomon (Ecclesiastes 1-6).  Ecclesiastes is a reflection on the real meaning and purpose in life.

Solomon was a guy who truly had it all.  He had wisdom and knowledge, wealth and prosperity, health, popularity, a huge family, an entire kingdom at his fingertips, and lots of pleasure.  What more could a man want?

And yet, Solomon takes us through his realization that everything, separate from God, is meaningless.  All the stuff we work to accumulate on our own will never be enough.  God is the source of the good life we all desperately want AND need.

Our relationship with God breathes meaning and joy into the life God Himself has designed especially for us, no matter what season we are in.  

He has made everything beautiful in its time. 
He has also set eternity in the human heart; 
  yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Finding that sweet spot, where our efforts and passions align with God's great purposes for us, is where we realize the greatest blessings.

That's huge, right?  But, Solomon also offers this awesome advice for finding our Godly sweet spots.

Go near [to God] to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know what they do wrong.

Do not be quick with your mouth, 
  do not be hasty in your heart
  to utter anything before God.
God is in Heaven and you are on earth,
  so let your words be few.

Go to God.  Slow down.  Talk less.  Listen more.  

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for making everything beautiful in Your time and for placing eternity in my heart.  I thank You for all the beautiful things in my life  ________________________.

Forgive me, Lord, for being too quick with my mouth and hasty in my heart.

I want to hear Your voice in my life.  Speak to me, Lord.  Tell me how and what and when to pray.  Fill me with Your presence.  
[Spend some time listening to God]

I pray for all those people and circumstances (near and far) that You have placed in my heart today.

You are Lord and Savior, our Redeemer, and the wonderful Counselor all of us need to live life to the fullest.

  In Jesus' holy name I pray,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

1 comment:

  1. Good post but don't get too stuck on the word Meaningless.

    The word translated as “meaningless” in recent translations is used 38 times in Kohelet’s short thesis but older translations used words such as “vanity” or “futile”. I have been told that it doesn’t make a difference which word you use but I would beg to differ. “Futile” relates to a failure to reach a destination or goal but “meaningless” tells us there is no reason to attempt to do anything at all.

    The word translated as “meaningless” in newer translations is the Hebrew word “hebel”. It is spoken with a soft “h” and “b” which makes it sound breathy. When spoken aloud it sounds likes it’s meaning, for “hebel” simply means “wind”, “breath” or “vapor.” The little word is further defined by the illustration Kohelet uses throughout the book. Futility, he says, is like “chasing after the wind.” This phrase conveys the idea of trying to control something that is impossible to grasp. It’s like a person trying to make a breeze to blow across the hammock he has strung up in the shade but the wind refuses to cooperate. In desperation he runs around the yard, flapping his arms and pushing the wind towards his hammock. Finally he sprints for the hammock and lies down, expecting to experience the rewards of his labor.

    The word “hebel” is normally translated by words that reflect the temporary nature of wind, breath or vapor. When you breathe outside on a cold day you see your breath in a form of a vapor cloud. The mist we see has substance but it cannot be grasped. It is there and then it is gone. This is the thought behind Psalm 144:4 “Man is like a breath (hebel); his days are like a fleeting shadow.”

    Oddly enough, when the modern translations work with “hebel” outside of Ecclesiastes they use English words such as transient, fleeting, perplexing, fruitless, unbeneficial, profitless and futile. All of these accurately portray the transitory nature of wind, breath or vapor and fit with “chasing after the wind”. Yet within the confines of Ecclesiastes they exclusively used the word “meaningless”.

    So why were the words more consistent with the concept of ‘hebel’ abandoned for one that isn’t? Quite simply, the modern translations are a product of their times. Translation is not done in a vacuum but within the mindset of the person(s) doing the translation work. In the last few hundred years the prevalent attitude toward Ecclesiastes has been that it is a nihilistic book which describes a life lived apart from God (under the sun, not the Son) and that its only purpose is to show us how meaningless life without God is. After hundreds of years of this type of interpretation, modern translators naturally thought the word “meaningless” fit the theme of the book the best. Unfortunately, that choice put a final nail in Kohelet’s coffin and Ecclesiastes, for all intensive purposes, has become “the lost book of the Bible.” It is good for a few quotes to hang on the wall but other than that, no one really reads it for what it is worth.

    I believe that Ecclesiastes is our truest and best wisdom on the art of work. The teachings of Kohelet can bring balance to your working life and to your relationships. It is a book of ancient wisdom that we have considered meaningless for far too long.

    vance -