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I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heavens. Ecclesiastes 1:13

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the duty of all mankind. Ecclesiastes 12:13

Author’s Note: 3 things First, while I love to read the bible, not all the books make the same impact at the same time. I find the Gospels, Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs and most of the New Testament letters very impactful. Other books not so much. Secondly, I’m not a biblical scholar, so even in the reading of those familiar books and those less so, I claim no expertise. Finally, it is amazing to me how the Spirit, provides enlightenment at different times using different books; like Ecclesiastes. Let’s get started

We have a lot of questions. We have questions about our purpose in life, what constitutes a good life, how do I find the purpose and many, many more. Today we also have a plethora of answers. Find what you love to do and do it, surround yourself with these people but not those, get married, stay single, eat this but not that, weigh this, drink that, be mindful, be belligerent are just some of the answers. Plus, throw in a pandemic and you have stay this distance away, take this, wear this, don’t do this. It can seem maddening.

And of course, just what we need, we have this marvel of technological achievement called the internet to supply us with all the nauseatingly vast amount of any information we could ever want (as well as a considerable amount we don’t) to answer our inquiries. Now this is not a new question or new search. In fact, some roughly 2800 years ago there was a man who wanted to know the same things: What’s the meaning of it all? What makes up a good life? Now this man had some extremely unique and powerful resources that should have allowed him to answer this question if anyone could. His name was Solomon and here’s what he found out.

First, some back story to Solomon. Solomon was the son of King David in Israel. As King David was dying, there was a brief power struggle to see who would succeed him between Solomon and his half brother Adonijah. Solomon won and became king. Solomon became king at the ripe old age of 12. The Bible tells us God came to Solomon and asked Solomon what gift God could grant to him. Solomon realized that he was in way over his head at 12 years old to be king, so he asks God for wisdom. God was so pleased that Solomon didn’t ask for riches, or long life or destruction of his enemies that God not only granted him unparalleled wisdom but great riches, health and peace as well.

With that backstory in mind let’s fast forward to Ecclesiastes. King Solomon was having a great reign; there was peace in the land and his wealth and wisdom were so famous that great kings and queens were coming to him for his counsel. Yet, seemingly, that life still lacked something for Solomon. It seemed to lack the answer to the question of why; what does life really matter. So he sets out to answer that question and then writes about it. Remember, King Solomon starts this quest with amazing resources of wealth, power, wisdom, knowledge at his disposal. See if you have found yourself following any of the paths he followed.

First, as chronicled in Chapter 2, Solomon says it must be pleasure that defines and is the purpose of life. And boy does he go all out in the pleasure realm. He got ragingly drunk, many times. He surrounded himself with fun people. He did not bother with inhibitions when it came to women. In Ecclesiastes, he says he denied nothing that his eyes desired and he had the resources to make it happen. What was his conclusion about going after pleasure? “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done……everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind…..” Ecclesiastes 2:11

Then Solomon moves on to knowledge and wisdom. If not chasing pleasure, surely meaning is found in gaining knowledge and wisdom. Oops, at least for Solomon. For he finds that just acquiring knowledge and wisdom doesn’t guarantee that the knowledge and wisdom can actually be utilized to improve anything. He comes to the conclusion: “What do I gain from being wise? Then I said to myself, this too is meaningless”. Ecclesiastes 2:15

Well okay, pleasure is out, wisdom and knowledge – not really; then it must be work. My occupation, doing great work must be and bring meaning to life, Solomon says to himself. Nope, wrong again, Solomon finds. He says: so I hated my life, because the work that is done under sun was grievous to me. Ecclesiastes 2:17

Finally Solomon starts to have a realization. It starts later in verse 2 when he declares: A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their toil. This too, I see, IS FROM THE HAND OF GOD, for without Him who can eat and find enjoyment. Finally, as Solomon finishes up this manuscript, he advises that God, the fear of God and keeping God’s commandments are the first and foremost aspect to life.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, when I read Ecclesiastes, because of some of the language Solomon uses, I thought it was a really downer book. To me the best part of the book used to be the verses in Chapter 3 that the Bryds used in their wonderful classic rock song; Turn, Turn Turn. However, with age, I’ve changed my outlook on the tenor of the message. Solomon does communicate frustration that none of the worldly pursuits he attempted led him to the answer of a fulfilled, meaningful life. However, Solomon did eventually find the answer. The answer is GOD! God first, God paramount. God will grant the meaning. God will grant the purpose. Thus the focus is rightly, solely and souly on God. I no longer take it as a depressing message.

Thus Solomon did us a great service. Because of the question he asked, the nearly boundless energy and massive scope he utilized to try and find an answer as well as the final answer he found; we do not have to replicate that same search. Solomon told us what he looked at and why it was lacking in giving purpose.

As we approach our lives today, we should reflect on to what extent we are in the same desperate search for meaning in our existence. What resources are we using in that search? To what extent are we looking to the world in any aspect to provide the answer and the meaning? Are we looking within for the answer the Holy Spirit is longing to give us; that we should be abiding in the Son, Jesus Christ, relying on the plan of salvation for each of us devised by our Father in Heaven?

Rest from your quest to find meaning. Our Heavenly Father has and is the meaning, as the Creator, of and for our lives. That plan is love. That plan is perfect. And as we live out that plan, we will bring glory to His Holy Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that You have seen fit to provide us with guidance in the form of Your Word to the questions of this life. Forgive us and have mercy on us when we fail to use Your resources and strike out on our own to find meaning to our lives. Protect us from the world and worldly who would attempt to lead us a astray in finding meaning in purely earthly pursuits. Send Your answer through Your Spirit to our hearts that we might look no further than You, You the Father, You the Son, You the Holy Spirit to find all our answers. Then grant us the power to go forth with Your answer, in love, to lead others who are desperately seeking meaning, to Your same answer. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

Postscript – Now if the Holy Spirit can help me find meaning in the Book of Numbers. ūüôā

“Give me an understanding heart that I can govern Your people well and know the difference between right and wrong.” ¬†1 Kings 3:9

“The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you.” ¬†John 14:25

“For the Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.”¬†Proverbs 2:6

I have stated before and this post is not meant to in any way shape or form be anti-science, anti-academic, or anti-intellectual.¬† Science and medicine and those who are well versed in those topics and subjects have done great personal feats for me and I give thanks to God for them.¬† This post has more to do with our mindset as we pursue greater intellectual knowledge and how we think about the process of attaining it as well as how we feel about ourselves once we’ve attained it.

Prizing education and academic learning is nothing new and seemingly today the demand for it, those seeking to obtain it, the costs associated with attaining it and the thoughts about those who don’t have it are ever more in the forefront of our societal consciousness.¬† Academic institutions, especially those for profit and their marketing are a significant presence in all of our media today.¬† The having of a degree, several degrees, advanced degree or degrees is more frequently a requirement or at least preferred characteristic that many employers are seeking out for their organizations.

While none of those current societal trends are troubling or secular in themselves, I believe we have to be very careful about how we see ourselves both in the process of attaining “higher” education and once the degree or certification has been obtained.¬† For the way that it is too often portrayed is that the attaining of higher level of learning is a testament to our own talents, desires, “work ethic” or vision.¬† Also, once we’ve attained the higher degree, we are somehow more worthy, entitled to some greater reward for our efforts, should be sought out and listened to more.¬† In a word we are “better”; not only better than we were before attaining the degree but also “better” than those who don’t have our level of learning.¬† It is all too easy for our pride to swell through the process and attainment of higher education.

Let’s take a look at this for a moment starting with the process of attaining higher learning.¬† Isn’t the process a testament to my desire for self improvement an accolade to my diligence and self motivation, proof of my desire for self fulfillment? As I take my classes, isn’t this a compliment concerning my tenacity?¬† Aren’t the grades I receive, truly and solely, “my grades” worthy of acknowledgement and glorification?¬† Here are some self-reflection questions I might need to ask and answer to validate those opinions.¬† At what point during my development in the womb did I decide and take steps to insure that my brain would function in such a way to allow me the understanding and capacity to seek this higher learning? As an infant or a toddler, what plan did I conceive and implement that allowed me to have sufficient prerequisite learning to continue into an advance state? Let me review my complete plan of all the parents, educators, administrators, mentors and many others that I perfectly put in place that led to my successfully being able to further my education.

Upon completion of this increased education, I am entitled to some or much personal glory, perhaps depending on the level I’ve achieved.¬† I am deserving; deserving of higher pay, greater promotions, more plush offices.¬† I deserve to not only be sought out for my opinion, also listened to with less questioning and my opinion should always be given greater weight than those lessors who have not achieved the education that I have.

Yes these are the fruits of “my” singular labor.¬† Woe to those who are not willing to give me my dues.

Solomon, known biblically and in even general lexicon (i.e. many speak of “The wisdom of Solomon) as one of the wisest living persons knew about the need for wisdom/learning and his lack of it.¬† His Father David was one of the greatest kings of Israel and upon his death, wanted Solomon (as was God’s plan as well) to reign after him.¬† The challenge was that Solomon was very young.¬† He knew he didn’t have the knowledge to satisfactorily govern such a vast and powerful kingdom.¬† So when God asked Solomon what he wanted from God, Solomon could have asked for riches, a long life, many excellent wives and children; Solomon asked for a wise heart.¬† He asked for knowledge to lead God’s people well, knowing good from evil.¬† God was very pleased with Solomon’s request and granted it to him.

Jesus Christ had been extremely diligent in teaching His disciples.¬† Yet at the last supper, He knew that His disciples still lacked the critical understanding that they would need to carry Christ’s message into the world.¬† So Jesus promised to send a “Friend”, a “Helper”, the Holy Spirit who would provide all the necessary knowledge and insight needed to carry forth the Gospel of Christ.¬† Jesus went on to say the Holy Spirit was not just for the disciples but for all who would come to Christ and, through Him, seek the wisdom of the Father.¬† The world, otherwise could never receive the Holy Spirit because they would not believe that Christ asked for Him to be sent.

Thus it would seem that, while we may indeed know, understand and desire the attainment for a greater knowledge, a higher degree, the fulfillment of that desire is more of a gift of Grace from God, than it is solely a result of our own efforts. I do not contend that it does not take effort, yet that effort builds on God given talents.  Even to have the opportunity is a blessing from God. It may take some humility to come to that understanding but it will align us more accurately with He who provided us the talents in the first place and Whose plan our gaining in wisdom is fulfilling.

Also, having attained some greater learning/education, we need to understand that it is not about being served as a reward for that attainment but finding a way to serve with the gained knowledge.  We need to remember what Christ stated that to one who has much given, much is required.

So, if we are so led, let us go and learn.  Let us strive and achieve.  Always being mindful of as well as thankful for, the blessing and gift that there is in the opportunity for and acquiring of, greater knowledge.  Let us give glory to the Name of Him where all glory, honor and knowledge resides, living a life of loving, sharing and serving to our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we affirm and declare that all knowledge and wisdom resides in You.  We are so very thankful that in Your Mercy, You have seen fit to share some of Your knowledge and wisdom with us.  We pray, as Solomon did, that You would guide us to use that wisdom and knowledge in Your service as a blessing to this world.  We also ask Your forgiveness when we see the achievement and wisdom in a prideful way, seeking our own glory.  Guide us we pray and allow us to use the wisdom You so freely provide in a way that will be praise to Your most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven….” ¬†Ecclesiastes 1:13

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. ¬†Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” ¬†Ecclesiastes 12:13

I must admit that, in the past,  I have found the message of Ecclesiastes difficult.  Why? Because in a more common vernacular I found it kind of a downer or a bummer.  It seemed Solomon was pretty down on life.   It gave us a great classic rock and roll song by the Bryds:  Turn, Turn, Turn, but besides that it seemed very somber.

Yet lately I think I’ve been blessed by God with a much greater, much more upbeat, deeper spiritual inspiration concerning this book. ¬†For this is a book about doing, about human action and interaction, a book about the search for satisfaction and fulfillment.

The main character is King Solomon, son of the Great King David.  Under what auspices does Solomon undertake his journey and why should we listen to his report?  Well, when it comes to wisdom, short of Jesus Christ (well short I might add), it is hard to find a human to which God imparted more wisdom.  You see when Solomon took the throne, God asked him what he desired the most.  Solomon answered that he desires wise judgement to be able to lead the people.  God is so pleased with his not choosing power, fame and/or riches that He grants him not only very great wisdom, but also riches, fame and power.

So in his wisdom, Solomon believes that God has put it on his heart to search all that a person can do and be that would bring contentment, satisfaction and fulfillment.  Now here is when I got bogged down in the negativity and frustration of Solomon.  Because remember, Solomon was a person who had it all.  He had education.  He had riches.  He had popularity.  People came from all over the world just to meet him; in other words he had fame.

So off he goes. ¬†First he starts with what he knows best, wisdom; that is a person who is wise must be happy. ¬†Not so he finds. ¬†For even with wisdom there are so many things wisdom doesn’t solve. ¬†Okay riches then. ¬†Nope. ¬†Rich people still die and/or their family members die. ¬†The rich are so often targets for evil. ¬†Partying and getting drunk. ¬†Solomon threw some knock down drag out all out parties. ¬†But one couldn’t stay drunk all the time and hangovers were a bear not to mention drunks were fools. ¬†Sex. ¬†Solomon had many wives and concubines. ¬†Yet there was no fulfillment there. ¬†Solomon traveled, he built great palaces, he tried it all. ¬†Thus, after many years of searching and understand this, Solomon truly believed that satisfaction could be found, that somewhere in the worldly pursuits, triumphs and victories rested the foundation to contentment. ¬†His was an honest attempt. ¬†And if anyone had the mental, physical and worldly resources to successfully find the human based happiness; Solomon was that person. ¬†Though search as he did, Solomon did not find it among the world. ¬†Darn!

Where does that leave us? ¬†The world hasn’t changed. ¬†Sure there is different technology, depth and breadth of worldly knowledge, a greater diversity of destinations to explore than Solomon had available. ¬†But that is only variation on a theme. ¬†The world is telling us today that satisfaction, fulfillment happiness rests with: ¬†our level of education, the greatness of our wealth, who our spouse(s) is, how many admirers we have, the amount of our fame, how many victories we can claim, how we can alter our consciousness with drugs or other substances and countless other pursuits. ¬†Here’s the thing, most of us don’t have the resources to chase after all those things. ¬†However, there is one who did; who went before us searching all those things and utterly failed to find the happiness he sought. ¬†Why would we ever want to follow in Solomon’s heart breaking, deeply frustrating journey, only to arrive at the same conclusion.

One would think that we could or at least should be able to make our own or find completely within ourselves the meaning to true happiness.  That would be correct if we had been the ones to create this world.  If we were the creator we would perfectly know where and how to create happiness.  We only have to look around at so many lives utterly shattered by wayward pursuits of earthly happiness to know we are ill equipped to determine or make our own happiness.

So hear is where the positive aspect of Ecclesiastes comes in; the uplifting message of eternal fulfillment and contentment. ¬†Solomon did find it. ¬†It just wasn’t in the world. ¬†God didn’t leave Solomon frustrated and bitter in his searching. ¬†God showed Solomon that satisfaction and justification rests with Him; with God. ¬†Solomon declares that God makes everything beautiful in its own time. ¬†Solomon testifies that there is rejoicing and joy in eating and drinking and enjoying the work that God has given each of us to do.

Do not be dismayed by the biblical use of the word fear.  For there is the dread of earthly fear and there is the awestruck, reverence of the Godly fear.  The Godly fear is not about dread as much as it is about being in the presence of the overwhelming Perfect Power.  Even though that power is Love; His love is still overpowering; as is His power of Justice and Righteousness.  God is the Creator.  As Creator, He created the ability to be fulfilled, to be content, to be happy.  Solomon found what it was or more accurately Who it was.  Love, life, fulfillment, contentment, happiness, all start with, are all sustained by and all end with God Almighty.  And as He gave His Son, Jesus Christ for our salvation; these other things He will give as well to those who believe on His Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank you that You do not keep Your Wisdom hid from us.  Thank You that You have given wisdom to men like Solomon and then shared that wisdom through Your Word that we might learn from his experience.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father when we search in the world for fulfillment.  Show us the blessings, joy, peace and contentment that comes from seeking You first and following Your Commandments.  That our work, our lives would praise Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

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