“Read More” to pursue answers from Ecclesiastes.
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.
For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, [are] in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred [by] all [that is] before them.
I go along with The Message by interpreting this as a paradox: yeah, God holds the good and the wise in his hand — but that doesn’t mean they can expect special treatment!
All [things come] alike to all: [there is] one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as [is] the good, so [is] the sinner; [and] he that sweareth, as [he] that feareth an oath.
Huh. That hardly seems fair:
This [is] an evil among all [things] that are done under the sun, that [there is] one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness [is] in their heart while they live, and after that [they go] to the dead.
Screwed when we live, screwed when we die. Though at least while we live, we can hope — or at least despair:
For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any [thing] that is done under the sun.
So, how ought we to deal with these absurd circumstances?
Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
Now, this is fascinating. Many (myself included, on occasion) respond to the injustice of life by railing against God — or retreating from life. The Preacher calls us to instead enjoy — not a mindless hedonism — but a joyful submission to God’s blessings, to whatever extent we have them:
Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that [is] thy portion in [this] life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do [it] with thy might; for [there is] no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
Perhaps he is really not despairing over life per se, but merely his ability to “figure it all out.” And therefore he is still able to find much to enjoy; or, perhaps, he at least wants us to enjoy those things he’s analyzed himself out of.
For even wisdom isn’t a sure road to happiness:
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race [is] not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
or man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so [are] the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.
Though, it certainly has its uses:
This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it [seemed] great unto me: [There was] a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city;
Yeah! But of course the Preacher can’t let it end on an upbeat note:
yet no man remembered that same poor man.
Then said I, Wisdom [is] better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom [is] despised, and his words are not heard. The words of wise [men are] heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. Wisdom [is] better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.
More and more paradoxes (quadrodoxes?). They say the ability to manage cognitive dissonance is a sign of intelligence, which argues well for the mental capacity of The Preacher, who seems to be simultaneously affirming:
The funny part is that — even though I don’t understand him — I completely agree. 🙂
God, I can barely keep up with the mind of The Preacher — must less yours. Father, help me to slow down and enjoy all the things of this life, rather than wasting my life trying to figure it all out. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.