Read: Ecclesiastes 7:1-29
Consider: When reading Ecclesiastes it is very easy to misunderstand what the writer is saying about life and its meaning. Ecclesiastes starts with the words: ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ Says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). However, the book ends with these words: 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 (12:13). What takes place that causes the writer to finally focus on God as the meaning of life?
If you are not familiar with the book of Ecclesiastes you will not know that it is about one person’s search for meaning to life. Through sampling all the pleasures the world can offer, the writer finds that pleasure and satisfaction are fleeting and provide no real meaning to life. Throughout the book the writer contemplates life and death and concludes from his own experience, and what he sees around him, that life’s true purpose cannot be found in what the world can give. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 the writer says something very perceptive: He [God] has also set eternity in the human heart. The problem with worldly pleasures is that they cannot fill the God-shaped void in mankind’s heart. No matter what the pleasure is, it cannot provide fulfilment. If you look around at those who are very wealthy or famous, you will see that the ‘hit’ they can get from drugs, fame or wealth do not last and leave them feeling empty. Even extreme athletes, who live for the ‘adrelain rush’ of dangerous sports, find that the high does not last.
Returning to today’s reading, Ecclesiastes 7:1-6 seems to concentrate upon the negative aspects of life. Remember that the writer is focused on how a person may acquire wisdom and knowledge. What he is saying is that when life is easy and problem-free, we may acquire knowledge, but when life throws problems at us we tend to acquire wisdom, enabling us to gain greater insight into the situation. Sometimes we need to change our perspective to see that adversity may present us with a learning opportunity.
If you have time read over Ecclesiastes 7 again, but this time try to get into the mind of the writer and how he felt about life. Use his words to see if you feel the same about life. Perhaps you have struggled to find real meaning and purpose in life? Perhaps as you have grown older, you have come to the view that everything is meaningless? You may even see ageing and death as something to be feared? Think again about the conclusion that the writer comes to after trying everything the world has to offer: 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).
Pray: Father, we pray for anyone who is struggling to find meaning and purpose in life, that you would reveal yourself to them and that they may put their trust in your Son, Jesus Christ. We also pray for those who want to know you more, that they may devote time to study your word and to pray. Amen