The Book of Ecclesiastes is part of the Wisdom tradition in the Old Testament. Judeo-Christian tradition has ascribed this writing to the renowned King Solomon. It bears the clear strokes of the king’s quill. On one hand, Solomon is the ideal display of wisdom, and on the other hand he is the ultimate example of foolishness.
Solomon’s career as king started with trial and triumph. He then had an extended period of well-earned fame, and received untold blessing for the hand of the Lord. But later in life he blew those blessings away as if they were nothing more than ashes in a hearth. The Book of Proverbs is best seen as Solomon’s writing at the earlier stages in his kingdom. Brimming with hope, dispensing sage advice, and offering wise counsel–counsel on practical matters. If a card carrying atheist employed the larger framework of Solomon’s proverbs that person would avoid many pitfalls in the area of substance abuse, romance, and finance.
Ecclesiastes is a different item on the menu. Ecclesiastes has a distinctly negative tone to it. Solomon wrote this book after his halcyon days. On these pages you can hear an older man’s regret, an older man’s sorrow, and an older man’s resignation; the dread realization that his moment has simply passed. Ecclesiastes deals with the brutal realities of “life under the sun”, that is, what occurs in this life and in this world. If you’re looking for a fresh breeze of hope, then Ecclesiastes is not really the place to begin your journey.
There’s a famous passage in Ecclesiastes that the folk-rock group The Byrds loosely paraphrased and employed as part of a famous 1960’s anthem–“Turn, Turn, Turn.” The first time I read Ecclesiastes I recall hearing the song in my mind repeatedly. If you’ve never read Ecclesiastes, but you know the song, then you’ll recognize the verses from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8…
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Read over Solomon’s words and you’ll receive great wisdom. Change is a constant in the universe. God alone does not change; He is immutable–He is pure existence. We cannot make the same claim, can we? Change is a state of existence that demands our attention. If we do not pay it heed then the change will occur, without our consent, and we’ll look back, as Solomon did, with a bellyful of lamentations.
Some of my old classmates from high school were discussing recently on Facebook how fast the 40 years has elapsed since we graduated. The first of the famed Millenials were just being born as we spread our youthful wings and began to attempt our ascent in the adult world. I imagine those early Millenials are currently pondering how they could possibly be as old as they are, and are horrified at how those of us born from 1946-1964 (yep The Boomers) have ravaged and savaged the world.
Where are you at in life? Are you young, old, or somewhere in the middle? Are you hopeful of the future, or wincing at the recollection of what might have been? Are you filled with joy, or weighed down by sorrow? Have recent events brought fear into your home? Eventually, most of us will experience all of these emotions. The wisest action in dealing with the trials of life is to heed the words of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus gives us the only genuine antidote to the pain of this world. That antidote is Christ Himself. He offers us hope where none exists, and He promises to lighten our load. Hear the Master speak, and do as He says. You will not regret that course of action.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30.