When I read Ecclesiastes, I find that Solomon sometimes contradicts himself as he rambles along. I don’t understand a lot of what he writes – meaning that I don’t see how it all ties together. It’s not a logical, sequential treatise on the meaning of life. He doesn’t go from point A to point B as he writes. Although he does write a lot about what he’s seen and understood about life, it’s like a jumbled mess in his head! So, rather than just discount him and set this book aside as the ramblings of an old, confused, depressed guy who’s lost hope and never developed any meaningful relationships, let’s go in a different direction. You gotta love Solomon for being direct and honest as he tries to make sense of life! He’s seen a lot. He’s understood even more. And he has been given a divine gift of wisdom to see into the inner workings of things that no one has seen or understood. So, we’re not reading the writings of an ordinary person like you or me. Yet, as he plumbs the depths of understanding and knowledge, he struggles with meaning and significance for what this life on earth is all about. It’s a good question and one that all of us must struggle with & decide.
And he draws some harsh, yet insightful conclusions. One of those is this – “No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.” (Ecc 8:17) Solomon draws this conclusion because he’s spent most of his life trying to find meaning in life, trying to find his own purpose that provides a meaningful life. Once he accomplished one thing, he moved onto the next to see if that next thing would give him the satisfaction he desperately wanted to experience.
So here’s something I think we learn from Solomon’s life and reflections on that life he writes in Ecclesiastes. If you think the next task you take on, or the next item you purchase, or the next trip you take or the next course you sign-up for, or the next relationship you start with a boyfriend/girlfriend – if you think that any of those “next-things” you do – are going to give you that final feeling of inner well-being and meaningfulness you desire, you are mistaken. There is no “mysterious moment” that you seek that will provide a final feeling of inner well-being. As long as you keep seeking some kind of experience or thing or relationship to give you that meaningfulness, you will become spiritually exhausted and eventually burn out. Burnout is what we’ll experience if we constantly chase after the wind – if we constantly strive after the next experience, even a religious or spiritual experience. You think you’re going to reach it, and it blows away. Like a $100 bill flying around in the wind that’s just outside your grasp. Try as you might, jump as high as you can, it just escapes your fingertips.
There is no mysterious moment, but there is a mysterious person. There is Jesus. And I know that to live a meaningful, full, satisfying, fulfilling, contented, abundant life means knowing Jesus and the Spirit of God dwelling within me. Jesus gives true meaning to life. You can search all kinds of places and relationships in this life and seek the next experience, but only Jesus can satisfy the soul.
Several times Solomon talks about the finality of death that awaits us all: “Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: as one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human the spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (Ecc 3:19-20) This is not something new for us. We know that until the day Jesus returns (and one day soon he will return), we all face two certainties in life. Who knows what those are? (Death & taxes) Right? We can’t avoid either of those. So what Solomon writes is true. However, he raises a question at the end there, for which he doesn’t know the answer: who knows if the human spirit raises up?
Well… how do we answer this question he poses? We who believe in Jesus know the answer! This Communion Table displays the answer! The Gospels are written to reveal the answer! And the crazy thing is, even Solomon himself knew the answer a few verses earlier in the same chapter: “God has also set eternity in the human heart.” (Ecc 3:11b) God has set eternity in our heart! It’s a beautiful phrase. It means we have a capacity for eternal things… that we’re instinctively concerned about the future… that our spirit is aware of something that transcends our immediate, temporal situation and life. We long for that better future! And followers of Christ know this is true because of the Resurrection! Solomon didn’t know about the resurrection of Jesus, but he knew that God had set eternity in our hearts. And that is the anticipation and the expectation that we have been created to live forever… that followers of Christ will be raised up on the last day to live forever with him. This single phrase is worth all that Solomon has written in this book. You have been created to live forever! Even if he doesn’t quite understand it himself, it has been written for us to claim and bolster our faith in a God who has put eternal desire in our hearts to enjoy him forever.