The sun rises and sets. The wind blows continually around the earth and rivers flow constantly into the sea. Generations come and go. This has been the pattern for ages past, and continues in an unending cycle until time is no more. Pleasure and laughter are transient. Riches and wealth give only fleeting pleasures. Sickness sometimes appears to have free reign and injustice abounds. The teacher in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes said ‘Meaningless. Everything is meaningless’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2). And he went on to say ‘What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labour under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest’ (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23).
He wrote that all kinds of evil rampages around the world and the tears of the oppressed are widespread. ‘There is something else that occurs on earth: the righteous get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless’ (Ecclesiastes 8:14). And so he goes on. Where are God’s words of encouragement? Ecclesiastes seems to be the most depressing book in the Bible.
But if we look closely into this book, we find that all the futile ways of man, all the injustices and man’s striving for fulfilment are preceded by the words ‘under the sun.’ It appears that everything the teacher sees ‘under the sun’ is of the world, the soulish ways of mankind which come to nothing. ‘So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless’ (Ecclesiastes 2:17).
This is in direct contrast to the perfect ways of God. ‘He has made everything beautiful’. And ‘He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
God created everything for good. Eternal life with the Father was God’s plan from the beginning, and this desire was planted in man’s heart. It’s not God’s will that people suffer, but that they live in peace and harmony with Him, enjoying the pleasures He provides. And the key that unlocks the door to godly living? Reverence for Him, and walking in the ways He has ordained:
‘Here is the conclusion of the matter: Revere and worship God … keep His commandments, for this is the original purpose of His creation and …. the foundation of all happiness‘ (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
From the beginning God has insisted ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). This is fundamental for all Christian believers. As we stand upon this foundation the Lord Jesus Christ leads us further into God’s grace: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live … and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). Or do we prefer to live ‘under the sun?’
Prayer: Father, so often I drift back into the ways of the world, and wonder why my prayers don’t seem to be reaching You. Please show me the areas of my life which are futile, and help me walk only in the way of Jesus. Thank You, Father. Amen.
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