Day One Hundred Forty-Eight, Ecclesiastes
Today’s reading begins what is probably one of my favorite books of the Bible, though I don’t read this one as often as I should. In fact, usually whenever I read it, I realize that I’ve forgotten how great it is, how much there is to glean from it. It was likely written by Solomon, the wisest man to live, and written late in his years, after he’d spent his life on the things of this life.
I don’t particularly care for the way Ecclesiastes is organized in this daily reading Bible, though. F. LaGard Smith took the liberty of arranging Ecclesiastes in topical order (much like he did the Psalms and Proverbs), but it’s one that just seems to make more sense to me in the order that it was originally written. Regardless, that’s what I’ve got to blog with, so bear with me.
Today’s reading starts out with the ultimate question:
“What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?”
Or we might phrase it, “What is the meaning of life?”
He talks about the cyclical nature of life:
“Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises…what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
He talks about mortality, how the same fate seems to await everyone. Man and animals, the foolish and the wise, the righteous and the wicked:
“As one dies, so does the other. All have the same breath…all come from dust, and to dust all return…the same fate overtakes them both.”
Because of this, he talks about the importance of living in the present and enjoying what you do:
“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”
He follows up the importance of living in the present with the reason why—because we do not know when we will die:
“The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen tot hem all. Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come.”
Today’s reading ended with a section in which he basically throws his hands up and says it can’t be done—answering that ultimate question can’t be done:
“When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labor on earth—his eyes not seeing sleep day or night—then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.”