Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Just like Job

"And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living,  who are still alive. But better than both is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil  that is done under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 4:2-3

Solomon's woes continue in today's reading and his words sound a lot like the words of Job, who also lamented that the day he was born. "After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth" (Job 3:1)

If we dissect Solomon's thoughts in these 2 verses, we can see that he is highlighting three groups of people. Firstly, those who have died. Secondly, those who are still alive and then, thirdly, those people who are still to be born. This is all done with the background of his observation of oppression. His response to those who have no comforter (both the oppressed and oppressors) is this:

1. The dead are better off, because they are now free from the pain and trials of this oppressive world.

2. Those of us who are alive are worst off, because we still need to witness the agony of oppression and 'heart-break' in our world.

3. Those who are best off are the unborn children, as they are still innocent and haven't yet had their hearts broken by the sins of humanity.

Shew, this is all a little too depressing for me to be honest. Thankfully, we know the Good News that comes from Jesus Christ and that our Saviour offers us hope in the midst of all our struggles. Jesus offers us 'the abundant life' even though there is still pain all around us. For me, Jesus Christ gives me a reason to push through all the heart-break I see around me.

What do you think?

Living in Grace


Tuesday, 29 September 2020

No comforter

It has been said that Mark Twain wrote so bitterly at times because he felt so deeply about things. I can't argue this point at all, but I do feel we could suggest the same for Solomon. As we move into chapter 4 we see that his writing continues to be filled with desperation. Even though he turns now to address issues on a society level, we clearly see his despair.

"Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:

I saw the tears of the oppressed—
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
and they have no comforter." - 4:1

It is interesting that he see that both the oppressor and the oppressed seem to have no one to comfort them. Initially I thought 'why should the oppressor have someone to comfort them?Surely, it is only the oppressed who need comfort?' But, then I was challenged by a Biblical commentator who suggested that the reason why the powerful oppress others is because the lack contentment and peace. They take their frustrations out on others - usually in a very destructive way.

Thankfully, Jesus offers to bring comfort to all people and to those who call on his name Jesus offers perfect peace.

John 14:16 - And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate (Comforter) to help you and be with you forever.

Living in Grace

Monday, 28 September 2020

We share the same fate

Shew Solomon really seems to be having a bad-hair day towards the end of chapter 3. His dark mood permeates the end of this amazingly complex chapter, but we have come to expect this of him. Remember that I encouraged us to read Ecclesiastes 12 before we started chapter 1? The reason for this was to remind us that Solomon eventually gets things straightened out in his heart, but he goes through a lot of turbulence before he makes peace with the Lord. 

"I also thought about the human condition—how God proves to people that they are like animals. For people and animals share the same fate—both breathe and both must die. So people have no real advantage over the animals. How meaningless! Both go to the same place—they came from dust and they return to dust. For who can prove that the human spirit goes up and the spirit of animals goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is our lot in life. And no one can bring us back to see what happens after we die. " - Ecclesiastes 3:18-22

A few words of Solomon's rant grab my attention today:

1. People and animals are given life by God and we will all return to dust one day. 

2. Could Solomon be suggesting that animals and humans will be together in the afterlife? Quite a comforting thought for many of us.

3. We spend a large portion of our lives in some kind of work - best we enjoy this as much as we can or perhaps find something that fulfils us. 

4. Solomon never knew Jesus, but it is reassuring for us that Jesus has conquered death and given us a foretaste of eternal life with him.

What do you think?

Living in Grace


Sunday, 27 September 2020

Called to account

Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.

And I saw something else under the sun:
In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
in the place of justice—wickedness was there.

I said to myself,
“God will bring into judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
a time to judge every deed.” -
Ecclesiastes 3:15-17

There is definitely a clear sense of the inevitable in Solomon's words today. It is inevitable that we will all be called to account for our actions one day. And it is also inevitable that 'what will be, will be!'
In my opinion Que Sera Sera is not a 'shrugging of the shoulders with no hope', but rather a realisation that my life is in God's hands and I need to trust in God's wisdom.

What do you think of today's reading?

Living in grace

Saturday, 26 September 2020

God's gift to us

When one pauses to think about the many blessings and gifts God has given to us we realise that there are many of them. Here are a few that came to my mind this morning:


Solomon adds another few to this list:

"I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him." - Ecclesiastes 3:12-14

Our gift is to find meaning and satisfaction in our daily toil. Is that something you would agree with? Have you experienced this yourself?

"What we are is God's gift to us. What we become is our gift to God." - Eleanor Powell

Living in Grace


Friday, 25 September 2020

What has God done?

"What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." - Ecclesiastes 3:9-10

There are 2 clear thoughts coming from our reading today. Solomon argues that God has 'done' two things for the human race. One seems a little hard, while the other is a longing for the future. He comes to the conclusion that 'work' is the burden that God has laid upon the human race, but with a little patience, we can see the beauty in that. Hard work and toil will reap a reward.

The other key thought is that we are created with a longing for eternity. It is Solomon's opinion that each person is born with a part of their heart set for life beyond this world. This conclusion could have come to him as he reflected on the purpose of his life. Surely there is more to eating, drinking, working, growing old and then dying. We all long for something more, which he calls Eternity.

How have you experienced these thoughts before?

"Time is but the shadow of the world upon the background of Eternity." - Jerome

Living in Grace


War and Peace

 "...a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace." - Ecclesiastes 3:8

I am often tempted to only read Ecclesiastes 3 from my personal point of view. However, when I do this I come to readings like v.8 and then get stumped. I think to myself, "I haven't waged war on anyone and I don't really want to hate anyone." Of course, we can interpret Solomon's words in a way of being at peace/war with our friends, family or community - and there are plenty of opportunities for us to experience both extremes in one lifetime.

On the other hand, Solomon reminds us that war, peace, love and hate will all occur at some point in our lifetime. We may not choose these options or even have control over them, but when you have lived long enough, you recognise these things have taken place. If I think back over my life, I have witnessed all of these at some point - not all on a personal level, but globally and in our own country. 

Seasons come and go with our consent and without it. I believe my role is to submit to the Lordship of Jesus and to trust that God will guide me through all the seasons and times I have to face. Without God in my life I would be overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness, especially when things happen around me.

Does that make any sense to you?

"“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.” - Leo Tolstoy (War  and Peace)

Living in Grace