The End of the Matter: Ecclesiastes Redux

Ever have one of those days that you could not have manufactured, a day in which you heard something that moved you deeply, or saw sights that you knew right away would remain with you for your life?

And I don’t mean a spectacle like a mountaintop experience or a cruise in Alaskan waters or sunsets on Oahu. For me, it was just a day with fellow soldiers and with a speaker who shared a message from my favorite book of the Bible: Ecclesiastes.

One of America’s great warriors, now a civilian pastor, still preaching the gospel to soldiers and civilians alike, spoke to me and my fellow soldiers. His theme was straight from Ecclesiastes: Don’t miss God for anything else. Why? Because anyone and anything else is–by design–less than. There is God, and then there is everything else. There is the Creator, and there is the created.

Solomon unpacked this fundamental theme for 12 chapters throughout Ecclesiastes. He wrote about what he called “the end of the matter” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). He wrote of ultimate things. He wrote of how he squandered much of his life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 5:8-7:24). He called it vanity, emptiness, vexation, roping of the wind, futility.

The speaker today, like Solomon in Ecclesiastes, spoke to younger men, trying to warn them not to lose their souls by gaining this world and forfeiting their souls. He shared his own experiences. He connected them to Solomon’s wisdom.

And who knows if the message will take root in the souls of these young men? I hope so. I had a friend years back who was a great encourager to me when I was pastoring. He said, “Jon, we sow the seeds but only God can till the heart.” He was exactly right.

We do what we can. We open the text. We proclaim it. We explain it. We teach it. We hold it forth. But unless and until God tills the soil of the human heart, it’s unheeded wisdom. If wisdom is unheeded, it remains neglected and rather a knowledge, not wisdom. The distinction is that wisdom is knowledge appropriately applied, lived out.

Hence, my love of Ecclesiastes. Solomon was a man who made a lot of blunders, but he had the humility and wisdom, inconsistently for sure, to try and reach those he loved.

As Solomon penned, again today we all saw it: “The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises” (Ecclesiastes 1:5). We have another shot at it, to hear wisdom and embrace it, to live it out. Or we will suppress it, mock it, scoff at truth, and to turn away.

I have a great privilege, the opportunity to hold forth the message of hope, of reconciliation, of redemption, of forgiveness, of wisdom.

May God till many hearts.

Time will tell.

May we learn, in the time allotted to us, the wisdom of Ecclesiastes, and that wisdom is much more than a cognitive and theological construct; it is, rather, a person who took on flesh, bore the sins of His people, and conquered the world’s folly, to rise three days later, as proof that the wisdom of God overcomes the pride of men.

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