GRASPING FOR THE WIND ~ ECCLESIASTES, CHAPTER 1
As we wait for our future to play out, many are holding their breath while waiting. Questions swirl around and around in our minds because of current economy issues. Fear abounds. Some are floundering or sinking. Many are homeless. Holding your breath won’t help…it will only make you feel faint. And this is no time for the faint-hearted. JUST BREATHE…You won’t make it through this hard time if you don’t JUST BREATHE.
I think often about a question that was popular with the flower children of the ‘60’s. The question was phrased differently by some, but basically it was this: “What is the purpose of life?” Unfortunately, the flower children of the ‘60’s thought the answer could be found in some drug induced stupor… Shame on them…. No… no one has, nor ever will be able to answer that question in the natural, but the person who came the closest was King Solomon.
King Solomon was renowned for his wisdom. He pondered the question of our existence and we can read his very thoughts on the subject today in the Book of Ecclesiastes. This particular book of the Bible is short, but powerful. The book flows and the thought pattern is fairly easy to follow. So, I have it in my heart to share Ecclesiastes with whoever is willing to study along with me.
My love for the Book of Ecclesiastes began in January 2004. My Father had congestive heart failure for many years. He entered the hospital in January for valve replacement. The day that my Dad entered the hospital, the Lord placed a burning need in my heart to study – REALLY STUDY – the Book of Ecclesiastes. I began the study the same day and I finished the study the morning that the Lord took my Dad home.
Just a little bit of information is necessary here….I was a Daddy’s girl… Oh yeah…big time! My Mom said that the attachment was strong from infancy. To this day, I am certain that the Lord was preparing me for the death of my Dad. The Lord knows my heart better than I do. He knew that certain questions needed to be answered before I faced what I was to face. He knew that without the prior study of Ecclesiastes, that my faith might not survive the death of my Father. God knew that. I didn’t until my faith was shaken to the very roots. It was because of my in depth study of Ecclesiastes that I was able to cling to my faith through the storm. And God showed me through circumstances that it was positively Daddy’s time to go home. (I am saving the details for a later blog.) My loss was great, but the Lord comforted me through His leading for this study at that critical time in my life. God is merciful… JUST LIKE THAT!
Maybe it is due to my upbringing, or maybe it is something that God put deep in my spirit, I can’t tell you which, but I have always been an optimist. I think there are a lot of optimists… More than the pessimists…I think. I think it is human nature to be more optimistic than pessimistic. We take our optimism and add expectation – mix it up and we have a blended mixture of what we think our life SHOULD be. Well, Solomon said it best:
“Vanity of vanities”, says the Preacher;
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”.
The Preacher (Solomon) then lists the “vanities”, expounds upon each and concludes with TRUTH.
The Vanity of Human Accomplishments: First, Solomon questions what profit has a man from his labor “under the sun” (in the physical life). Then, we are reminded that generation follows generation – the same as the earth continues to cycle…sunrises, then sunsets, the wind whirls around continually, all rivers run into the sea, says Solomon, to the place from which rivers come, there to return again.
All things are full of labor;
Man cannot express it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor the ear filled with hearing.
We work to achieve those things we wish to achieve, but we can never circumvent the cycle of life. We all will die…eventually. Solomon concludes this portion by reminding the reader that there really isn’t anything “new”…it is as it always has been and always will be.
Does anyone know their great great grandfather? Do you even know his name? What was his occupation? What did he accomplish in his life? Do you really know what he was like? You are from his blood line, yet you know little to nothing about him. Most of us don’t even have a picture of him for reference. Even if we do have a lot of old pictures, we don’t know our great great grandfather from Adam. Case in point… We will be forgotten after a while… A couple of generations later and you are only a name in a lineage without any memory of you.
We are born, we live and then we die; our remains returned to the earth, as the earth continues to cycle through time. The memory of us lingering briefly, then to fade into forgetfulness. And yet, knowing this, man strives to achieve because he is never satisfied in life. I think it is better to love. Love is remembered longer than the material thing.
The Vanity of Wisdom: Here we see Solomon use past tense when telling that he was king over Israel. This tells us that Solomon wrote this book when he was old. He had already lived most of his life. Right about now, the flower children of the ‘60’s should be coming to understanding “why we are here”… without the drugs!
Remembrance, ponderings and reasoning seem to come more frequently as we age. And, for the most part, that can be a good thing because, in my experience, time and distance has added perspective. I just have to be careful that I stay away from the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve thoughts because those thoughts are completely unproductive and THAT is also vanity.
In the book of Kings I, Chapter 3, Solomon asked God for wisdom so that he could be a good king. God liked that Solomon did not ask for long life, riches or the life of his enemies, but only asked for understanding to discern justice. So God blessed Solomon with the wisdom as he asked and then, because God was pleased with Solomon’s request, God added riches and honor to Solomon’s gift of wisdom.
I have seen all the works
That are under the sun;
And indeed, all is vanity and
Grasping for the wind.
In his life, Solomon had attained all he desired. He had great wisdom, knowledge, wealth and successes. But, he loved women – many foreign women. Solomon married 700 princesses of royal birth and he had 300 concubines. Solomon had a pattern of using political marriages to establish good foreign relations, but it was contrary to God’s will (see Deuteronomy 17:17). Solomon’s wives turned his heart to other false gods; therefore, his heart was not fully devoted to his true God. (I Kings, Chapter 11) He concludes this portion by confession that he had set his heart to know, not only wisdom, but madness and folly. This he also perceived to be grasping for the wind.
For in much wisdom is much grief,
And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
As you may have guessed, I am a product of the ‘60’s. I love all of the “philosophical” songs of that era. My generation could be best described as seekers of the truth of life. Many songwriters expressed those questions in song. But, of all the philosophical songs, I think one comes closest to the truth. It was this: “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind...the answer is blowing in the wind.”
In our old age, we often reflect on our lives… Well, I do… I think many do. Also in our old age, God gives us a little extra wisdom and that added wisdom sometimes causes sorrow in the remembering. But, even so, we are left wondering just what is the reason for our life…
In conclusion, Solomon has thus far learned that the reason for our life cannot be found in accomplishments or wisdom. What he does know is that he will live, eventually die and ultimately be forgotten.
If you have not already read Chapter 1 of Ecclesiastes, I encourage you to do so and, if you would read along with me, that would be GREAT!
Solomon has explored the meaning of life, intellectually, in Chapter 1, yet we haven’t learned the meaning of life yet. In Chapter 2, he will determine if the meaning of life can be found in hedonism or materialism.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time
are not worthy to be compared with the glory
which shall be revealed in us.