Friday, 12 October 2012

Ecclesiastes Essay part 6

Help from Ecclesiastes in understanding the Christian life
In my own life, I am encouraged to partake of God’s joy in the simple things (5:18), rather than to be constantly unsatisfied, yearning for something more (6:9). This can be difficult, living in a materialistic capitalist society perfectly described by 5:11:
As goods increase,
  so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
  except to feast their eyes on them?
My joy is also often endangered by my tendency to plan without the wise discretion and prudence which Qohelet commends in D’ (eg 11:1-2, 5-6). As I do not know which of my efforts to encourage and edify my church family will ‘succeed’, I should be busy morning and evening, in multiple ‘ventures’. Whatever my hand finds to do, I should do it with all my might (9:10). Then I may find satisfaction in the labour and lot God has given me.

Finally, my study of Ecclesiastes has taught me the value and danger of ‘many books’ and ‘much study’ (12:12). In closely scrutinizing the biblical text, reading commentaries and critical texts, and preparing this essay, I have been forced to think much more deeply about the text of Ecclesiastes than I have thought about any Bible text recently. Initially, this knowledge confused me rather than clarifying, just as Qohelet was driven to despair (2:17) by his initial observations. I had to struggle with the text in order to understand it satisfactorily. In his book Think, John Piper recommends deep thinking about the way words are used to build arguments in biblical passages; often I have been content to presume the obvious meaning is the only one, and stop thinking once I have found it. Wrestling with Ecclesiastes has humbled me, and inspired me to come to God’s house and listen (5:1).

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