This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
Last night, we had our 17th and final lesson in Chasing After the Wind, our study in the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s been a great trip through the book, and one that had us asking the question last night, “What do we do with this now?” We’ve seen Solomon go to great lengths to get his point across, showing us that all the things people chase after in this world will never ultimately satisfy, and that nothing has any meaning whatsoever unless viewed through the lens of the God who created it. In chapter 12, he brings home his point with one final thrust, much like a student who closes a research paper by summarizing the force of his research. As we read this final charge, we looked at three specific ways that we can apply the book’s message to our lives, so that we can follow James’ charge to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.”
First, in verses 1-8, we looked at the charge to live urgently. Solomon exhorts us to remember God in our youth, before life saps away our strength and desire. So often, we make the mistake of thinking that living for God’s glory is something that we’ll do later in life, once we take our time living for ourselves. What a mistake this is. As time marches on, many of the opportunities we are given to glorify God will fade, as Solomon illustrates in his reflections on time destroying our joy (verse 1), physical strength (verses 2-5), desire (verse 5), wealth (verse 6), and life itself (verses 6-7). If we are not taking advantage of every moment we’re given, we will come to the end of it all and see the meaninglessness of verse 8. I told my students last night that I don’t want to see them cruise through their teenage years and then look back at age 40 or 50 and see a wasted youth. Whatever your age or place in life, live every moment unto the glory of God and seize every opportunity he has blessed you with to do so. In it all, enjoy every breath as a gift from the God who has created all joy and pleasure.
Next, in verses 9-12, we looked at the need for us to seek wisdom and live it out. Notice Solomon’s summary of his own life’s work – not only did he seek out wisdom with all of his heart, but he taught it to the people, he sought to pass its benefits on. It affected the way that he lived his life (though, at some times more than others). The wisdom of God is never a static knowledge, but it affects the way we approach every area of life, from schoolwork and jobs to relationships with friends and family to romance to marriage and everything in between. In fact, verses 11 and 12 serve as a warning against the accumulation of knowledge for knowledge’s sake at the expense of seeking the true and perfect wisdom of God, which Solomon says is like a nail that fixes us firmly in place.
Finally, in verses 13 and 14, Solomon summarizes the whole point of the book, or as he calls it, “the end of the matter.” What is the meaning of life? What is the point of it all? These are questions that have puzzled people for ages. Ecclesiastes sums the answer up for us in a single sentence – “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” What should you do with your life? Develop a view of God that sees his glory, magnificence, holiness, justice, grace, mercy, and love, and let that view provoke in you a sense of reverence and awe that compels you to seek God and his ways with every breath. So often in America, we fall into the trap of seeing faith as just another compartment in our lives, right up there with relationships, school, work, hobbies and the like, rather than seeing it as supreme – as the lens through which we see and understand all those other things and by which they have their meaning. If knowing, treasuring and following God - which we now understand is done through knowing, treasuring, and following Christ and his cross - is truly everything, if it is the purpose of your existence, then does your life properly reflect that? Forget your words, does your life agree with the declaration of verse 13? Keep its truth always at the forefront of your mind and heart, and when you, like Solomon, come to the end of your life, you’ll find that far from a “vanity of vanities,” or a “chasing after the wind,” you have instead lived a life that was in no way wasted. May God give us grace and joy in that pursuit.