Join us after worship this Sunday for a thanksgiving meal celebrating what God has done in the purchase of the Hanon property, development of our learning center, and upcoming launch of the high school. Sunshine, food, and fellowship. Looking forward to being with you.
Our Bible reading plan has us in Ecclesiastes this week, a book that is not overly impressed with the things of man. Long before coming to the famous denouement of chapter 12, the Preacher makes clear he is familiar with the ways of men, and familiar with the ways of God, and is impressed only by the latter. Hence 12:13, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”
Far from giving us despair, the Preacher is giving us perspective and even joy. What he says in 7:20: “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins;” will be echoed and expanded by Paul, our author of Christ’s love and grace, in Romans 3: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Neither author means us ill. If we are afflicted with the current disease of needing to hear only positive, affirming things about ourselves (which has much more to do with Rom. 1:25 than Rom. 12:1), there is a great deal in the Bible we will have to read around. But that sort of reading will do us harm.
In truth, neither author is so much diminishing the creature, whom God loves, as exalting the Creator. We are born with a skewed perspective and a skewed will, both inordinately, even destructively, devoted to the self. This is in you even now. The secret known by the Preacher and Paul is that the most fulfilling life possible is to be united to Christ in the loss of all lesser things, joining in his suffering and death (Php. 3:8-11). This is why Jesus said that if we were to follow him, we would have to deny ourselves each day and take up our crosses — not a path to misery but to joy. So Jesus himself “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).
Alas, such truth is reserved for the wise, and the wise, as the Preacher often laments, are few. And yet, the book of Ecclesiastes is given to us that we might become wise. That’s a call we can answer by reading, and embracing, the counter-intuitive truths we find in that book, and so many other books and passages in Scripture. Fear God. Don’t fear difficulty and trial and hardship. These are meant to shape us into creatures of hope and joy by weaning us off the vanity of earthly loves and attaching us to one, heavenly love.