Wednesday, January 25, 2017

First Steps of Faith

This post continues the exploration of the book of Ecclesiastes 

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 ESV)

            Ecclesiastes can seem to be a ‘cynical’ book, particularly early on, but it is not a book devoid of hope and faith.  In the above verses, the author reaches an early conclusion: because life and existence are “vanity” (again this word means ‘temporary ‘or ‘transient’ as a vapor) and there seems to be no great purpose, a person should seek the simple pleasures of the world—a good meal, a fine wine, a job which makes one feel complete and valued.  Don’t worry about trying to change the world; just be at peace with yourself.  The author sees God’s hand in this (only the second time thus far that God has been mentioned in the book). 
            The author has come to a critical realization: “apart from [God] who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”  For the first time in his discourse on vain things, the author sees ‘beyond the sun’ to something more; a vertical dimension to life.  These are the first steps of faith—the recognition of something more that what can be experienced “under the sun”. 
            Recognition of God, and our need to be connected to Him, is a vital step towards discovering our life’s meaning and purpose.  The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)  The author of Ecclesiastes believes that God exists and believes that He gives “wisdom and knowledge and joy” (2:26) to those who please Him.  He has not yet discovered meaning, but has taken a crucial first step. 
            Every person’s search for meaning must begin here as well.  If one only look ‘horizontally’, what the book of Ecclesiastes refers to as “under the sun” they will never find ultimate fulfillment or purpose.  Only as a person takes the first steps of faith and looks ‘vertically’, or as I say ‘beyond the sun’, will they begin to discover the meaning they long for.