I wonder if every generation has felt overwhelmed at times with living. It could be deadlines at work. It could be the constant care required by a child or elder parent. It could be the burden of maintaining all our stuff. There are many reasons that we become overrun by our lives. I was recently reading in a passage of the Bible that reminded us to “stop and smell the roses.”
I have really been enjoying reading through the book of Ecclesiastes with intention. Ecclesiastes is one of the more difficult portions of the Bible to understand. Yes, there are portions that make sense, but there are many idioms, illusions that are difficult to understand today. Our natural tendencies when in this section of the Bible is to skip over the stuff that does not make sense. There is nothing wrong with this. But there is a risk that we can miss some truth gems in God’s Word. Ecclesiastes is a part of God’s Word that makes us think and do some work, but it is well worth the time and effort.
One of the reoccurring emphases is the one stated at the beginning, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) In fact Solomon uses the word vanity thirty-eight times. Another translation captures the conclusion of the sage, ““Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The word translated vanity and meaningless means emptiness, futility, vapor, that which vanishes quickly and leaves nothing behind. Whether he considers, as Warren Wiersbe put it, “his wealth, his works, his wisdom, or his world, Solomon comes to the same sad conclusion: all is “vanity and vexation of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
One powerful observation that Solomon draws from his “experiment” is that “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7) It seems like each section concludes a similar reminder to make it a point to enjoy each day. He poetically points out the many inconsistencies with life “under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14) It is easy for us to be dragged downstream in the rat race and miss the blessing of God each day. Thinking of our verse above, how often do we skip a meal or scarf down our food, to get onto more important things? We miss the enjoyment of the flavors, textures and even the fellowship around the table, a gift from God, to accomplish the next task.
Part of the problem is that we have missed the real meaning of life, and that is a relationship with the creator. Solomon gives us glimpses in each section that life only makes sense when we are in relationship in God. He also encourages us to enjoy the things of life while we can. “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
Looking forward to what 2023 holds for us, let me encourage you to invest in your relationship with your Creator each day, but also to enjoy the little things in your life. I would also encourage you to read this wonderful section of Scripture intentionally using a Study Bible or a resource like the Bible Knowledge Commentary (We can help you with finding apps and digital resources).
-Pastor Joe Parkinson