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Passage: Ecclesiastes 1-4

On Friday, August 2, 2013 (Last Updated on 8/1/2015), Yujin wrote,

I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind. The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6).

I like the NIV translation of this passage better because it makes the meaning clearer for the average reader:

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Fools fold their hands
and ruin themselves.

Better one handful with tranquillity
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6).

Solomon presents two extremes. One scenario portrays the endless striving of one person to outdo another, a meaningless conflict of egos. The other scenario presents the opposite extreme of fools that see this rivalry and opt not not strive at all, thus, bringing ruin on themselves.

While in Solomon's worldview, everything done under the sun is vanity, it is, nevertheless, better to have a little and be content with that than to continually and vainly toil for more. This is the meaning of the latter expression:

Better one handful with tranquillity
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 4:6).

I remember chatting with my dad about this topic. He told me that there was a very rich man, who went to the same high school as he did in Korea. Now, my dad is not poor, but he was nowhere near as rich as this other man. But my dad said that he believed that he had the better lot in life. I asked why he thought this. His answer sounded just like this passage of Ecclesiastes. 

He told me that he had everything he needed and much more. He was healthy, had a nice home, a happy wife, wise children with healthy marriages, and a lovely grandchild. He enjoyed living simply, spending time reading and working out. He had no worries, financial or otherwise, carried no debts and could provide a nice inheritance both to his children and grandchildren. And he praised God and Jesus for blessing him in this way.

Yet, this other man was rich, but he likely had many headaches both in attaining his wealth, as well as in managing it. He also learned that this man's family and childrens' families suffered dysfunctions and unrest. 

My father just had one handful, but it was combined with tranquility. As Solomon wrote, this is much preferable to two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.

Friends, let us take this lesson to heart. As Paul wrote,

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that (2 Timothy 6:6-7). 

Let us not strive to be rich, and let us not foolishly be idle with respect to responsible living. But let us learn to live modestly, being content with this, while passionately pursuing the things that most glorify God.

Passage: Ecclesiastes 1-4

On Saturday, August 4, 2012, Fernando wrote,
Eccelsiastes 4
13†Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice.

I wanted to tie this to a comment I made for Proverbs 9, again Solomon ties wisdom not to having knowledge or skills in responding, but a humility to learn, 'to take advice.'

Passage: Ecclesiastes 1-4

On Thursday, August 2, 2012 (Last Updated on 8/2/2013), Yujin wrote,

For everything there is a season... Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time (Ecclesiastes 3:1,11).

The segment ("there is a time for...a time for...) here is famous and has inspired numerous songs and books and philosophies. Traditionally, it is interpreted as an expression of fate, that there is an ordained time for every experience. 

But today I see a different angle, which may be more in keeping with the context of Ecclesiastes. Perhaps what Solomon is presenting is not simply an expression of fate but more pointedly the limitations of every event under the sun. This is in keeping with the overriding theme that everything passes away, and is even forgotten, over the course of time.

Then, when we read that "God has made everything beautiful for its own time," we understand that as everything in life is bound by time, it is God, who has set the boundaries. The predicament for human beings is that while they toil through all the experiences of llife, they cannot see the ultimate design for all their efforts? Why? Solomon tells us. God has made it so. God has put this burden or ignorance on our hearts.

Now, the verses that follow, as in my NLT translation, are these:"Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end."

Yet a compelling case can be made that contemporary translations misread the vocalization of the word translated "eternity" so that the word is actually "darkness" or "ignorance" rather than "eternity" (see BibSac article 1.6 MB). The verses could then be translated this way:

He has made everything appropriate in its time, yet He has also placed darkness in their hearts so that people cannot discover the work which God has done from beginning to end.

What this means is that while God orders all the events of life, he does not let people know His ultimate reasons for ordering them the way He does. Why does He allow some people to live and others to die? Why does He often bring misfortune upon the righteous and ease to the wicked? Why does He save some and not others? These are all questions we might all love to have answered, but they are not answered. Job asked such a question, but did not get an anwswer. Paul asked such a question, but did not get an answer. Why? Solomon says it is because God has placed darkness (or "ignorance") in our hearts so that we cannot discover the whole scope of God's work.

We are not meant to know. The effort is futile, so Solomon says that attention should instead be given to live the knowable life as best as we can:

In terms of life under the sun, Solomon says, "So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God" (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).

While Solomon says that we should choose to be happy and enjoy the fruit of our labor for this life, he says in the larger sphere, which includes this life, the most important thing is to trust and obey God:

That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Solomon recognizes both the temporal realm of man as well as the eternal work of God, and he gives counsel for both. It teaches us to simply enjoy life, in all its aspects, as God's gift and to enjoy it in the fear of God, who will ultimately judge everything we do. 

Passage: Ecclesiastes 1-4

On Tuesday, August 2, 2011, Stephen wrote,

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:"

 I pray that God will give us keen eyes to see what season we are in and that our obedient hearts will prevail no matter what season we are in. Our heavenly father is good and faithful! What could possibly take away the joy of having Him in us? Let's praise Him all day long

Passage: Ecclesiastes 1-4

On Tuesday, August 2, 2011, Fernando wrote,
This book takes out the beginning and the end. Then it looks at life horizontally - life in being a child of Adam. This is an honest book about life. 'Both man and beast die... Both good and evil struggle... Everyone has access to pleasures and prudent living.'

You can be Buddhist and smile and be healthy, caring little for what is not immediately at hand. You can be a hispanic liked by many through lots of fancy clothes and a pleasing smile. You can be an Australian who abuses his family. Regardless, you have access to laughter and good times.

You also have access through prudent living to treat other people well 'because it is reasonable' and leads to not being alone and being cold with no warm body next to you (4:11).

In other words, if you look at your life's products alone you will fall into meaninglessness. (1:18) For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Speaking to people who struggle with purpose in their lives they pause and look around. They compare one way of living to another, thinking that a particular philosophy will hold keys. It won't, we are all subject to the same illnesses, oppression, cheer, and pleasures.

You will not find answers without considering the beginning and the end.
(3:11) Also, he has put eternity into manís heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
Hawkins says there is no need for God for the universe to be. Yet things are determined for a purpose, but since we don't know the purpose it might as well not be.

He has clipped off the beginning and the end, and as scriptures say, through vexation, knowledge increased to sorrow. All to the end of getting no understanding.

With Jesus, the beginning is revealed. A purpose of joy is woven in all evils and goodness. And, understanding seals our future in hope of Jesus.