Today's Reading - Ecclesiastes 7-12
A brief overview of Ecclesiastes
Introduction: (1:1-11) "Everything is meaningless
Investigating the Meaninglessness of life (1:12-6:9)
Conclusions about the Meaninglessness of life (6:10-11:6)
- Introduction (6:10-12)
- Man cannot discover what is good for him to do. (7:1-8:17)
- Man has no idea what comes after him. (9:1-11:6)
Concluding poem (11:7-12:8)
Devotional - Bad Stuff Happens
What is Solomon's problem?
In Proverbs, Solomon sets forth clear teachings of wisdom, explaining that life is choices and choices have consequences and that the path to wise living is to make wise choices that bring God's blessing. Proverbs has its dark moments, but it is encouraging and positive about what happens to the man or woman who walks in God's will.
It is strange, then, to see pessimism and even cynicism in the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon now catalogs the things that he has observed going wrong in the world. In Ecclesiastes 9:3, he laments the fact that everyone faces the same fate - both good and evil. We all die. In verse 11, he catalogs some of the inequities and injustices in the world. Bad "luck" seems to happen to people who deserve better. In verse 12 he describes how life sometimes "traps" people in evil situations. In 10:6, Solomon observes that sometimes the wrong people get to the top and people who deserve better end up at the bottom. Throughout chapter 10 he mentions example after example of unfairness and injustice in this world.
Solomon has come face to face with a truth - this is one messed-up, sinful world. Bad stuff happens. He has realized how unfair life can be. So, is he changing his mind about the wisdom he taught in Proverbs? Does he no longer believe what he taught about wisdom?
No, Solomon here still calls on people to walk in wisdom and in obedience to God. But he also has come to realize that just because you do the right thing does not guarantee that everything will work out okay. It is always better to live God's way, but in a sinful world, bad things can still fall even on the wise.
What's the lesson here? It certainly isn't cynicism or pessimism. God doesn't want us to be angry and bitter. But we must realize that the world can still throw curve balls at us even when we are walking in careful obedience. Our goal is to serve God for his glory and because it is right, not simply to guarantee a desired outcome.
We serve God because he is God. We serve God because he is good. We serve God because we believe that the way he commands is the best way to live life. We serve God to please him. We serve God because it is always better to serve God than to serve sin.
But we do NOT serve God to guarantee a life of comfort, ease, and freedom from hardship. Oh, that will come - it is called heaven! But in this messed up world, we cannot avoid the consequences of the curse. Tornadoes don't wind through a town picking out the homes of drug dealers, adulterers and perverts to destroy. Life happens, and serving God is no guarantee of protection against life.
But Solomon's assertion throughout Ecclesiastes is this - even in a messed up world, even without guarantees, even when things go wrong, it is still better to serve God.
Father, may I serve you faithfully and for the right reasons!