Ecclesiastes – Your own downward path
I discovered that God created people to be upright, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path. Ecclesiastes 7:29
Ecclesiastes is a kind of investigational autobiography describing the meaning of life from a human perspective. Solomon deems himself uniquely qualified to teach about meaning since he has achieved everything a human being could possibly desire. Intelligence, wealth, wisdom, authority, power, pleasure – he had it all. So he offers the advice of one who has been there and done that in an attempt to let people know what lies at the end of the road they are on.
In the book he discusses various life paths; knowledge, pleasure, wealth, philosophy, everything. And his conclusion is that life is meaningless. Everything is temporary, fleeting, vain and futile because every life, rich or poor, slave or free, pauper or prince, ends the same way, death. Death is the great equalizer, it’s the imposing hurdle that human beings can’t jump.
From his human perspective the best he can advise is that one should just enjoy daily life; eat, drink and enjoy your work because that is all there is.
When life is observed to be all there is and after a few fleeting years you die and cease to exist, everything you did forgotten, everything you had left behind, you were born with nothing and you leave with nothing, then what’s the point of it all? It’s meaningless, or, as Solomon repeats throughout the book, “like chasing the wind.”
While the wisdom of Solomon proposes rings true, it is not “The Truth”. Because the human view is wrong. It is shortsighted and doesn’t allow for a relational connection to a loving, creator God. The truth is that God is intimately involved with His creation and has a higher purpose for humanity, a plan full of meaning, value and purpose. The exact opposite of the human view that Solomon so accurately explains.
Life by itself would be a futile, meaningless waste. But life is never by itself. God is here and He is near to every person who wants more than the downward path they are currently on.
“He has put eternity in their hearts…” Ecclesiastes 3:11
Inherent in every life from conception is the God-placed knowledge that this life is not all there is. It is pushed far to the back of many lives through hardship, struggle, pain, or success and victory, but it is there nonetheless. Many times this still, small voice, this knowledge of something or someone more, pushes to the front of our consciousness during times of failure or rejection. For some it is a revelation, for others just a glimpse, but you realize in that moment that God is real and that He loves you.
For Solomon, who did know these things but was disciplined in writing these thoughts from the vantage point of human achievement, he closes the book with an admonition to young people about their walk with God.
“Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do.” Ecclesiastes 11:9
So live life, take it all in, but don’t forget God in the process.
“Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “life is not pleasant anymore.” Ecclesiastes 12:1
In other words, honor God when you are young, because this is when your life truly finds it center, its core. Then when you are old you will be established in God. This is the only cure for the vanity of life.
“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
Jesus said “If you love me obey my commandments.” John 14:15
Reverent, humble obedience to Jesus from a heart of gratefulness and love. This is the seed planted in every human heart, the one that blossoms when we turn to Jesus, the one that will turn the downward path of our own selfishness into a fulfilling life of relationship with God and eternal purpose.