“Ecclesiastes is realistic,” wrote seminary professor Thomas Schreiner. “It teaches us that life under the sun is often empty, futile, and absurd, and yet it does not run us into the rocks of despair...When we understand that this world isn’t paradise on earth, we are reminded that nothing is more important than a right relationship with God.”
Learning what is true and valuable helps us know what to prioritize and pursue. As we saw yesterday, the writer of Ecclesiastes evaluated life “under the sun” to be “meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (1:13–14). But when life is lived “above the sun,” that is, in the context of the fear of the Lord, obedience, and worship, human life, knowledge, and endeavors can become meaningful (12:13–14).
Only in this context is Ecclesiastes and the quest for learning and wisdom itself meaningful (vv. 9–10). For example, the Teacher (probably Solomon) had collected and arranged proverbs, passing on wisdom to future generations through his careful philosophical and literary effort. But this, too, would have been “chasing after the wind” without God in the picture.
These proverbs are like “goads” or “firmly embedded nails” (vv. 11–12). A goad is a sharp stick designed to herd sheep in the right direction. For those inclined to stray, learning can be a painful process. And as generations of students can affirm: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body” (v. 12). So why do it? To stay on the right path, and as part of the pursuit of godliness. Thankfully, all true wisdom comes from one Shepherd, and His love and justice can be trusted. God is the “conclusion of the matter” (vv. 13–14). Without Him, human learning is meaningless and hopeless—with Him, meaningful and hopeful!
>> Take time again today to examine your feelings about each part of your life. Which parts of it are being lived “above the sun” or for God’s purpose? How can you make more of your life count for eternity (1 Cor. 3:12–15)?
Holy God, You are the source of meaning and purpose. Today we ask You to illuminate the smallest details of our lives and give them new meaning in light of who You are.