Recently, I have been going through a study of Ecclesiastes and although, I’m only half way through, I wanted to share some things from that. Some of us may think of words like ‘times’ and ‘seasons’ when we think of this book in the Bible. Some may especially recall chapter three ‘as there is a time for everything under heaven.’ The poetic language and honesty used by the writer calls us in as we may relate to some of the verses. However, I think we can especially relate to this tension where one moment we are wondering ‘what is the point?’ and the next where we get a glimpse of purpose and the bigger picture.. I am beginning to understand as I pull a part the text and ponder. I am also beginning to see that this book encompasses so much more. I won’t be including every topic or meaning from this book, as scholars may be quick to point out. For this post, I am only relaying snippets that are moving me to take the time to think about and indeed a season to impress some of it’s truths into my life.
First of all, I have been following a study of Ecclesiastes by Kathleen Buswell Nielson. I really like this spiral bound study as it engages you in a series of questions, that don’t just require you to jot down the same words in the Bible. The questions are posed to prompt your thinking, to engage with the text, to understand it’s context and to apply it’s meaning to your life. I love those moments, where you learn something new for the first time. It almost feels like some sort of blind fold has been lifted off your eyes and you have an ‘ah-ha’ moment. The title on the study says’ Wisdom’s searching and finding’ and immediately I am drawn as I too, want to know and display wisdom in my life. Indeed, I think most people would like these things. We have what is called an ‘inflamation of education’ and whether that is from the society that we live in or not, where we are now starting to collect various degrees and certificates, I think it is also because we each long to be wise-to understand and be able to answer more of the questions that life brings about. I guess, as someone who believes in a greater being than myself, must ask the question ‘where does wisdom come from?’ and ‘can I attain it apart from God?’. And this is part of what King Solomon began to dissect throughout his life, with his access to the material and kingly status knowing no bounds. He had everything. A kingdom. People at his beck and call. Wealth. Power. And he knew a few things too. Indeed, he was on a search for wisdom and in Ecclesiastes, we are given a glimpse from his experiences of what he found.
It doesn’t take very long into the text to see some repetition of the phrase ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ and ‘it is all vanity’. It’s almost overwhelming and exudes some of a ‘what is the point’ mentality. If you stopped reading there then you might be quite confused as to why this is in the Bible. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I will note here that I enjoy the honesty of the writer as we see humanity struggle with it’s limitations and perhaps hopelessness in and of ourselves. BUT THEN… a poem unravels in chapter three that changes the environment for me. Hope and purpose enter the picture and this follows a new phrase, ‘under heaven’. We begin to see a contrast in the description, ones that offer meaning to the various ‘times’ in our lives. While we are under the text of ‘under heaven’, we abandon words such as ‘vanity’ and ‘meaningless’, and we are pleasantly immersed with words such as ‘peace’, ‘love’ and ’embracing’. Even with the inclusion of contrasting words such as weeping,losing killing and war, it is given it’s place in life’s timing. But it isn’t in vain anymore, there is purpose. If I am in a difficult place in my life,where tears flow often, then these truths tell us, ‘it is for a time’. God gives purpose to our pain and He also gives joyful times to our lives too. It’s like we can now withstand the tougher times because we can see the bigger picture, God’s bigger picture. I find this so comforting when I read the following verse and it gives me much strength and patience to carry on.
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say “You are my God.” My times are in your hands. Psalm 31.14-15
So not only does God take our lives and give them meaning and purpose, but He also reassures us that His timing for those things are in His hands. For EVERYTHING there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. When we seek God and his wisdom we begin to see our shift from it being ‘all vanity’ and under the sun to under heaven with all of its hope bestowed. And lastly, today as I was reading through chapter three and thinking about God’s timing, I began to liken it to an artist and their painting. As the artist approaches a canvas, they are intentional and involved in their creation. They dip their brush into the colour they think best and begin to make their marks on the blank background. As images forms, we are given a glimpse, although at times it might not be clear as to what the subject matter is, the artist is at work to bring it to completion. At certain times,it might not be beautiful but the artist will make it beatuiful in the end. It just needs some time.Then when the artist deems it a completed work, they will put down their brush and say it is completed. The viewers will understand what is in front of their eyes and take in all the steps that the artist chose for that painting. And as is promised in chapter three, God will make everything beautiful in its time. Even when we might not understand some of the brushstrokes that He makes in our lives. Even when we think we know the best timing. Even when others try to tell us what they think is the perfect time. Even if it involves tears of sadness or tears of joy. God knows. He gives us the wisdom. He has given us examples such as Ecclesiastes to unravel the meaning of the text. He gives us strength for the season He has placed us in. And He will bring it all to completion in our lives as we say But I trust in you, O Lord, You are my God.