Grasping the Wind
“Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die!” (Isaiah 22:13). This is a common sentiment among us, though we may verbalize it in more subtle ways.
“Live for the moment.”
“Life is a collection of experiences.”
“The joy is in the journey.”
There is a residue of truth in these sayings which is appealing. We want our moments to matter. Of course we do, but the draw of the world to do what we feel in every moment is a message that is more convenient than it is true. The writer of Ecclesiastes, who is perhaps the original killjoy, sucks all the sunshine out of the room when he tells us that this kind of living is vanity and striving after the wind. Have you ever striven after the wind? Consider the futility of flapping about in an attempt to clap your grip on something that is all force and no substance, something you can feel on your skin but can’t see with your eyes, something you can hear rushing past but won’t see coming. One begins to conjure up memories of Wile E. Coyote attempting, for the millionth time, to grasp the Roadrunner—we all knew that would never happen, but during his ill-conceived endeavors he would definitely get another anvil dropped on his head. I realize I am dating myself with this illustration, but if you don’t understand the reference it is only because you had a sad Loony Tune deficient childhood. I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but someone had to do it eventually (Don’t worry, it’s nothing YouTube can’t solve).
The point is that we don’t want to be like Wile E. with ever more extravagant plans to strive after wind. If the problem of good and evil confounds you and the circumstances of your life or world events leave you without a point of reference, read through Ecclesiastes yourself—just make sure you read all the way to the end. If you don’t stick with Señor Sunshine to the very last verse, where he gives us the decryption key to unlock our understanding of seemingly senseless activity, you may miss the point entirely.
The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.—Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
Two Kinds of People
This book of wisdom reminds us that there are two categories of people in the world: those who fear God and those who don’t. Those who don’t fear God are attempting to fill their ravenous stomachs with a gluttonous diet of plastic fruit from the decorative fruit bowl and they cannot fathom why they are starving. They eat and eat, frantically trying to satiate their hunger for enjoyment and meaning, and are never full because there is nothing of substance there to feed them.
Those who fear God rightly and love His commands are able to see the world honestly and their purpose more clearly. Those two short verses give us enough information to understand a great deal about the world we live in: there is a God, He has given us commands to follow, His commands apply to all men, God is a judge, He will judge the public and private actions of all men based on His commands. When you look at the world and the actions of men with this understanding, things start to look a little different don’t they? We begin to eye the world’s fraudulent fruit with some suspicion and sniff the air for the aroma of something more filling.
A Promise of Hope
The Proverbs tell us,
Let not your heart envy sinners,
but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.
Surely there is a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.—Proverbs 23:17-18
Our day-to-day pursuits matter when they are placed in the context of our future hope. We can “continue in the fear of the Lord all the day” because we have hope in Christ. We have an abundance of hope that nourishes us even during seasons of famine and scorching dryness. God’s people waited and hoped for thousands of years for the Promised One. God assured Adam and Eve that One would come to break the power of the curse they had earned by their disobedience. He did come! He lived keeping all the commands of God, He took our place and laid down His life in death to receive God’s wrath on Himself, He rose again to life, He took His place on the throne of heaven, and He rules and reigns now and forever! If that is not a message to inspire hope, I don’t know what is.
The conclusion to Ecclesiastes doesn’t explain the coming of Jesus Christ to us, but it does show us very clearly our desperate need for it. The warning that God will bring every act to judgment should cause us to rightly fear God. The problem with the world isn’t that God has made unnecessary laws. He has kindly revealed to us His holy law and it is utterly good. As Psalm 19 says, “The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.” The problem with the world is that though the law of the Lord is perfect, we are not. We are lawbreakers. So Ecclesiastes lays out the problem, but doesn’t articulate the solution.
Old Testament believers knew there was a Messiah coming to solve this seemingly unsolvable problem of making peace between a holy God and unholy lawbreakers. They looked forward in hope. We look backward to the fulfillment of the prophesies and the work that Christ completed. Our hope is not cut off. The hope of God’s people has never been cut off. For those who serve the risen and reigning King of all the earth, it never will be cut off. We are not working our way out of debt, our debt has been paid in full! We aren’t serving a weak or defeated Savior, we are serving One who is victorious and is bringing the whole earth into submission to Himself. Glory be to God for His wonderful works!
So, friends, take heart. Stop toying with the hollow enticements of the world’s ornamental fruit, and instead sink your teeth into the nourishment of the sweet smelling Bread of Life. Jesus promises that all who come to Him will never be hungry again. Stop envying the ease and enjoyment you see sinners consuming, it is merely plastic fruit and they will ultimately be cut off from the blessings of the Lord. Place your trust in Christ whose promises make our hopes spring eternal, for He has said,
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.—John 16:33