Ecclesiastes is one of the books I struggle with the most. I don't know why, but maybe it's because I wrestle with the vanity of life anyway. I wonder often if what I do has any meaning or significance. So, I was glad today when I finished reading this book and can move on to another. I did, however, have two thoughts that God is impressing on me. One thought leads me to worship God for his grace, the other for his mysterious power.
First, in Eccl. 10:1 the Preacher points out that "Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor." Great image. As I thought about it, I was reminded how one foolish decision can derail someone. One foolish decision to get in a car with someone who had been drinking got my friend Debbie killed. One foolish decision to smoke pot lost another friend an athletic scholarship. How many marriages get derailed because of foolish decisions? How many ministries?
More to the point, I thank God for his grace. I have made my good share of foolish decisions, and have lived to tell about them. That's not a real exaggeration. Some of my more foolish decisions could have ended tragically.
The second thought is very different. In Eccl. 11:5 the Preacher reminds us of our position, "As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything." There is so much mystery in our world about even the most fundamental things, like life. What is life? What is consciousness? It can't really be measured. It's hard for scientists to really define. It's fundamental, and an utter mystery. So it is with God's works.
I love theology, but sometimes theologians get too speculative. Thinking about things like the order of God's decrees for example pushes beyond what Scripture teaches and into the mysterious of God, mysterious to wonderful for us to know. I love theology, especially theology that knows it's limits, that can hear God say, "Thus far you shall come, and no farther." I love theology that ends with doxology, as Paul's does:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36, ESV).