‘The conclusion of the matter’ Ecc. 11:7-10 & 12:1-14

Publié le 18 octobre 2020 dans Non classé

We are coming to the end of Ecclesiastes. The end of this book talks about the end of life. All philosophers agree: if we are looking for the meaning of life, if we are looking for wisdom in life, it means thinking about death.

Let’s read Ecclesiastes 

Chapter 11: 7 – 10

7 Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. 8 However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all.  But let them remember the days of darkness, for there will be many. Everything to come is meaningless.  9 You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. 10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.  

Chapter 12 1-14 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”— 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; 3 when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; 4 when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; 5 when people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire no longer is stirred.  Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets. 6 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, 7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 8 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” 9 Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. 11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd. 12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.  Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. 13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Do you like riddles? I found this one on the internet: 

A car speeds off with no lights and arrives in a village with a power failure. A man, dressed all in black, is crossing a pedestrian crossing. The conductor breaks and stops just in time so as not to run the man over. How was he able to avoid hitting the pedestrian?

Ecclesiastes also loves riddles. This is one of the meanings of the translated word “vanity”. This book offers us all an enigma. And not the least. This is the great enigma of life, and it would be folly not to think about it. Here it is: if all is vanity, all turns to dust, whats the point? The point in living? What is the point of working? Why ?

As the famous Russian writer Tolstoi once said: Is there a meaning in life that would not be destroyed by the death that inevitably awaits me? (He took this question so seriously, and so much so he did not have a good answer during a period of his life: “I removed a rope from my room where I undressed myself every night, afraid to hang myself from the beam between the cupboards; and I gave up taking a gun with me on hunting trips so as not to be tempted to end my life too easily. ”!)

Most of us don’t take the matter this seriously, we move on to the next image on instagram, the next youtube video, etc, but God has gone so far as to give us this book of Ecclesiastes to make us think about the question and find an answer.

In his conclusion, the Ecclesiaste will give us a lead to solve the riddle of life. Ecclesiastes encourages us to take the one certain thing in the future – our death – and from that certainty, go back in time and see how to integrate this reality with the rest of life. In other words, we are ready to live when we are ready to die. To help us do this, he makes three appeals:

1) Rejoice, 2) remember, 3) prepare

1. Rejoice

In these verses, youth and old age are compared with day and night, dawn and dusk. The picture begins in 11v7-8 and continues in 12v1: Young man, rejoice in your youth.

(Good news this morning: the definition of youth in the Bible is more flexible than ours. You can be young at 40, 50, 60….!)

It is true that the Ecclesiaste often repeats that « All is vanity », all is incomprehensible, all is enigma, but that does not mean that all is bad. He himself recognizes that there are so many beautiful and good things in life, and he calls us to live fully, joyfully! Of course, this is easier to do when you are young, when you have better health, more time, mental faculty, etc. Let’s never forget the beauty of life and the privilege of being alive!

11v9 is even more amazing! “Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see  …” (I feel as a pastor that I have to tell people the opposite …) “… but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.  ”

Sometimes we focus on God’s few prohibitions, but forget all that he gave for our joy. Yes, he says no to adultery, but he says yes to marriage, to nature, to music, to good meals, to art, to sport, etc. And God can also call us to judgment for not having rejoiced, for not having thanked him for the good things he gives. If my child steals a bike for fun, I will call him for judgment, but also, if I give him a quality bike for his birthday, and he never touches it, or takes care of it, or if he throws it in the trash, I might not be happy.

Some advice for young people, (and since we are all young!)

Do not waste your youth, and the health that God gives us. There is an energy, there is an availability, 11v4: « Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap ».  This means that if we wait for the perfect moment to do something, we won’t. A spiritual journey with God.

Don’t idolize youth. 11v10 “So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless”. You know all the heartache and pain that comes with getting old. Look at all that our society offers to slow down old age, with products and operations that can be harmful. Ecclesiastes advises us against this naive search for an eternal youthfulness of the body and its fleeting pleasures.

The joys of this world, the joys of youth will be better appreciated if you remember that they are fleeting, that they are not the ultimate reason for living.

2. Remember

Ecclesiastes 12: 1 « Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come » …

and then begins a description of the aging of the body, until death. a house that is falling apart. (guardians, strong men stoop might recall legs, bones, those who mold, teeth, those who look out of windows, eyes, almond blossoms, white horses, silver cord, the mud, the seal and the wheel, images taken from a well, water which often depicts life in the Bible.)

This certain future for us is sad but useful. For Ecclesiastes, it is almost good news that we are going to die, because it makes us think, He had already said in chapter 7: 2 « It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart ».  Not only take it to heart, but remember our Creator.

Remember that we are the creature, and not the Creator. The earlier in life you understand this, the better it is to make wise decisions. As Jacques Ellul says, « All the misfortunes, and I insist, all the misfortunes in the world, come from a man who considers himself as the Creator. » If there is one thing that reminds us that we are not God, it is the process of aging and death.

Remembering your Creator is not just remembering God as we remember birthdays. Tina’s baptism this morning, shows what it is to remember her Creator in the days of her youth … It is to put Him first. He created me for a reason, and I want to align my life with that reason, with His will.

When we are young this is not easy to do, because this is an age when it seems that you don’t need God, everything is fine. and in the later years of life it is not easy either, because the physical and mental faculties and the motivation are not there. Of course, one can turn to God at any time, even in his advanced old age, but it is still a rare step.

3. Prepare

In v10, the chorus is repeated one last time, and after that there is the conclusion of the matter. He will give the answer to his riddle. The answers to riddles often surprise us by their simplicity, their obviousness.

Everything that is written in the book is not just someone going through a moment of depression and screaming their frustration at the universe. It was calculated to make us think, to make us wise. Look at how the words of this book are described, v10-13 pleasant words (“a time for everything”, “vanity of vanities”, “silver cord”), goads (a stick with a point to advance the oxen), and nails firmly embedded … 

All this to fight against the great danger of indifference.

What is the meaning of life ? How do we escape his vanity? v13-14: « Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil ».   

You don’t need thousands of books, or thousands of years of study to figure that out. Otherwise, everything is vanity, and nothing makes sense. Ecclesiastes has shown us that without a Creator, God, without judgment, nothing matters. What gives meaning to our life is to live for God and prepare for his eternity. Faith and obedience to his Word.

The rest of the Bible shows that the great commandment of God is to believe in and love Jesus. It is he who prepares us for death, judgment and eternity. He took our judgment, our condemnation upon himself, and he rose from the dead. When he died there was darkness, when he rose again it was dawn. Jesus lived this chapter in reverse to lead us into life and light. If you have this truth in your heart, you are ready to live and ready to die.

Does wisdom have the advantage over folly ? (Ecc. 10)

Publié le 11 octobre 2020 dans Non classé

Book reminder
We are still studying this book probably written by King Solomon. It is like the logbook of a man in search of the meaning of life.
Moreover, what makes his originality is that instead of starting his reflection on the basis that God exists, the author takes the opposite path by putting himself in the shoes of someone who only relies on his own intelligence.
It is important to understand that his observations concern life under the sun, life on earth.
He tries, he observes, he experiments, he pushes logic to the end of things, in order to understand what is the meaning of life.
This is why this man is ultimately not so distant from the man of today in his reflections and his questions about life.
I asked my Facebook friends to share their summary of the book with me and what bothered or encouraged them.
Here are some of their responses:


[FEEDBACK ON THE ECCLESIASTS]
For my aunt Mona: « Life is vanity and pursuit of the wind. »
For my brother Olivier: « A book that puts you on hold, which asks you the question: but what is the meaning? »

For a friend of my sister: “Life may seem absurd and useless to you, you will never understand everything, so be happy when you can be and acknowledge God in all your ways.”

For Marion Poujol, GBU team member: « Everything is in vain except the happiness that God offers you and the work of God.» She adds “It’s disturbing because it highlights the vanity of life. It is encouraging because what God is doing is not in vain! ”

Franck Godin, pastor in the church of Les 2 Rives, shares with us that this book has encouraged him by taking a fair look at our life, made up of good and bad times, but which all pass. It kept him from being crushed in hardship and falling into idolatry and addiction to the best things in this life. And for the record: this is the book that convinced him of the truth of the Bible.


I found the views of these different people on reading the book interesting:

Ecclesiastes 10: 1-15: Observations concerning wisdom and folly
v1 “Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. « 
Have you ever designed something that took a long time to prepare, that is useful and that you are proud of? And then someone walks by and sabotages your work in an instant …
It sometimes happened that after my wife had prepared a nice meal, I would go into the kitchen and add some salt to it, not asking her if she had it already. The dish was then hardly edible and my wife not very happy.
But the theme of the verse here is not my wife’s good cooking spoiled by her husband’s sudden passing with a salt shaker in hand.

It is about wisdom, which is exemplified by the oil of the perfumer.
The perfumer’s oil is
• Precious
• Expensive
• It took a long time to make it
• It smells good
• It is the source of thoughtful work
And the second theme evoked is folly, which is illustrated by dead flies:
• So small, almost insignificant
• Uncontrollable, you surely have tried to kill a fly, it is usually a difficult exercise, which only the more athletic and responsive of us can happily do.
• Flies are generally notorious for being dirty.
• And these famous flies have the power to reduce the work of the perfumer to nothing.
Let us remember that wisdom under the sun is fragile, and folly can spoil a wonderful project: “Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. « 
I think we all agree that we do not want to be one of those dead flies.


“A wise man’s heart inclines him tot the right, but a fool’s heart to the left. Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool! ” (v2-3)

What is described here is one of the big problems of the fool. His big problem is that he thinks he is wise.

He may be the only one driving the wrong way on the highway, he will not assume the problem is his, because he will judge everyone else to be crazy, when they are in the right direction.

The fool sees the reality of things wrongly. He does not know how to distinguish right from wrong.
It is written in Isaiah 5:20:
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who put darkness for light, and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet, and sweet into bitter! »
Another translation of verse 2 tells us: The spirit of the wise works well, but the fool understands everything wrong.


Another observation that Ecclesiastes shares with us, followed by advice this time, I read to you:

“If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place; for calmness will lay great offenses to rest. ” (v4)

Often our reflex when faced with someone who gets angry with us is to get angry too, or at least to boil inside. Here Solomon offers us something new: stay quietly at your post.

He suggests this difficult attitude to us to avoid “great offenses” the text tells us.

I do not know what you think about it, but this attitude seems so impossible to me! And who to set an example for us?

And I remembered how Jesus reacted to the leaders who put him to death by crucifying him.

I read for you in the Gospel of Luke 23 v.34

“When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. ”

Jesus is dying on the cross, and even then he finds the strength and the heart to pray to his Father that those who laughed at him and had him nailed to the cross will be forgiven.

What an example of wisdom we have in him !

In verses 5-7, Ecclesiastes warns those who think that folly is only reserved for some social classes.

« There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were an error proceeding from the ruler: folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves. »(v5-7)

It might not be a scoop for you, but he sees that the folly reaches the highest ranks as well.

Then in v8 and 9, it warns us of the risks of work that is poorly thought through:

He who digs a pit will fall into it,

and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall.

He who quarries stones is hurt by them,

and he who splits logs is endangered by them.

I continue reading v10 and 11:
If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge,
he must use more strength,
but wisdom helps one to succeed.
If the serpent bites before it is charmed,
there is no advantage to the charmer.

Verse 10 means that before we get down to work, preparing our tools is a proof of wisdom and will save us from unnecessary effort.

Illustration # 1: when I have to make videos, I think about charging the different batteries of my camera, I have to think in advance about some cool shots that could be shot on location, make sure I have space on my memory card …

Verse 11 warns us about laziness in the face of danger. It is not enough to have a skill, it is also necessary to act facing risk!

Illustration # 2a: If I am lucky enough to have an umbrella in my hand when it rains, but I don’t bother to open it, what’s the benefit to me?

Illustration # 2b: In the same way too, we have different gifts, each other in the church, we have different resources that God gives us to help each other, but if we don’t use them, what is the use of owning them?

So there are two notions in these verses:

-Take the time to prepare before taking action

-Take the trouble to act with the resources we have

The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor,
but the lips of a fool consume him.
The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness,
and the end of his talk is evil madness.
A fool multiplies words,
though no man knows what is to be,
and who can tell him what will be after him?
The toil of a fool wearies him,
for he does not know the way to the city. (v.12-15)

Here, what brings the folly to light, what will unmask the fool, is the inconsistency of his words. He multiplies the words but… he does not know much deep down.

Question: Is it better to speak to say nothing or not to speak?

“Even a fool, who keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. ” Proverb 17:28

But that doesn’t mean to be silent, otherwise you might think that reading this I would at least have pretended to be wise by being silent for 30 minutes in front of you.

There is a time for everything, as Samuel Niblack reminded us last week, sometimes it is better to be silent, but sometimes the Lord encourages you to speak. We are called to edify one another and our words will be used to correct, to encourage, to teach, to praise… but at all times, may your word then be full of grace.

II. Ecclesiastes 10: 16-17: Consequences of wisdom and folly

Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,

and your princes feast in the morning!

Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility,

and your princes feast at the proper time,

for strength, and not for adrunkenness!(v16-17)

Here, the author describes two very different kinds of governments and associates a curse with one and a blessing with the other.

“Woe to you, a land whose king is a child, and whose princes eat in the morning!”

This is a government that fixes the problem of its stomach rather than the problems of its people.

« Blessed are you, a country whose king is of illustrious race, and whose princes eat in due season, to sustain their strength, and not to drink! »

The government described here contrasts with the previous one, it seems more concerned with staying sober, so they can honor their responsibilities.

The illustrious pedigree king contrasts with the king who is a child. Here the word « child » takes on a pejorative meaning, of course, to mark his lack of experience and his incompetence in running a country.

It is obvious that with such a government, the country runs great risks, the security of the people is uncertain.

Which brings us to the last part:
III. Ecclesiastes 10: 18-20: The time of choice
v18-19 Through sloth the roof sinks in,
and through indolence the house leaks.
Bread is made for laughter,
and wine gladdens life,
and money answers everything.

In this observation of verses 18 and 19 we see that the mismanagement of the country caused by the laziness and gluttonous spirit of the leaders leads to ruin, which does not prevent the governors from using their remaining wealth again to indulge in party and wine. Why not show it off and get your stomach full by multiplying the receptions, for example? We will forget for a while all the problems caused by our incompetence.

It’s the easy choice!

The second choice, that of wisdom, is found in the last verse of chapter 10:

« Even in your thoughts, ddo not curse the king,

nor in your ebedroom curse the rich,

for a bird of the air will carry your voice,

or some winged creature tell the matter. »

Despite what is sometimes done under the sun, all the evil that you can imagine or see, the mismanagement of the country by some leaders … the advice is clear: we are called to be careful about what we say, because everything will be highlighted.

This is the author’s precious advice, a mark of wisdom despite the madness that surrounds us: flee backbiting, do not fall into senseless gossip. Let us not multiply the words like fools.

However, in front of all these inconsistencies, one may wonder: does wisdom really make sense?

It is legitimate to ask the question. If the wise man is not spared more than the fool, why desire to be wise?

And why doesn’t the madness affecting the rulers and the rich make them fall faster?

Basically, the question we ask ourselves by deploring this gloomy observation: does wisdom really have the advantage over madness?

The Ecclesiastes himself, in the course of his reflection, seems disturbed around the notion of wisdom: he says that wisdom has the advantage over folly, but he also says that the wise and the fool have the same fate, he’s talking about death here in chapter 2 verse 13.

So what is the benefit of wisdom? Is this an option given only to some Christians who want it?

I don’t think so, wisdom is rather a consequence of where we have placed our hope. The man who strives to be wise despite a context of madness under the sun, testifies that he has placed his hope elsewhere than in his life under the sun. Man proves by his wisdom that he believes and hopes in a God who gives meaning to his whole life under the sun.

1 Peter 1:15

« but kas he who called you is holy, you also be holy lin all your conduct, »

We could use the same logic for wisdom, God is wise, so since we are children of God, let us also learn how good it is for us to be wise. It is for our good and the good of our loved ones to be wise!

Let’s read how James encourages us to ask God for wisdom. I read in James 1: 5:

« If any of you lacks wisdom, klet him ask God, lwho gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. »

But in the face of all these inconsistencies and injustices, there is a second thought that can open up to us and we may not even think about it.

The question I ask myself: who is going to judge all this crazy behavior happening under the sun?

It is the question of the final judgment of everything.

Who will be wise enough to be an upright judge in every way?

And this question helps us to find an answer in the One who was perfectly wise, the one who embodied to remain calm in the face of his accusers: Jesus Christ.

This righteousness the Christian is called to desire and to seek from his Savior, for it is he who judges with perfect wisdom

It is not for me to judge the way of life of my neighbor. It is not for me to judge the authorities in my country. As a Christian, the Bible calls me to pray for authorities, so that I can live faith in Christ peacefully.

The Christian is invited to look beyond the sun, where Christ is both our judge and our redeemer. Redeemer, this means that Christ redeems us: we deserved death because of our faults, but Jesus comes to pay the price in his death, and frees us from the wrath of God.

The apostle Paul tells us in Romans (6:23): “For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. ”
Neither wisdom under the sun nor money under the sun can truly save us from the dangers of life.

Only the Lord, in His wisdom, can protect us. He knows the number of days of our life under the sun, but also he will know how to bring us back to life with Jesus Christ, by his resurrection from the dead. And Miriam and David’s baptism this morning symbolizes their willingness to follow Jesus in this new life, in this resurrection life. Dead to their old nature, and now living by Christ and for Christ.

Only Jesus Christ, who is perfectly wise, can also help us to become wise.
To fully understand what Ecclesiastes said: there is this expression “under the sun” which voluntarily contrasts with the Christian hope, which is to come “in heaven”.

God’s Gifts (Eccl 5: 10-19)

Publié le 4 octobre 2020 dans Non classé

Eccl 5: 10-19 

10  He who loves money will not be satisfied with money; 

 nor he who loves abundance with increase. 

 This also is vanity. 

11  When there is an increase of good things, 

 then there is an increase of those who devour them. 

And what profit have the owners 

 except to see them with their eyes? 

12  Sweet is the sleep of a laboring man, 

 whether he eats a little or much; 

but the abundance of the rich 

 will not let him sleep. 

13 There is a grave misery that I have seen under the sun: 

when riches were kept by an owner to his hurt, 

14  and those riches were lost in a misfortunate business deal; 

and although he has a son, 

 there is nothing at all to put in his hand. 

15  As he came from his mother’s womb, 

 naked shall he return, to go as he came; 

he shall take nothing from his labor 

 which he may carry away in his hands. 

16 This also is a grievous evil: 

Just as he came, 

 so shall he go. 

 And what profit is there to him who toils for the wind? 

17  Moreover, in all his days he eats in darkness, 

 while he is greatly irritated in sickness and anger. 

18 This is what I have seen to be good: It is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life, which God has given to him; for this is his reward. 19 And also everyone to whom God has given wealth and possessions, and given him power to enjoy them, and to receive his reward and to rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. 

Introduction 

We all run after happiness. All of our choices are determined by the relentless pursuit of happiness. And we seek to multiply and constantly renew what gives us some joy and satisfaction, often by means of money and goods, to satisfy our quest in our lives affected by frustration, sorrow, suffering and bitterness. And as we seek happiness in these things, we are always disappointed. Yet, we keep running after them. 

There’s a constant tension, which emerges in our text, between the vanity of wealth and the fleeting joy it gives us.

Everyone knows that money does not buy happiness; however, the lack of money does not buy it either. Coluche, a French comic actor, renowned for his often acid-tipped humor, once said: « Money does not buy happiness, but it helps with shopping. » 

Money is a good servant but a bad master (according to God). 

1) Wealth does not keep its promises of happiness. Those who spend their lives chasing money never find the happiness they expect. v.10 “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money” and 6.7 “All the labor of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.” A reporter once asked John D. Rockefeller, at one point the world’s richest man, « How much money is enough? » Rockfeller replied, » Just a little bit more. » 

2) Wealth attracts parasites v.11, a crowd of interested friends who will let you down when you have nothing left. 

3) Wealth causes insomnia and fear v.12. The fable, “The cobbler and the financier” published by French poet Jean de La Fontaine in 1678, illustrates how a cobbler’s rest is troubled after having accepted a gift of money from a banker. The cobbler eventually brings the money back and asks for the return of his sleep. 

4) Wealth is ultimately lost either in bad business v.14 or in death v.15. there is no trailer behind the hearses. We take nothing. 

5) Wealth is hard-won v.17 

v. 18-19 the Teacher states that it is fitting for a man to find enjoyment in these little pleasures. It is a truth that he has already underlined in Ecclesiastes 2.24, 3.12-13, and 22. Let us recognize that there is a paradox here: money is a trap but it is also a gift from God. 

God wants us to look at what we have, whether a little or a lot, from the right perspective: our wealth is not the source of our joy, but this gives us a reason to rejoice because everything comes from God. 

God gives these things for our enjoyment 

Let’s think for a moment about it. For what purpose did God create food? It’s not only to provide for our needs, but also for our enjoyment. God made good things for our enjoyment. We don’t just eat to top up with vitamins, minerals, proteins and other carbohydrates. Otherwise, God would have created SlimFast, a drink with all the daily nutrient requirements, deliciously simple to prepare, but definitely tasteless to drink. And every day, we would go to the pump to drink our fuel with a straw. But instead God provided a wide variety of foods that excite our taste buds; when we cook them, the smell already rejoices us. Then we sit at the table with our families and friends, and we enjoy ourselves. I forgot to say that we open a bottle of wine and our hearts are filled with joy. Look at chapter 9 v.7, “Go and eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a pleasant heart; for God is already pleased with your deeds.” God himself takes delight in doing us good. And not only at the table 3 times a day, but also with clothes, body care, and perfume, chapter 9 v.8, “At all times may your clothing be white, and let not oil ever lack on your head.” God does not only want to meet our need for clothing, but for our well-being as well. He is not only looking for the useful and the necessary, but also for the beautiful and the pleasant for our pleasure.

What to say about chapter 9 v.9? Marriage and sexual relations are not only given for the survival of the human species, but also for our pleasure. The organs that induce pleasure are given by God for our enjoyment. 

He still mentions the activity (cf 3.22, “So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his labor, for that is his reward…” and 9.10, “Whatever your hands find to do, do with your strength…” 

God is not a kill-joy, but quite the contrary, he is the blessed and joyful God, « in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Ps 16.11). In France, because of the Catholic influence, and of how Jesus is represented on the cross, his face disfigured by suffering, we have a conception of a sad, vanquished God. But Christ is risen, he is victorious, glorified, and joyful. 

So let’s enjoy the good things, the good times that God gives us by giving him thanks and by recognizing that it is his hand that pours out all these favors on us. It is he who also allows us to enjoy it. 

By being joyful before God, we say how much we find our satisfaction in him. 

But in our personal experience, we are torn between the observation of vanity and the invitation to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. The Teacher seeks to avoid the two extremes into which we can easily fall. 

(1) The first extreme would be to say that we shouldn’t enjoy the pleasures of life like eating, drinking, and working. Because all is vanity. We find this idea in asceticism, in people who go without food or drink, which should make them more spiritual. On the contrary, the Bible encourages us to take advantage of what God gives us while thanking him. 

(2) But another extreme awaits us: the strong desire to find our absolute happiness in these little pleasures. The Teacher says, Nothing on this earth can make us truly happy,. Deep down, we know it. If we seek happiness in what we have, our illusion flies away very quickly. As soon as we have what we want, we want something else. 

God gives these things to think 

But it is obvious that life is not a long quiet river. We can experience bad business, sickness, suffering, mourning and a lot of grief. Chapter 7/13-14 Man cannot change what God gives v.13, “Consider the work of God: Who is able to make straight / what He has made crooked?” (It is not a choice of happiness or misfortune, we take what God gives us). God made one like the other, God gives us happy days to be happy and unhappy days to reflect and learn v.14, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of distress consider: God has made the one as well as the other. For this reason man will not be able to understand anything that comes after him.” 

Before discussing what we should think about, let me point out that God is always good, and that he constantly does good to his children. He does not do good to them occasionally, but perpetually, and he will never stop doing good to them. When things go wrong, it does not mean that the Lord no longer does good to us, but rather that he changes the situation so that

he can do more if we continue to love and follow him. This is what the book of Job showcases. 

But our good Lord gives us difficult days as well. Wisdom accepts what God gives, which is Job’s attitude. After having lost everything (children, servants, flocks, house, etc.) for no visible reason, after having lost his health (the only thing left), after his wife has told him, « Curse God and die! » (Job 2/9), and after she has left him, Job replies “Will we indeed accept the good from God but not accept the adversity?” (Job 2/10). 

When things don’t turn out the way I want them to. God knows what is good for me better than I do. The Christian hymn, “Behold our God” (from Isaiah 40) reads: “Who has given counsel to the Lord? Who can question any of his words? Who can teach, the one who knows all things? Who can fathom all his wondrous deeds?” 

No-one can. We can’t understand everything God does. Eccl 3/11 reads, « so that no one comes to know the work that God has done from the beginning to the end » 

When things are not going well or when God does not allow us to enjoy life, then there’s something that happens inside: key issues emerge, and we start to think. 

1) Why so much suffering? The Teacher unveils some elements of answer in chapter 7/20-22. There’s something wrong deep down inside that prompts us to do what’s wrong, v.29 “but they have sought out many schemes,” and the detours lead to many conflicts, abuses, deceptions, and lies generating in turn so much suffering and bitterness. 

2) The uncertainty of the future 6.12b. We definitely don’t control anything, we are entirely dependent on God: “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4/15). We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we can get to know He who holds tomorrow in his hands. 

3) The certainty of death, 9/2-3, and our ignorance of its time 9/12 “For man does not know his time” to get ready for it. 

God gives these things for the future 

We all yearn for something more. THE one thing that would make us really happy, for real, for good. We know it has to exist, because we all yearn to it. But all these fleeting things are not what we’re looking for. As Narnia’s author, C.S Lewis, once said: “For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”  

There’s something within us that longs for a celebration that will never cease, a place where we really feel at home, a relationship that will never be disappointing. In chapter 3 v.11, the Teacher points to that, “He has made everything beautiful in its appropriate time”. If we yearn for more, it’s because we were created for more. Deep down, we know that there’s more than « eating, drinking and working, » and that life on earth, under the sun, can’t really give us what we need.

In Jewish celebrations, the joy, meant to animate the Israelites’ hearts, is often mentioned. The people had to rejoice… there, in the sanctuary, symbol of God’s presence: Deuteronomy 12/7, 12, 18 and 14/26. Joy was closely associated with being before God. The little joys we can experience on earth echo the eternal joy of being in his presence. 

During the Passover, each Jewish family was to eat a fire-roasted lamb after having killed it and applied its blood to the doorposts of their houses. Today, we still eat lamb at Easter. It’s a delight that reminds us of a greater and more perfect lamb, that is Jesus the Lamb of God offered for our sins. The meal and the joy it gives us echoes an even greater gift, with Christ crucified for us, who offers us forgiveness and eternal life. 

The abundance, the food, and the wine echo the happiness that we’ll forever know if we are reconciled to God through Jesus. 

When the Prodigal Son returns home repentant, his father wants to celebrate: “Bring here the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and be merry. For this son of mine was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ So they began to be merry.” (Luke 15.23-24). Our family meals are a faint echo of the joy of eternal reunion: “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. It was granted her to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white.” Fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” (Rev 19/7-9). 

Conclusion 

God calls us to rejoice in him, and to benefit from all that he gives us, in his grace. 

This is what theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) said so well: “God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is our proper; and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.”  

All that gives us happy here is only a glimpse of our true joy. If we go upstream, we find the source of true joy: God and what he wants to give us above all: “The marvelous gift, Lord, that Your hands sow, It’s Your forgiveness, it’s Your peace. The greatest treasure, Lord, that You bestow Is the completeness of Your grace.” (You who made) 

Two applications 

If you are going through a difficult time right now, it is a gift from God to mull over it and learn from it. God loves you; he showed it by giving his son for you on the cross. He wants to give you more, everlasting goods and greater conformity to Christ. 

When you experience days of joy, rejoice with others and give thanks to God who gives them to you, but remember the joys are fleeting, and are also the echo of a greater and more perfect joy, that of being with God.