Eccl 1:15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be numbered. (NKJV)
I'm somewhat reluctant to make a commitment like this, but I'm going to attempt to blog my way through the book of Ecclesiastes. That means that most of these entries are not going to be very lengthy. They will be mostly summations of each chapter. Just as a disclaimer, I may preempt this series if there's something else that I deem blog-worthy during the week(s). So having said all of that, let's make some remarks about Ecclesiastes chapter 1.
The author of Ecclesiastes refers to himself as "The Preacher". It's fitting because this book definitely reads like a sermon. I think the general consensus is that Solomon is the author of this book. I share this opinion, and he just seems to be a perfect fit based on the biographical information we know about him from the bible. A recurring theme here (and throughout the book) is the phrase "vanity of vanities". Another repeated refrain is "under the sun". This is probably an expression that describes a philosophy. Most likely, this refers to what a world without God's direct intervention or without an eternal perspective looks like. Unfortunately, this is the paradigm through which much of society views the world......meaningless!
The Preacher then goes on to describe the cyclical nature of humanity and the earth. No matter how indispensable we think our lives are- regardless of how much of an impact we make while we're here- the world goes on after we're gone. That's not to say the world wouldn't be a different place in our absence. Even secular tales like "It's A Wonderful Life" beautifully illustrate the impact that one man's life can make in the world. Don't ever underestimate the power of one person to make a difference in the world. But also don't fool yourself into thinking that the world will stop turning when you're gone. The Preacher comes to this realization, and it produces in him a feeling of meaninglessness.
Solomon really wounds our pride by saying that "there is no remembrance of former things " (verse 11). Many of us are driven by a deep desire to leave behind a legacy. Truly, we have a responsibility to pass on a godly heritage to our posterity. Hopefully, we make some contribution that makes the world a better place while we're here, and even after we're gone. But the Preacher reminds us that even the greatest achievements are forgotten as generations come and go. If our ambition in life is simply "to be remembered" for our accomplishments or achievements, then we are living with an "under the sun" mentality- and we'll ultimately be disappointed.
He then begins to speak about the pursuit of wisdom (vs 13). Again, there's nothing wrong with this, tempered with faith in God. As a matter of fact, we know that "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom". But the mere pursuit of wisdom, won't provide happiness. The Preacher reveals that exactly the opposite is what happens. He describes it as "trevail" and "vanity and vexation of spirit". At the end of this pursuit, he came to this conclusion:
Ecc 1:15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. (KJV)
What a revelation! Being the wisest man in the world provided more problems than solutions. His conclusion was this- the human condition is irreparably broken without God's intervention. All of the education in the world won't solve this problem- all of the money in the world- the acquisition of wealth- the accomplishment of great goals- none of this can repair what is broken in this world. And none of those things can satisfy the longing in the soul that each man and woman in this world is desperately seeking. I have mentioned in other blogs that man was created with the propensity to worship. If we do not worship God, we will almost assuredly look elsewhere or inward- to worship the creation as opposed to the Creator.
The chapter ends on a rather dismal note. The more wisdom he acquired, the more miserable he became. Thankfully this is not the end of the story. So far, the Preacher has given us a brilliant introduction to the human condition. He will expound on it some more before providing us with the answer(s) to the problem. This book contains a great deal of practical wisdom. The older I get, the more deeply I appreciate the wisdom writings (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes). The bible is not merely a practical book, but I think it's great that it does address those issues which are surely universal; the need for fulfillment, satisfaction, meaning, purpose, and love. And those things are all found in a person- and His name is Jesus.
Until next time....