Friday, April 27, 2007

Finding "Meaning" in what's "Meaningless" – Ecclesiastes 1

Chairman Justin T led the Care Group last Sunday afternoon (22/04/2007), at Kuya Vic & Ate Connie's. It was especially interesting, as the Care Group's children (young and not-so-young) were invited (ordered?) to join and participate in our short study and discussion, based on the first chapter of Ecclessiastes. (One of the most difficult books in the Old Testament, to interpret and understand!)

“Ecclesiastes seems at first glance to be a collection of apparently random themes.”

Ecclesiastes was written to the cynic and skeptic, to those who have become disillusioned with the world and its empty promises for fulfillment.

The same themes that at first glance may appear incongruent, such as vanity and enjoyment of simple pleasures, meaninglessness and wisdom, the hopelessness of death and purpose in life, upon careful, contextualized investigation work together to serve the author’s purpose of directing the reader to God for ultimate meaning in life.

Ecclesiastes takes the reader through the highs and lows of life on this earth, from hedonism to nihilism, finally arriving at a conclusion that is perfectly at home within Old Testament theology: fear God and keep His commandments.

Here are some of the discussion points that we tried to tackle:

"Everything is Meaningless – Ecclesiastes 1:1-18"

What would you say is the purpose of life?

What sweeping statement did Solomon make about life? (v. 2)

What conclusion did Solomon reach about everything he had seen and done? (v. 13-14)

What conclusion did Solomon reach concerning wisdom and folly? (v. 17-18)

To what sort of meaningless activities do people commit their lives to?

Is there anything in your life that you feel is meaningless?

Do you need to rethink the purpose and direction of your life?

Thoughts on the Book of Ecclesiastes:

As long as we see things and events from mortal man’s point of view, everything will appear meaningless. What’s the use of anything if we’re all going to die anyway? Even if the world makes us heroes and honors us with statues and streets named after us, what use would they be to us, in our graves? And when the world passes away, all the statues, memorials and streets named after us will just disappear into ashes! So what’s the point of our day-to-day existence in the cosmic scheme of things?

Unless we see God’s sovereign hand, working in everything according to His very own will, purpose and plan, then everything will seem meaningless, pointless and wearisome (or "boring," as someone commented) to our finite minds.

When we realize that the supremely awesome God is working in all things according to His good purpose and will, life becomes meaningful—perhaps not in ways that we can understand, but rather in ways that will help us rest and delight in the Sovereign LORD, even during inexplicable trouble and tribulation.

Life becomes purposeful, not because of our purpose--but because it is God's purpose that shall stand. Whether you like it or not, everyone and everything is part of God's plan.

Can anything, any event or circumstance, any thought, any emotion exist and come about if it were not a part of God’s plan, purpose and will?

Mind you, the world goes against God’s commandments all the time, and this breaks our hearts! But do not be deceived. God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man sows, so shall he reap. God is not shocked or surprised by how mankind breaks His laws and commandments. In fact, God mercifully revealed to us His laws and commandments to shock and surprise mankind as to how sinful and unrighteous we all really are.

Everything is all going according to God’s plan and purpose, and nothing—absolutely not a single solitary thing is exempt.

There are no surprises that can catch our God off-guard: not the Fall of man; not the murder of Abel; not Sodom and Gomorrah; not Israel’s enslavement by the Egyptians; not David and Bathsheba; not the splitting of Israel and Judah; not the conquest of the Assyrians and Babylonians; not Hitler and the Holocaust; not even 9-11 nor even the Virginia Tech shootings.

Not even Satan, our enemy, our accuser and our tormentor—to whom we should never give a foothold—the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient, not even he is exempt from God's plan. Satan could not sift Peter as wheat without Christ’s permission. Satan himself could not touch Job without God’s consent. So let us not be surprised if Satan himself cannot even scratch his own nose, if it is not according to God’s plan!

"We turn to God when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them." --CHARLES WEST.

“Happy the man who sees a God employed in all the good and ill that chequers life.” --WILLIAM COWPER

“A firm faith in the universal providence of God is the solution of all earthly problems. It is almost equally true that a clear and full apprehension of the universal providence of God is the solution of most theological problems.” --B. B. WARFIELD, God's Providence Over All

"Jesus Christ is the center of everything, and the object of everything, and he that does not know Him knows nothing of nature and nothing of himself." --BLAISE PASCAL

There is not an inch of any sphere of life over which Jesus Christ does not say, "Mine." --ABRAHAM KUYPER

So, is your God in full and total control over all things, or is he only partially in control?

More excerpts from, regarding the Message of the Book of Ecclesiastes:

The book of Ecclesiastes is masterfully composed to reveal the vanity of trusting in wisdom, pleasure, wealth, or any other human endeavor for satisfaction in this life. It is within the genre of wisdom literature to stretch the readers mind to grasp broader understanding through the employment of paradox, irony and hyperbole.

Qohelet (The Teacher/Editor) walks the reader through the numerous vain endeavors of man in order to illustrate that trust in one’s own ability to discover existential meaning in life apart from God will inevitably lead to bitterness, cynicism, and hopelessness. This book proclaims that God makes possible the pleasures that may be enjoyed in this life, for He is good and generous. Ultimate meaning and fulfillment in life is only possible by fearing God, keeping His commandments, enjoying His gifts for today and believing that He will reconcile all things in the future.

The importance of understanding the theological message of the book of Ecclesiastes must not be understated. One must interpret each verse in light of its literary style and the message of the book as a whole. As Greg Parsons has noted, “In no other book of the Old Testament is this guideline more crucial.” The editor’s conclusion provides the answer for the overall purpose of the work. The editor offers the essential summation to life’s purpose and message of Ecclesiastes, “The conclusion, when all has been heard: 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).

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
--Colossians 1: 16-17

Ignacio Lacsina jnr. (27/04/2007)

Prayer Request from Pastor Marbz...

Hi to All our Church Family,
My sister and brother-in-law, Grace and Louie, asked me to pass this message to our church family for prayers and as they want you to know, because as a church we stand together.

Their son Daniel has been in hospital since Monday (23/04/2007), due to a lump that was found on his leg a while ago. A biopsy was done on the lump and it was found to be malignant. Daniel has a cancer which looks like have stemmed from the bone. It is a cancer which the doctors have said to be aggressive and therefore will be treated aggressively. Further tests on the tumor will confirm the exact type of cancer he has and the treatment will be adjusted accordinglyto defeat it. These tests take a few days.

He is also undergoing some test to confirm if the cancer has spread to any other parts of his body. He will undergo an operation to remove the cancer on his thigh in the next few days, and will be on drugs to start the treatment. He will then start with the chemotherapy cycles/course.

Grace and Louie have kindly asked to please give them space in the next couple of weeks as they are still letting it sink in plus trying to find a way to tell the kids. This means visitation is only for family, for now. They know you care a lot and would like to be updated so they have asked if you could direct all calls, text messages, questions and best wishes to me and I will gladly pass it on. They just need some space and intimate time with their family right now.

To all the parents and people who have loved ones, you can imagine what a difficult time this is for them so please keep them in your prayers. We all know God can heal and He is a God of miracles so please pray for that... BUT, most importantly, please pray that we will be brave, strong and open to accept HIS WILL whatever that may be. We have a great sovereign God! And HE is VERY GOOD... there will be no doubt there!

May our tongues and hearts always sing 'Blessed be the name of the Lord!'

"God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it."
1 Corinthians 10:13
In His Love and Grace,
Marbz (0413491260, if you need to call or text)

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