Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)

Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)
Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Book Group: Ecclesiastes Ch.1

You can read the chapter here.

Well, I'm a bit overwhelmed as I start this, as I have a whole bunch of different ideas floating about my head about Ecclesiastes, from pondering the book this week, and listening to a few sermons on it.

My thinking about it has been changed a fair bit by a series of
four talks by Kirk Patston that I've just listened to, and my thoughts on this first chapter are mostly just reflecting what I learnt from those talks.

But anyway, to get started..

A Mist, A Vapour~

Patston argues that the NIV translation of 'Meaningless' throughout the book is inaccurately negative, but that a better translation is 'mist', or 'vapour', and 'hard to understand'. Life is a mist and a vapour, it is fleeting, and we don't really understand it. This is a big recurring theme that underlines most of Solomons' arguments.

I am happy to grasp this interpretation, because I struggle to see life as meaningless. There is meaning, it's just that we can't always know what the meaning is. I heard an illustration that God's plans are like looking at the back of a tapestry- all loose ends, knots and mess, but that if we could see God's perspective, that is, from the right side up, then it would all look like a perfectly woven, intersecting, smooth, purposeful design. With meaning.

Purposeful Inefficiency~

This is a phrase Patston uses to describe nature, or God's Creation, as described in v.4-7. Life goes around in cycles and patterns, tides move in, tides move out, and not really a lot is accomplished or gained, in human terms. Things stay the same for the most part. But this is not a result of the Fall, but how God wanted it. It is beautiful, and only seems frustrating because we look at it on human terms- that there always needs to be improvement and progress. God made Creation good, and it just stays that way. It doesn't need to be improved.

Receiving Gifts, Not Chasing Gain~

This is another key theme through the book, that we as humans focus so much on what can be gained in life, rather than seeing life as receiving gifts from God. Striving becomes futile and pointless, and a chasing after the wind, because little can be gained by our own meagre strengths. Whereas, if we realise our powerlessness, God showers gifts on us, and provides for us far better than we could for ourselves.

When we stop fussing and striving, we realise that God has always provided for us, and that everything we think we gained, actually was just another gift from Him.


Simone R. said...

Thanks Ben. I'm reading with you.

The mist/vapour translation works for me - fits with the chasing after the wind in vs 14.

It's a blow to my pride. All my running around and busyness actually doesn't achieve a whole lot. Life chugs on and I and my work vanishes.

I like the tapestry illustration (wrote a poem using it last year) but am not sure we should think about that with ecclesiastes. Maybe just bask in the futility of everything.

Ben McLaughlin said...

thanks Simone, great to have you reading too.

I know what your saying about this maybe not being the place to talk about the 'tapestry'. Maybe I am being too quick to rush for the big picture rather than just taking in what he's saying about the apparent futility of things.