Next week we continue looking at Ecclesiastes, picking up where we left off before Easter in Mr Preacher's analysis of the world in which we live. As you may have noticed then, it is a book that often appears as elusive or enigmatic as the hebel (vanity, literally vapour or mist) that is Mr Preacher's verdict on the world under the sun. And yet, as many of you commented to me, it feels extraordinarily contemporary, describing the angst and confusion of many of in our city.
Why should we be excited about exploring Ecclesiastes? Three big reasons.
First, Ecclesiastes is realistic about the frustrations of living in a fallen world. Indeed, so honest is it about the dissatisfaction of pleasure, the drudgery of work, the injustice of government and the tedium of everyday life that Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, called it "the truest of all books". Wrestling with Ecclesiastes will help us all to be more honest with God about life's problems.
Secondly, Ecclesiastes warns us about what will happen if we seek to gain what the world offers instead of what God has to give. Mr Preacher introduces us to someone who enjoys more pleasure, possesses more wisdom and wealth than anyone else in the world. However, despite a thorough search for purpose and meaning, everything still ended in frustration and futility. Ecclesiastes warns us that we shall share the same fate if we go our own way rather than God's way.
Finally, Ecclesiastes liberates us to ask life's hardest questions and to look to God for the answers. Often questions such as: what is the meaning of life? Why does life feel empty and pointless? Why is there so much suffering and injustice? seem out of bounds for the believer. Although dissatisfied with easy answers or comfortable cliches, Mr Preacher does want us to deepen our knowledge of the one true God. Ecclesiastes presents God as the powerful Creator and sovereign Lord of the universe who will one day call us all to account. As a result, Mr Preacher reminds us of our utter dependence on God and encourages us to put our hope in the Lord and his gospel of salvation that finds it's fulfilment in Jesus Christ.