Ecclesiastes is the title of the book we are studying this week. Its name means an address to an assembly. Solomon, the aged preacher and King is sharing his life of experience and wisdom with us. I love this book and I’m reminded of my choir teacher in High School who had us sing “Remember now they Creator”. It was not popular even back then, yet he taught it and we sang it in the auditorium for graduation. It guided my life and I’m thankful for his courage and wisdom.
Different commentators believe various themes are seen in this book and there is not one common one to share. I will share with you my take on it after studying Sabbath rest. Resting in God is important and a theme throughout the entire Bible. Here we see the man who built God’s house, who labored for Him telling us how to work and live. It is powerful against the backdrop of that message. Consider the following scriptural clusters:
Ecclesiastes רָאָה (To enjoy) ra’ ah (To open eyes, look, gaze, behold)
2:24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God,25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
3:13 And also that every man should eat, drink and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God.
5:18-20 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God
8:15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.
9:7-10 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.
After reading this it’s hard to say it was a passing thought. Our puritan minds resist concepts like this because God has often been portrayed as being “no fun” or harsh. In reality, He is warm, loving and compassionate. Enjoyment, rest and delight are His signature. Why do we live as though the opposite is true?
Men, women toil all their lives and give their best to their jobs only to be laid off, fired, replaced. It is a good thing to work as unto the Lord. It is meaningless to make work our goal and serve mammon.
Some people work and never feel the satisfaction of a hard days work. They build a savings, pay bills but laughter, enjoyment and delight are not part of the equation. In all this the gift of God is missing. If hard work is a gift, then enjoyment of that hard work is also a gift. Why do some enjoy, and others detest going to work?
I still believe we are to rest and enjoy God at the beginning of the week, getting saturated and refreshed. When we walk that input into our week in our work it becomes the gift of God as we manage the tithe of time over the next 6 days.
A story comes to mind – the Allegory of the Long Spoons. It was told by Rabbi Haim Roshishok. For space, I am summarizing it:
A bunch of people end up in hell and they are seated after days of not eating at a long banquet table filled with choice food and desserts. They are thrilled and await their serving utensils. When they are handed out they are long spoons. They try to pick up the food only to be disappointed that they cannot maneuver them. The spoons are too long to feed oneself. The event turns into a fight with no one getting fed or satisfied, all angry at one another. They die of starvation. Their lack of cooperation and collaboration blinds them to the others hunger and turns their blessing into death.
The people in Heaven in contrast, happily share their utensils and work together to accomplish what they need to do. They create a pleasant, cooperative environment to work in and that produces health for all. They serve each other with joy, making sure each person gets what they need. Their cooperation insures that each person not only gets fed but enjoys the process and all rejoice together at the wonderful feast set before them.
I like Rabbi Roshishok. His story is paraphrased here but represents a whole lot more than “teamwork makes the dreamwork”. Striving, ambition, beating one another down to get positions, aiming for success while ignoring family or God = is all vanity and meaningless. It doesn’t build God’s kingdom but tears down all hope. In contrast those who remember their Creator, those who enjoy food, drink, life, God and especially their loving wife = now that’s a gift supersized by God Himself.
Stoicism, legalism, rigidity leave us cold and bitter. Hedonism, lust, extreme pleasure leave us shamed, filthy and depressed.
Somewhere in the middle – is hard work, enjoying life and God and rejoicing with others on a similar journey. Solomon would have firsthand knowledge of all of this and in his writings, he points out wisdom that someone who had lived in both extremes could speak to.
I hope today, possibly tomorrow if it’s available to you, that you eat some good grub, drink something refreshing that won’t cause you to sin and that you delight in what God has given you to do for a living. Then on the weekend – chillax a bit. This is the gift of God.
Oh, and if you need help with your long spoon, I’ll be available and maybe in turn you can help me with mine.
Ecclesiastes is not quoted in the New Testament. Possibly because Jesus reinterpreted the “meal” that brings joy and satisfies:
4 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad (enjoy/rejoice) together. John 4:34
So glad God is known for His compassion and not just compliance. So glad this is the character of the God we serve.
 For full sermon on this scripture see Crossroad Assembly of God Facebook page Sunday 5/26/19.