Chapter 5 begins with an admonition to let our words be few in the house of God. New Testament Christians don't typically worship in a synagogue or Jewish Temple, but there is a universal principle we can expand on here. The book of James says we should be "swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath". Our mouths are often the greatest source of our trouble(s). The Preacher advises that we should follow through on commitments made to God. This really isn't the focus of the text, but as a footnote on letting our "words be few", I think we could take this idea into the prayer closet. Prayer often becomes a monologue, filled with lengthy petitions and little time for pause. I wonder how many times I've missed out on hearing important instructions because I never stopped to listen. (note to self: less monologue...more dialogue).
Solomon then describes the man who seeks fulfillment in "stuff". He frames it within the context of silver ("he that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver" Ecc 5:10a). Whatever we decide to make as an object of affection in place of God, will surely disappoint. Moreover, the more stuff we have, the more people tend to surround us to help us consume (v. 11). Conversely, the man who has learned to work honestly and find a place of contentment has sweet sleep (v.12). The end of chapter 5 is almost a parting of the clouds. Solomon describes the ideal life "under the sun"- one that is lived with contentment and a sense of gratefulness for the gift(s) of God:
Ecc 5:18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. (ESV)
Life is short. James says it's merely a vapor (James 4:14). Chapter 6 of Ecclesiastes contrasts the man who enjoys and makes the most of his life with the one who wastes it. Whereas it is fitting for a man or woman to enjoy the blessings of life- it is sad to think that so many will live a life of regret. This theme of regret dominates chapter 6. There are some very moving and compelling phrases found in this chapter. I want to mention a couple of them I find particularly noteworthy:
Ecc 6:9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit. (KJV)
I want to look at that phrase "the wandering of the desire". This is exactly how so many people in this world spend their time on earth. People are obsessed with wanting things they don't (or can't) have. I personally know scores of people just like this. They literally "wander" through life- never finding any contentment- never putting any "roots" down- never stopping to smell the proverbial roses all around them. They always envision some future scenario where they will be happier than they are now. Or they spend the majority of their time wondering "what might have been....if only...". I probably run the risk of offending some of my preacher friends, but when was the last time you heard a sermon on being content? I teased my congregation recently that I was going to preach a sermon entitled "Got clothes? Got food? Get happy!". I'm sure that will go over like a hot potato- but it's biblical!
Heb 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (ESV)
1Ti 6:6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment,
1Ti 6:7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
1Ti 6:8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (ESV)
One last phrase from the book of Ecclesiastes, and we'll conclude for this week's study.
Ecc 6:12 For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun? (KJV)
James compared life to a vapor. I think it was Peter who compared life to a blade of grass. Now Solomon compares it to a shadow. We might all hope to live to be over a hundred years old. But even if we do, it is a very short space of time in the big picture or grand scheme of things. The clock is ticking for all of us. We all have an appointment that we must keep. We will one day face the One who created us. And we will give an account. After death, there are no more opportunities for redemption. The message of salvation and repentance is always urgent- and it's always "today".
Heb 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, " (ESV)
I hope to have some thoughts posted for you before Sunday for Easter. And I hope you are enjoying this look at this wonderful book of the Old Testament.
Talk to you soon!