Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, January 19, 2007

Ecclesiastes 2, What is life

The Spectrum Commentary on the Sabbath School lesson by Grenville Kent states:

n Useless Beauty: Ecclesiastes through the Lens of Contemporary Film, Robert K. Johnston finds similar themes in films like American Beauty, a tragicomic exposé of contemporary hebel: "We used to be happy."7 The film depicts a plastic bag dancing randomly on air currents, a similar motif to "chasing the wind" in Ecclesiastes. Yet the film softens the punch by having the main character narrate the story from a universalistic afterlife, whereas Ecclesiastes stares honestly down the barrel of death (2:12–17).

If death is the last word, then all work and achievement are as lasting as ice sculptures, the happiest story ends with tragedy, and the wisest life is trumped by non-existence (2:17–23). Against such crushing loss and nihilism, Solomon wheels on a solution: Knowing God can bring satisfaction to ordinary life (2:24–26). This is not yet a complete solution or grand dogmatic philosophy, but an experiential finding, humbly expressed. (This type of experiential, inductive reasoning is brilliant contemporary witnessing strategy).

What is life if this is all there is? That is the question that the writer of Ecclesiastes submits. Contrary to how many want to view this poetry the focus is not everything is valueless without spirituality. No, spirituality is barely a blimp on the screen in Ecclesiastes. Yet throughout the lesson studies this quarter I am sure they will always try to assert the ending of Ecclesiastes.

12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Because we don't like to think about what the early world was like when man lived and died and the best he could hope for was to be buried in the land of his ancestors. A home that was the best the world had to offer and that home was being offered by God. Yet here Solomon and his people had the home and it was secure and he saw that our temporary life is insignificant and full of trouble. Solomon was looking for a better world who' s builder was God but he did not know about it, even with his continuing wisdom he did not see another world and another life and a rest from the insignificance and trouble of life under the sun.

Often we will hear people talk about how even if the afterlife of Christianity was a myth that it would still be the way to live your life. I can't agree with that because if I knew those things were untrue and I treated them as true I would be deceiving others or lying to others. Christianity cannot survive without the supernatural perspective of life after death. Solomon knew nothing of life after death so when he reached the end he merely states to obey God because that is man's duty. In other words yes it is pointless but God is going to judge your actions so obey God. Presumably because if you obey God, God will make your life easier. Or the final verse begins the new era in understanding God and life, that God can provide for life after death. The seed of a new philosophy is planted in the dreadful reality of our own meaningless existence.

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