Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ecclesiastes 3 Of Being and Time

Ecclesiastes chapter 3 Of Being and Time

I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time." So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance. – Steven Wright

After the last two weeks trying to impress upon people the importance of reading Ecclesiastes for what it says and seeing what the implications were to the establishment of Jewish religious philosophy in the following years I will deal with the Lesson Study Guides views also. Which is kind of hard because they seem to want to read the book as that of a depressed man who is depressed because of his wasted life. So instead of thinking of the philosophical implications they want to use the subjects tangentially mentioned in Ecclesiastes as jumping off points to talk about other things mentioned later in the Bible. So as the lesson says:

The Lesson states:

Heavy themes for just one chapter. But, as we've been saying all along, they can be understood only through looking at these verses in the context of all Scripture, which has much to say on these crucial topics.

I am sure Solomon would have loved to have had the rest of the Bible to help him deal with those heavy themes. Yet we should not ignore that it is he that introduces us to those themes which lead to the progressive religion that we have today.

The Lesson states:

As nature shows, the Lord is in control of time. As Adventists, people who are particularly interested in prophecy, this comes as no surprise. After all, many of the prophecies that have helped us understand our identity and mission as a movement are tied in with time.

Review the following time prophecies that have meant so much to us as a people, prophecies that have been fulfilled (Dan. 7:25, 8:14, 9:24-27, Rev. 12:14). What do these prophecies tell us about the power and sovereignty of God over human affairs?

Having just gone through a quarter where many in the Adventist church have just gone over those so called time prophecies and found them to be without much merit. The leadership of the church still assumes that their peculiar interpretations which are far different from the rest of Christianity tell us more about the sovereignty of God. The idea of time being the take off point from, “to everything there is a season” of Ecclesiastes 3. I suppose the incorporation of the verse in Rev 12 must mean something but I am not sure what Revelation 12:14 (New International Version)

14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach.

The lesson then lists some verses that talk about God doing things at the time He determined, e.g. the fullness of time. So aside from the lesson’s thoughts about time prophecies what this tells us is that God acts in the realm of humanity and as such acts within our understanding of Time. There is quite a difference between our time to be born and die to plant and reap with the time to have a relationship with God. God is not in the seasonal time frame, the time is always now for God.

When the lesson discusses the verse about eternity in our hearts it once again misses the philosophy of the writer of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 (New International Version)

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.

The Lesson states:

As we'll see in Thursday's lesson, humans and animals alike have a common destiny "under the sun." We—along with goats, alligators, and weasels—die. The difference, though, is that God has put eternity in our hearts. As humans we can conceive of an existence beyond us; we realize that though we die, time will go on, even for eternity, while we are left behind. Thus, every day of our lives we are confronted with death, and this causes us worry, fear, and a sense of incompleteness. Which is how it should be; we shouldn't be content with, or indifferent to, our fate, because we were never meant to die. Death is an intruder, the work of Satan (Heb. 2:14, 1 John 3:8). That's one reason why, in the end, all physical enjoyments are so hollow, empty, such hebel—they can't answer the reality of death, which is always lurking over our shoulder and never farther than a heartbeat away.

The author of Ecclesiastes is very likely attempting to spur thought in the reader, that there is more to life then their religion has portrayed. There is a God of Eternity who has put in our hearts a desire for eternity. If man had not been created to die then eternity was once the plan for man and God’s plan should somehow retrieve that concept. But just like most of the other books of the Bible inspiration is not presented in a straight forward way as if God was speaking and telling us how God or mankind works. It is a discovery process; it is a challenge to our thinking.

Just as Solomon had no idea of a resurrection to eternal life he also had no idea that Satan was the cause of death. That was not in the story of Genesis, disobedience brought death. But it seems very likely that Solomon had more ideas in his mind then to settle for the status quo of the Jewish religion at that time.

20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?"

Solomon is encouraging thoughts that may be far different from the customary thinking of his time. Even when he speaks of justice he acknowledges the corrupt nature of authorities who should be practicing justice but are not, here he is similar to the later prophets of the Old Testament. In the world Justice is perverted, so where is God? Once again as he ends the chapter we see him ask the question: For who can bring him to see what will happen after him? (22b)

With eternity in his heart, and a God who makes things that last forever, Solomon asks who can know what happens after a man dies or where the spirit of a man or animal goes.

Clearly this book is not the poetry of a depressed man who merely wants to tell us how he has wasted his life.

No comments: