April 9, 2012

Something Old, Nothing New

Jesus went on to say, pay attention to what you are listening to .  Knowledge will be measured out to you by the measure of attention you give.  This is the way knowledge increases.  Those who understand these mysteries will be given more knowledge.  However, some people don't understand these mysteries and even what they understand will be taken from them. Mark 4: 24, 25
Don’t give the devil any opportunity to work – Thieves must stop stealing and instead work hard with their hands so that they’ll have something to share with those in need. Ephesians 4:28


As is usually the case, connectivity while away proved once again to be problematic.  I hope that you were able to use the down time for digging deeper into the book of Mark or even Ecclesiastes.  As promised, we are rolling in the wisdom gleaned from the old testament writing and mixing it  into the story line Mark has prepared for us.

It fascinates me as I think about the vast time lines of these writings.  Ecclesiastes was written, most believe, around 945 B.C. and Mark was recanting Jesus' journey around 30 A.D.  Yet thousands of years later there can be no argument that wisdom is unwavering AND applicable no matter how "people" alter things or thoughts.

We are not going to get hung up on who the author is. What is important is the experience and focus on unchanging truths.  Whether it was Solomon or another King, we are blessed by his documentation.  This mere mortal unfolded the complexity of his thoughts, emotions and experiences as he interacted with the world, self and God in attempts to discern the knowledge of good and evil verses Zoe life.

The writer, at times, seems to be on the verge of spiraling beyond his ability to return to God.  Most of us can wrap our minds around a scene like this.  His opening quotes are very believable:

"Absolutely pointless!"  "Absolutely pointless!" "Everything is pointless."
Not much room for questioning his frame of mind, is there?  This teacher of wisdom then states a rhetorical question and follows it up with a few fun facts which I have paraphrased:

What do people gain from all their hard work under the sun?
The earth is the only thing which stands constant.  All other things revolve around it, pass through it, are born to die upon it, over and over and over again.

He went on to say our thinking and sayings are overused and unwise; it is all the same old thing.  What ever has been done will only be done again,  because we cannot comprehend or retain the knowledge of others from the beginning.  Also, we do not record it well for those who come after us.

This king, in a very dogmatic tone, states his opinion that God has burdened mere mortals by limiting their knowledge.  He makes it his lofty goal to use wisdom to study and glean experiential knowledge to prove his accuracy of mankind's futile state.  It is his view that all our striving is like trying to catch the wind.  Since we cannot straighten what's bent or count what is not there he perceives our existence as pointless.

With confidence he claims his position as 'wiser than anyone who has ruled Jerusalem before him'.  He has used his mind to understand wisdom and knowledge; even taken it to extremes in order to experience madness and stupidity.  In his opinion, based on all these factors he stands firm that it IS like trying to catch the wind.  He learned that with a lot of wisdom, comes a lot of headaches and the greater your knowledge is the greater your pain is. 

If this is Solomon, we know he was told not to lean on his own understanding.  This lofty goal he set for himself led him into desiring creature comforts for the pain his head and emotions were encountering.  He turned to what many mortals do: pleasuring his flesh by pursuing and feed it each and every lusty desire it dared to imagine.  But in this he states he found no lasting relief, it too was pointless.  Even laughter he felt accomplished nothing!

Sounds as if his bitterness and rage were pulling him into a downward, dark hole, don't you think?  Guess what this teacher did in attempt to make his dis - ease go away?  He drank wine and explored ways to do foolish things.  After all in this hopeless state what did he have to loose, right?  Can you imagine if you had of been in his presence and heard him make this next statement?  "Even through all this my wisdom has continued to control my mind, therefore I have been able to determine whether all this was good for mortals to do during their brief circle around the earth under the heavens."  We do not need to experience this to determine if it is good for man to experience these things, God has already TOLD us - there is a way that seems right to man, but leads to destruction.

The writer turns it up a notch now.  He writes his great list of accomplishments for all to view and recording it for those who will come after him:

  • He built a house for himself
  • He planted vineyards for himself
  • He made parks and gardens for himself with every type of fruit tree within them
  • He made pools to water the forest of growing trees
  • He purchased male and female slaves
    • in addition slaves were born in his household
  • He owned more herds and flocks than anyone before him
  • He gathered silver and gold for himself
  • He gathered treasures of kings and provinces
  • He provided himself with male and female singers and the pleasures men have with one concubine after another
  • He grew richer than anyone had ever been in Jerusalem
  • And he NEVER lost his wisdom!
If something appealed to this man he did it.  He did not restrain any desire conceivable; stating he was  justified because he worked hard and loved his work; it was part of his payment. 

Do you notice how all of his thoughts, even though he was providing nicely for others, started and ended with himself and for his pleasure? No matter how much he was giving, the heart of the matter was that he was consuming everything like the thief.  While he might have been knowledgeable, he was not exemplifying wisdom and while he was able to write out a great list of mighty powerful things, those things were doing more destruction than they were good for himself as well as those around him.

If we read on in Ecclesiastes, however, we see there came a point when he realized how deep and unquenchable this vortex was and his limitation in ever satisfying it's appetite.  He writes that from all this he had gained nothing under the sun.  So what did he do now?  It states, "He Turned", "He paid attention to experience" wisdom, madness and foolishness.  Do you remember Mark telling us the purpose of the Gospel?
The time has come, the kingdom is near: Change the way you think and act and believe the Good News!

This man was at least attempting to gather the information to surmise his thoughts. 
He asks:  What can the man who replaces the king do? 
He answers:  Only what has already been done. 
His conclusion:  Wisdom has an advantage over foolishness as light has an advantage over darkness.  A wise person uses the eyes in his head, but a fool walks in the dark.

He also came to realize that the same destiny awaits all creatures upon the earth; deciding that wisdom also was pointless then.  Remember when he stated: with a lot of wisdom came a lot of headaches and the greater your knowledge is the greater your pain?  He knew that when his last breath was drawn some fool or wise person would walk in to own all that he had accomplished.  He also realized that in time it would be as though he had never existed so his bitterness and anger turned to hate.  It was then that he lost his hope and walked straight through the doorway of despair.

Work once loved, he now claims is unbearable.  He speaks of struggling and life being consumed with pain.  He says at night there is no rest for the mind.  I believe we have a great picture of the vortex calling out to him amidst this chaos and at first it appears as if he might just enter in.  The king says so then there is nothing better to do than to eat drink and find satisfaction in work......

I know this is getting longer than usual, but let's not stop there.  He is about to have an encounter with a radical new thought which would overtake the voice of chaos and shut bind up the way into the consuming vortex.  Wisdom finally spoke out of him saying, if God isn't the center of all you are doing there will never be any enjoyment - for all this comes from the hand of God.  He realized that God alone gives wisdom, knowledge and joy to all who pleases Him. 

The true revelation in my opinion, however, was his acknowledging that the person who continues to sin would be given a job by God as well.  Their work would comprise gathering and collecting wealth for God to turn over to those pleasing or aligning themselves with God.  I assume the writer was still wrestling with his emotions, ambitions and pride because he stated, even this is pointless and like trying to catch the wind. 

He did not turn back thought, instead he casts those thoughts aside and writes a list of all the times under the heavens.  Now his wisdom is attempting to peak out from his shroud.  Once again, he broaches the topic of gain from hard labor, but this time he has a changed mind.  His view of the burden weighing down on mortals is not overbearing, he claims it is beautiful how God has done everything at the right time.  He now touts that God has put a sense of eternity in peoples minds.  Yet mortals still can't grasp what God is doing from the beginning to the end of time, and he seems to be just fine with that.

What really excites me is his new view point and perspective based on this revelation, as he states:

I realize that there is nothing better for them to do than to be cheerful and enjoy what is good in their lives and experience the good that comes from every kind of hard work.  I also realize that whatever God does will last forever.  Nothing can be added to it, and nothing can be taken away from it.  God does this so that people will revere Him.  Whatever has happened in the past, is present now.  Whatever is going to happen in the future has already happened in the past.
God will call the past to account!

Today, whether you feel like you are chasing after the wind or the wind is chasing after you and it is all pointless; think about Mark telling us the story of how the disciples panicked on the boat.  They asked Christ if he did not care that they were going to die.  And they were simply crossing to the other side of the shore.  Christ got up, ordered the wind to stop and said to the sea, " Be still, absolutely still!" 

I pray that your faith in God's love and Christ's victory will be empowered by the Holy Spirit and bring you out of fear and into His love so that any mighty wind opposing or eluding your confidence will be subdued by His righteousness.

In Christ, with love,
Candace

©Candace Huffmaster 2012, All Copyrights Reserved
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