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Series Theme:  Ecclesiastes Meditations

Meditation No.

Meditation Title: Introduction


Eccles 1:1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem

I have a fascination with the book of Ecclesiastes ever since I did a verse by verse study of it a number of years ago. It struck me as a book that modern managers need to read to help them maintain perspective. Perhaps, on the other hand, everyone needs to read it to keep perspective! Some years after having written those original verse by verse Bible studies (which you'll find elsewhere on this site), I was in a vaguely low state spiritually (as I felt) and found myself back reading those original studies and thinking, “Wow, who wrote these? This is good.” Now I record that not to bolster my image but simply to note that Ecclesiastes is not the dry, arid area of the Bible that many think, but is in fact, an area that confronts reality almost unlike any other book.

Why, having written verse by verse studies on Ecclesiastes, go on to write these meditations in the same book? The answer is two sides of the same coin. First when writing those Bible studies I specifically limited them so they were there for anyone wanting an introduction to the book, who may not have wanted to go in too deep, just get the general gist. The other side of that coin is that in these meditations I have the opportunity to ramble further afield and allow my mind to branch outwards and consider bigger issues. That's what you can do with meditations.

Now, when looking into Ecclesiastes, almost more than any other book, it is important to understand who was writing and when. Understanding the writer is essential for this book. The Teacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem has to be King Solomon. Solomon was David's only son who reigned as king and the accounts of Solomon's reign indicates incredible prosperity and, therefore, the ability to do all the things that come up in this book. Now it is clear from the content of the book that Solomon is writing it AFTER he has done all these things, i.e. late in his life. Now something else we learn from the Bible accounts of Solomon's life, is that later in his life he gave way to the temptation to take many wives but, to make it worse, not just many Hebrew wives, but many wives from other countries and, we are told, they came with their own religious practices. As any husband will know, it is difficult to resist a wife's wishes and so Solomon submitted to the wishes of many of these ‘wives' and worshipped their gods. The net result of this was that in the later years of his life he had lost the reality of his relationship with the Lord and became very jaded spiritually. This accounts for the very jaded feel to the writings of this book.

It is also worth pointing out here that not all Scripture is of equal weight or significance and indeed, as is the case here, some Scripture records the wrong thinking of people. (Some of the writing of Job would also fit this description). We therefore have to be discerning in our understanding of the writing we find here.

Now, having just said that Solomon was jaded because of the loss of his relationship with the Lord, and his confused mind from following other religions, we also need to note what he is left with, and this is revealed in the words that come up a number of times in the book, “under the sun.” When he talks about everything "under the sun" he is meaning everything on the earth, or everything from an earthly perspective. Having lost his relationship with the Lord, he has also lost his heavenly perspective.

Now we need to draw these threads together as we think of life today. In our world today, one of the prime characteristics of post-modernism is cynicism, the response of the jaded mind. Post-modern thinking came about after a period of history where, in the West at least, modern man had been turning away from God and putting his trust in (the gods of) science and technology. The result has been an increasing uncertainty about life and a rejection of the scientific ‘modern' mind set in particular. This jaded sense in Ecclesiastes is exactly what we are encountering in modern Western thinking. It is therefore, very helpful to reflect upon all that Solomon concluded from this jaded, post-God phase of his life.

It is also vital to note that this jaded feeling is all that modern man has left when he has moved away from belief in a Creator God who made this world in an orderly manner and made it for the pleasure of mankind while they lived out their relationship with their Maker.

A challenge for those of us who are Christians is this: do we allow the world's godless, jaded, mentality to permeate our thinking and our lives? Are we sufficiently secure in our knowledge of our God through the Scriptures, that we see the world in the light of His existence and activity? Should you simply be a Seeker who has stumbled across this site and these meditations, then I hope you will find these considerations rewarding as you reflect on reality as it becomes clear through what you find here.

For believer and seeker alike, I believe that in this particular book you will find a mine of information, and challenges that may never allow you to be the same again. If you are willing to take that challenge, then I invite you to come with me as we investigate Solomon's mind and the mind of the modern world.





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Series Theme:   Ecclesiastes Meditations

Meditation No. 1

Meditation Title: Meaningless


Eccles 1:2   Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.


Many people find Ecclesiastes dry and boring. I find it exciting. It reveals to us a fundamental truth, that without God, life is seriously tedious if not depressing. Ecclesiastes, as we noted in the Introduction, comes from that latter part of Solomon's life when he had been drawn away from God because he took many foreign wives and gave way to their demands to have their foreign idol worship in the palace. Gradually he drifted away from God and into their confused and deceived lives. Here he paints an amazing picture of godless life, life seen from a purely human or earthly perspective. This should speak volumes into modern Western society.

The last two hundred years have seen the rise of a number of atheists who have made their voice heard and who have pressed their beliefs that there is no God. In a number of cases these were men whose lives became emptier and emptier. One of these key people was German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). He was described as a most introspective person and so effective was his thinking on himself that he spent the last eleven years of his life insane.

True thinkers who start from the place of the atheist, that there is no God, must always come up with the conclusion that life is meaningless. One modern philosopher, Peter Atkins wrote: “We are children of chaos, and the deep structure of change is decay. At root, there is only corruption, and the unstemable tide of chaos. Gone is purpose; all that is left is direction. This is the bleakness we have to accept as we peer deeply and dispassionately into the heart of the Universe.” The truth is that when you take away God there is no personality in Creation and therefore all we are left with is pure blind chance, and those words are summed up in the one word, ‘meaningless'!

The truth is that Solomon, in his old age, had abandoned God and so looks at the world as simply an incredible bank of data that makes no sense. Here is an important point to note: people don't look at the evidence and then move away from believing in God to a place of atheism; they normally start out from the place of atheism and then assess everything from that standpoint. However, Solomon didn't reason his way to an atheistic position, he slid into it to please his wives. Once he was in that position he found all of his thinking was changed and this book is the result.

When you find yourself with atheistic friends, ask them why they hold that atheistic position, challenge them why they are. If they are able to be honest, they are atheists because that's an emotional stance they took for convenience and not because they have examined with an open mind all the evidence. Those who do examine the evidence with an open mind become believers. The tragedy is that most atheists refuse to examine the evidence. They have adopted a stance and that's it!

This is where we now find with Solomon and when he views all he has seen and done from his position of immense privilege and wealth, views it from a godless perspective, his conclusion is that he can find no meaning or purpose behind it all. The Hebrew for the word we have here as ‘meaningless' was originally ‘breath'. Perhaps another way of putting this therefore, might be, “Breathless, breathless, life is breathless” or to expand on that, “Lifeless, lifeless, there is no driving life force to give life meaning.”

You find this word in Psa 39:5 “ You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath .” There the sense is similar. Life is but a breath, and so fleeting that it is meaningless. Yet the psalmist went on, But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you .” (v.7). Life on its own is meaningless and it is only the Lord who puts meaning into it.

Christian leaders of the past obviously wrestled with this. In the Westminster Catechism we find: Question 1: What is the chief and highest end of man? Answer: Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever. Did you see what their conclusion for the meaning of life? It is to glorify God and enjoy Him.

Everything, in other words, comes out of knowing God and responding to Him. Paul said, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom 6:4) In other words, as God raised Christ from the dead, so he raises us from spiritual death and gives us life. Meaning is suddenly given to us because God gives us a new life and from then on everything about our lives is seen in relation to Him. When I see everything in my life as related to Him, my life takes on new meaning and significance.


The question for us in the light of all this is, do I see that I have meaning and purpose in my life and that is it discovering and doing the will of God? Do I see that God Himself is the one who brings meaning to my life? My life today is living out this life, responding to His guidance and direction and empowering. As I do that I have a sense of well-being and fulfilment. Suddenly life is full of meaning and I am significant because my significance comes in the plan of God. Hallelujah!





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Meditation No. 2

Meditation Title: Work Orientated


Eccles 1:3,4 What does man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun?  Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.


In a perfect world, all work would be a pleasure and always utterly fulfilling. However we live in a Fallen World where, after the Fall, the Lord declared, Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food(Gen 3:17 -19). In other words, because of our separation from God caused by Sin, work will always be an effort. Yes, some of us do have a great sense of fulfilment in our work, but for most of us, a large part of the time at least, we are just doing our job to receive pay at the end of it – and it is wearisome.

Solomon, because of his position as king, and having accumulated so much wealth because of the wisdom God gave him, had had the opportunity to do a whole variety of ‘jobs', as he goes on to list later on, but despite all his wealth and despite his success and despite the tremendous variety of things he had been able to do, at the end of it all he still felt jaded. Money, success and achievement through work had not brought the satisfaction he had expected.

Yes, there is the problem, we expect our career, if that is what it is, to be thoroughly fulfilling and yet, on a bad day when it's not going well and we feel simply tired, it doesn't feel like that. We looked to our work to give us a sense of fulfilment and we were disappointed. We had had dreams of being able to impact the world, and we ended up pressing computer keys, stacking shelves, serving in a shop, pushing reams of paperwork, or whatever else you have found yourself doing, and at the tiring end of the day you wonder – why does it have to be like this? Or perhaps it is as you have to commute into work with thousands of other commuters, and as you stand on the bus or train or struggle through traffic jams to get into work, you wonder – does it have to be like this? What ways are there to help overcome these sorts of thoughts and feelings?

The first thing, if you are a Christian, is to know that you are where you are, doing what you do, because God has led you there. Now perhaps you've never had that thought and perhaps you feel you've drifted into your job with no divine direction. Well it's never too late to ask the Lord about it, and ask Him to give you confirmation that you are in the right place doing the right thing. Don't be in a rush; it may take time to hear and sense the Lord's will. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” (Prov 16:3). Give your future to the Lord and ask Him to lead you, to either confirm you are in the right place of work, or that He has a new area of work for you. The difficulty so often is that having been in one area of work it is difficult to imagine something different – but God can give you something different if He wants.

The second thing is to see the Lord in your work. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Col 3:17) and Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Col 3:23). If you can see your work as God's provision for you, then offer it back to him in the way you do it, as a thank-offering. In other words, as you go into work each day pray, “Lord, I give you my job and ask your blessing on me in it that I may do it well and bring glory to you through it” – let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16). Let the way you work be a channel for others to see the Lord in you and through you. In the way you work, stand out: Do everything without complaining or arguing (Phil 2:14). It doesn't matter what it is, do it well.

The third thing is to see your work as an opportunity to bless others. Work almost invariably means contact with people. Yes, you may be wielding a paint brush, pressing a computer keyboard, sweeping up a floor or whatever else, but somewhere in the day you will have contact with people. Determine to be a blessing to them. At the beginning, middle and end of the day, ask the Lord to give you grace to be a blessing to whoever you have contact with. Some of us will have contact with hundreds of people a day, face to face or over a phone. Even more do we need to ask the Lord to give us His grace to bless them. If we can have confidence in who we are and what we do, we need to see that we may be the one chink of light in other people's darkness. If you find work difficult sometimes, how much more will they who don't have God's grace. Bless them!

Finally see your whole area of work as an area for spiritual growth. Work is a good place to learn such things as patience, perseverance, the need for wisdom and so on. Work may be the primary place where God works on your life to make you more like Jesus (2 Cor 3:18). Allow Him to both bless you and change you in it. Solomon was jaded because of his pointless work. We don't need to be like that.






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Series Theme:  Ecclesiastes Meditations

Meditation No. 3

Meditation Title: Repetition


Eccles 1:4,5 Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.


Hollywood has played with the concept of time in a variety of ways. One of them, epitomised in the film Ground Hog Day, is of being stuck in a loop so that when you wake up each morning it is the same day and you have to live through it again just as you did ‘yesterday'. It's a funny concept and it brings out some interesting thoughts that apply here. The first one is that potentially this repetitious life could be mind-numbingly terrible, going through the same things day after day with nothing changing. That is bad!

The second one is that there is no future; nothing different can develop from ‘today'. That also is bad. However the film develops an idea that is quite fascinating. The ‘hero' not a very nice guy at the start of the film – in fact totally self-centred – eventually gets to grips with his situation by realising that, because he knows what is coming, he can act accordingly and change things – just for that one day. After that day has repeated itself a number of times he realises that if he is to retain his sanity, he is to do something positive with each day and so he starts helping people and changing himself in each day. He eventually is in such control that he becomes a really nice guy and a saviour to the community. It is only then that the time loop breaks and he's allowed to carry on with his life.

Solomon did it in reverse. Solomon started out being the saviour of the community, started out doing really good things, started out bringing good changes, but as the years passed he lost impetus, lost his focus – the Lord – and found himself in a repetitious life where, as he looked on, it almost became like one of those speeded up nature films where the clouds move very fast, the day passes and the sun sets, only to later rise again. The sameness of the world almost seemed to mock him. He saw the sun go down, went to bed, slept, woke and there was the sun rising again, and again, and again. Another day, oh no! But as he thought on this, it was like watching one of these great marathon saga films that follow a family through several generations. They are born, they grow up, achieve things, get old and die. Meanwhile the next generation is following them along, following exactly the same pattern of life. They too soon pass on into oblivion. Meanwhile the sun keeps rising and setting and the world is still exactly the same. The sun is still in the same place, day follows night, follows day etc. It could be a very meaningless, mechanical world.

So how do we avoid this monotonous sense of life? We see each day as a gift from God! As the hero of Ground Hog Day came to see, the day ahead of us is, in fact, a blank sheet on which we can live out a new day, that is different from yesterday and which has the potential of real blessing. Yes, there is certainly going to be a large measure of continuity from yesterday. Today's work, today's life, builds on what happened yesterday. Yes, there are expectations upon us, no doubt, in family life, in work life etc., but how we live out this new day is up to us. Life is made up of a myriad choices. As well as the hundred and one things we feel we have to do, we can add in a whole range of things that may impact and change this world for better.

As Christians we will want to commit this day to the Lord. That means give it over to Him and ask Him to lead you, guide you and inspire you in it. As you do that you are opening up a whole new potential for the day. You pause briefly over breakfast and scribble off a note to a friend you haven't seen for years, and you trigger off a whole new series of events. Instead of watching TV news in the evening you ring a family member you haven't spoken to for ages, and again you open up a new chain of events. At work you pause up and go and encourage and affirm one of your employees who you realise you've taken for granted, and their life is changed. You stop off and buy some flowers, chocolates or whatever for a loved one, and their life is blessed. Along the way – and imagine the day like a massive canvas on a wall that is being painted on as the day passes – you have the opportunity to add a splash of colour to the day, and people are blessed, lives are changed, and who knows what will follow.

Solomon lost that sense as the years passed. May we not do that! How about adopting a new approach to life? Yes, each day commit your way to the Lord and ask for His blessing on you, to guide and inspire, and then go into the world with the view, “Who can I bless today?” Suddenly the view of the world changes and the potential becomes something that can be realised. “It's a new day!” takes on a new meaning. It's a day with God; it's a day to add colour! Yes, the sun will rise and I will rejoice that here is another day of opportunity. What will we do with it together? What does He want to do to bless me and what does He want to do through me to bless others? Have a good day!







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Series Contents:


Meditation No. 4

Meditation Title: Same old…


Eccles 1:6,7 The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full.


It is so easy to take for granted what is there all the time. More than that, you can even get to despise it! In his tirade against how useless everything is, the same old stuff keeps on happening, he turns his eyes on the weather. It's like he says, “Look at it! Look at that wind! It's blowing to the south again today. It was blowing to the north yesterday. It's always changing but it's always the same!” If he had lived in the Britain with its mostly changing weather he would have said, “Look at it. South westerly prevailing wind again today, just like yesterday and the day before. More rain coming in from the Atlantic! Bad news for Wales and the South West! Who needs a weather forecasting team to tell us about that?” Then he gazed out on the hillsides and watched the streams running down. “Look at it,” he continues, “the rain falls on the hills, the streams fill up and pour it down to the rivers, the rivers pour it into the sea, the sea evaporates and the clouds take it over the hills where it rains again, and so the circle keeps on going. In fact it's been going like that for billions of years they say!” It is all so predictable! What is predictable is so boring! Same old world, same old things happening! This is a tedious world.

That's the godless mentality: look at it; it's just like a great machine that keeps on going without change! Boring! That's what Solomon had arrived at. In fact he had lost the wonder of the world. Over the last twenty years of so, we've seen an interesting phenomena in this world. We have seen the advent of very high technology photography so that on our TV screens we have been receiving ever more wonderful insights into the natural world, especially that of wild animals. We have seen absolutely stunning film of enormous whales leading out of the water, herds of elephants traipsing across hundreds of miles of wilderness, and even the chase of the wild with its grim outcome. But something I have noticed is that leaping whales are not so exciting now. Seen one herd of elephants, and you've seen them all. What makes for interest is newness, something we've never seen before. Yes, there is amazing beauty and wonder in so many of these films, but when it is repeated a number of times, it becomes ordinary and we lose again the wonder of what it there. We become like Solomon: been there, seen it, what's next?

It is only when we put all of Creation in a ‘God perspective' that we start seeing something more. It is when we go back and see the world as God's creation, that things start happening. When we start seeing the world as God's provision for us that says something about Him, and that in its turn makes us wonder and worship. The world thus becomes a means of creating wonder and awe in us which has the worship of God as the end product. When we accept the first chapters of Genesis and see this world, not as a freak accident of nature (the primeval ‘soup' theory satisfies no one's mind!) but as the purposeful creation of God (whether he did it gradually over millions of years, or over a very short period of time), it suddenly starts speaking to us.

The first thing that hits you is the staggering variety of that provision. Why are there over a thousand different types of edible bean, let alone anything else? God could have given us just ten different types – that would have been a reasonable choice! Why animals with long necks or long trunks or whatever other strange design. If Darwinian evolution is correct, why are there not a whole variety of elephants with different lengths of trunk, and why aren't there long legged giraffes with short necks? The truth is that we have an incredible variety of plant life on this world, sufficient to give us an incredible choice. A slow walk round a major food store today begins to show us something of the range of food available to us. Again I've noticed that foods we once thought exotic we now take for granted. Perhaps it's time to get back to realise again that this is God's amazing provision for us, and so go round the store praising and thanking Him for it all!

The second thing to note is that fact that it is there. Yes, there are places of drought and places of famine in the world, but the big picture is of bountiful provision that is constantly there. Yes, we do need to till the ground, sow the seeds and harvest the fully grown plant, but it is there! Possibly the story of Joseph in the Old Testament is a picture of how life in the world can be when God is included in the equation, warning us when bad weather is coming. In an entirely godly and sinless world perhaps there would be no food or weather problems. Indeed, an examination of the promises of blessing for the obedient Israel found in Deuteronomy 28, confirm that. It is only when we push God out of this world does it go wrong – but that is our choice.

So, are you feeling jaded about this world? See it as God's provision and ask Him to open your eyes afresh to the wonder of that provision and His love that promotes that provision. Don't be jaded by the ongoingness of this world; be blessed by it.






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Meditation No. 5

Meditation Title: Forgotten



Eccles 1:11 There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.


I'm sure that there are many of us who give no thought to what future generations may think of us; we are too self-deprecating to believe anyone in the future would think about us and we certainly don't think they will think highly of us. However, there are many of us who start in careers wanting to change the world. We want our lives to have impact so that they count for something, so some of us rise up in our careers and achieve great things, and then one day suddenly the enemy drops in the thought that Solomon had been having: what's the point of this, a few years after I pass off this planet all this will be forgotten; I will be forgotten!

There are others of us for whom these sorts of thoughts come in completely different ways. We just got on with life; we started off a career and worked hard at it. Yes, we progressed and did well. We had children and they grew up, left home and started off their own careers, and then suddenly we found ourselves one day wondering about the future. “I'm into my fifties and the generation immediately above me is coming to retirement. One of these days that will be me! What have I done with my life? Will I be remembered? Have I done anything of lasting value with my life?” These are the thoughts of ‘midlife crisis'. For a woman it is all about no longer being able to have children – not that you had wanted them for many years, but you no longer have the choice now. Even more the children have now flown the nest and we're all alone. What have I got left in this world? Yes, these are the thoughts of people later in life, and mostly they don't tell you about this beforehand; it just hits you one day without warning!

But these are godless thoughts and by that I don't mean to sound morally condemning but just descriptive, for no where in these thoughts was there a mention of God, and that's what it was like with Solomon, and so thoughts about the apparent meaninglessness of life included the future when we are no longer here, which reflects back on the value of what we are doing now. So what value do I have today? What hope is there for the remaining years that I have left?

Let's focus this for a moment for those who are in their fifties or sixties. The first thing to note is that if you live in the West today, you are quite likely to live into your eighties at least and some of us will live to be over ninety. What a prospect, you may think! However, it does mean that you possibly have another 25 to 35 years to live, which is a long time by human standards.

The first thing to do, as a Christian, is to surrender those years to the Lord. A natural fear is that you will deteriorate physically and mentally. Now here's where trust and faith come in. Listen to this: Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.” (Deut 34:7). This was a man who had lived his life out with God. Pray for the same – but note it does mean being used by God right through to the end. Look at this: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, "The LORD is upright; he is my Rock.” (Psa 92:12-15). Does that touch your heart? It is the offer to be received by faith, of fruitfulness in old age so that you still have a good testimony right up to the end of your time here.

The second thing to do is ask the Lord to guide you into fruitfulness in your latter years. Yes, we may not be as strong physically as we once were and our memory may not be as good as it once was, but we can take steps to remain healthy in body and mind by regularly exercising both. We may have accumulated years of experience and wisdom. How can the Lord use these to bless others through me in my ongoing years. Can we echo Isaiah with, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isa 6:8). It's not something we can make happen but we can remain open to the Lord for Him to take us and fulfil the offer of His word in us.

The future, as far as we are concerned after death, is irrelevant. We'll be in heaven, but what we can hope is that somehow we will have left an example for the next generation to follow. Can we be such a blessing to our families and others around us, that when it comes for our time to depart, there is a real sense of loss because of what we continued to contribute to their lives? Can we seek to build in place in the next generation things of God that will last? It doesn't matter what most people think about us when we are gone. The key question is what will we keep doing with God's grace in the years that we have left to us? Can we remain fruitful? Can we remain a blessing to others? When we leave for our next stage in eternity can we know we've run a good race? Can we say with Paul, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7) May it be so!







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Meditation No. 6

Meditation Title: Study & Learning


Eccles 1:13,14   I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.


Subsequent governments in the UK have followed a policy of trying to get more and more young people to university in the belief that a highly educated work force will be better than the work force in the rest of the world. Colleges have been encouraged to increase the number of students to prolong education for as many as possible. Going back to college has been something an increasing number of adults have done to better themselves. Courses are a regular part of life in big companies. Lifetime learning is an established doctrine for many. Living in an ever more complex world means a requirement to be more and more informed with more and more rules to conform to. Education over the past twenty years or so has been a growth market.

Solomon had almost unlimited resources and so devoted himself to study – to learn, find out, investigate. The Queen of England is thought, with all her years of experience as Queen over a Commonwealth of nations, to be one of the best informed people in the country. Having met so many people from so many nations over so long a period of time, and having been prepared so many times to visit so many countries, she is the equivalent of a modern Solomon, in terms of knowledge at least.


For Solomon, I suspect, at the beginning there was a real excitement. He was obviously a bright guy and made and took opportunities to learn. He decided to investigate all that is done under heaven. In other words nothing would be outside the remit of his course of learning. That had been his objective and as he reached old age he was able to say I have seen all the things that are done under the sun. Again, in other words, he had done it! He had looked, he had seen, he had asked, he had watched, he had enquired. This man had the equivalent of three degrees at least!

Now after all of that you might have expected Solomon to feel thankful for the experience, thankful for all he had learned, but what do we find instead? We find this: What a heavy burden God has laid on men! Now that perhaps has at least two sides to it. The first thing may be it is like he is saying, if you want to learn then you've got a hard slog ahead of you. The second thing, associated with that, is that if you want to learn you've got a hard slog ahead of you because there is so much to learn!

When I first went to college and did three years study, I thought how much there was to know. Five years later I wondered how I had qualified as a professional person with so little knowledge! Years later when I became a college lecturer, I could encapsulate a year's course in note form on one wallboard. I could reel off detailed information about my chosen specialist subjects at the drop of a hat. The more I knew the more I realised I didn't know! Today I have probably increased the knowledge of those days possibly tenfold, yet I still consider I know so little. The wise person is under no illusions: collecting knowledge and understanding is like trying to collect cup by cup the water from the nearest sea; there is always so much more.

Today in science and technology, people become amazing specialists in their areas of study or research and come to find out and know and understand things in their specialist areas that few other people know. The big danger is that collecting knowledge, especially specialist knowledge, can puff us up and pride makes us think we are someone special, a superior being. So what does learning do for us? Does it make us better people? It is certainly good to learn but learning information as to how the world works, of itself, doesn't make you a better person.

In his earlier years Solomon wrote, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,” (Prov 1:7). In other words, he was saying, unless you start with a right respect for God, you're wasting your time. Knowledge starts with God. Everything comes from Him and therefore you need to see everything in the light of Him. He made this world, He made every other world. Every universe is part of His handiwork, so when you look outwards from yourself, realise first of all that you are looking at God's handiwork. In fact there is nothing that you will see that is not His!

Yes, it's useful to gain, knowledge, wisdom and insight, but if your learning is godless, it is also meaningless. We need to learn to see our acquisition of knowledge etc. in the light of God. Science is simply finding out how God has made things. Technology is simply putting that knowledge to work for us as He has designed it to work for us. When you next go into a classroom, watch an educational programme on TV, or pick up a book, talk to Him about His world; thank Him for it, ask for understanding to help you cope better, but above all else, ask that whatever learning you have will enhance your knowledge of Him.






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Series Theme:   Ecclesiastes Meditations

Meditation No. 7

Meditation Title: Frustration


Eccles 1:15   What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.


I often say, in an attempt to get people to think more widely about themselves, if I could wave a magic wand over your life, what would you like to see changed (or do)? It's a simple exercise and helps one face up to what they don't like about their life or what they would like to achieve if only they had the courage. The reality is that most of us live with frustration – we want things to change, but can't see how they can, and so feel frustrated. Frustration is the feeling of being impotent to bring change. We all of us live with frustration all the time. It's the very nature of the world in which we live. In one sense it's too big and we're too small. We just haven't got the clout to change things. At least that's how it is for most of us.

Solomon has just been bemoaning the fact that he sought to learn but the more he learned the more he realised just how much there was to know, and he realised it became impossible to know everything, even a little of everything! In the process he has seen a great deal of what happens in the world: I have seen all the things that are done under the sun.” (v.14a) yet this panoramic view had left him despondent: all of them are meaningless.” (v.14b). He had already commented on the fact of the world that just keeps on going and going and going and that there was a sense of tedium in that, but as he looks out on the world he makes these two observations in our verse today.

First, what is twisted cannot be straightened. There's a whole lot of stuff in the world you'd like to straighten out. There's the kids running riot, there's crime in the streets, there's marriage breakups like there's no tomorrow, and there's corruption where there should be no corruption. Oh yes, there's a lot of stuff that needs straightening out! There's your child with a serious disability that has twisted his body, there's your parent with arthritic hands and a bent back, there's a friend in a wheelchair, who will never be straight again after their accident.

Yes, there are a lot of things that need literally straightening out. One day medicine might achieve it, but not yet. For the time being we are living with twistedness! And we wish we could do something about it – but we can't! Frustration! We've even prayed about it but, for whatever reason, the Lord hasn't answered and that twisted state is still there. Frustration! In a day when you can take a car from a crash and have it completely straightened out, you'd think we could do something about broken bodies, but some of them are just beyond us! Frustration!

But then he adds, what is lacking cannot be counted. That sounds strange. If something isn't there, of course you can't count it, but I don't think that's what it means. I believe it means that there are so many things missing from life they are beyond counting. If we tried counting the things that we'd like to see in life, we'd lose count. We'd like to see our children getting on well at school without bullying. We'd like to see our partner have good health all the time. We'd like to have enough money to get by without having to constantly watch the pennies.

We'd like our children to be successful at school, college or university without it being a stress, and we'd like to see them settle down, have a good career, and a good family, again all without stress. And so we could keep on. But life is full of things we'd like to change, things we wish were, but aren't. As we say in these meditations again and again, this is what it is like living in a Fallen World where sin has spoiled and marred what might have been. If you look at this world and don't see God in it, then it certainly seems a frustrating place, full of misery and anxiety. But there is another way.

We may repeat some of the things we've said previously, but they still apply. The fact of the matter is that God IS in this His world. He is moving and working behind the scenes. We say ‘behind the scenes' because the vast majority of the time that's how God works. Yet He is working. Jesus said, My Father is always at his work.” (Jn 5:17). More than that we are promised,in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28) so whatever is going on, God is working in it to bring blessing for us out of it.

It is a life of trust as we call to the Lord, and sometimes we get clear answers and other times we don't. We simply have to trust in God's wisdom and His goodness, that He allows what we have to cope with, knowing it is the best that can be in the circumstances of this Fallen World, and that He will work to bring good out of it for us, whatever it may be. Part of being able to cope, is learning to come to a place of peace and rest in all of this, in the knowledge that He is the Lord and He is here for us in the midst of it. The other side of death, it will all change, but for now the call on us is to remain faithful in the face of whatever is happening.







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Series Theme:   Ecclesiastes Meditations

Meditation No. 8

Meditation Title: Insanity


Eccles 1:16-18 I thought to myself, “Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.


Solomon was certainly a privileged person. Without any doubt he was naturally gifted with wisdom for when he began his reign he dealt with a variety of people with wisdom. Then when he has a dream of the Lord (1 Kings 3:5) and is asked what he would like he replies, give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (v.9) This pleased the Lord and so He gave him (more) wisdom (v.12) which was clearly seen (v.28). Now the thing about wisdom is that it grows, and thus he was able to say late in life, I have grown and increased in wisdom. Wisdom recognizes its limitations but wants to overcome them, so he had spent a lifetime using and increasing that wisdom. That's why Jesus once said, For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.” (Mt 25:29)

Solomon certainly had an abundance – but tragically wisdom and common sense or even straight obedience don't always go together. You can see it for everyone else but not yourself. Thus Solomon had pursued wisdom but along the way had allowed his relationship with the Lord to drift with the result that all the wisdom he had accumulated was tainted with a jaded feeling. He had been able to say that he had increased in wisdom more than anyone else before him – yet it still left him feeling jaded. The sharp lesson is that knowing the Lord and maintaining a relationship with Him is THE most important thing that we need to work on, otherwise everything else loses its meaning.

Then he says something interesting: I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” This means it wasn't just up in his head, but it had been worked out practically in life. That's why he had been so successful and become so rich. He had put to use what he had learned. It didn't just remain academic, it was put to practical use. This should also be true for us, that what we learn we put into practice. Jesus, in his closing words in Matthew's Gospels said, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in A the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19,20).

If you were an academic you might look at what he started saying, and could respond, well, yes, I can teach people the knowledge of the Gospel, and the knowledge of what the Bible says, but all that does is create a lot of knowledgeable people, and that wasn't what he was aiming for. Oh no, look what he says: teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Jesus left us with many instructions (commands) and he doesn't want us to just know about them; he wants us obey or do them. Christian teaching is to be practical. We are to do because of who we find we are, but we can't find out who we are and not respond by doing what children of God do.

But Solomon doesn't stop there. He goes on: Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom.” Then? He's already got wisdom, he's applied it in his life, so what more can he want? Understanding! Understanding is ‘knowing why'. Understanding is knowing the motivation behind actions, knowing the reasons behind instructions, knowing why things work. Solomon wanted to get behind the façade, he wanted to go deeper and understand why we work as we do. But then he realised that there was a whole area that he didn't know about, and that he called insanity. What is madness? Why do people go mad?

For the Christian this is also a useful avenue of investigation. Why do people get stressed? Why do they get pushed beyond their limits? What happens when they have what we call “a nervous breakdown”? How do people recover? How can we help them? How can we avoid going down this path ourselves? What happened when God took Nebuchadnezzar's sanity from him? (Dan 4:33,34). What is mental illness? Can God be in it? Can God be in a person's deepest depression? These, perhaps, might have been areas that Solomon thought about. Unfortunately, from his godless perspective, all of this learning about wisdom or insanity just seemed meaningless. So, all right, I know about it all. So what? Accumulating knowledge, accumulating wisdom, accumulating understanding are all pointless exercises unless you do something with them.

Before we conclude, think about this. Are you a seeker after wisdom? You would do well to. Are you a seeker after understanding? You would do well to. But if you find them, what do you do with them? The only sensible, meaningful answer has got to be, whatever God tells me to do and shows me to do. You have such knowledge, wisdom and understanding? Pass it on. Put yourself in a place to teach others. Impact the world with what God has given you. Make use of the days by bringing blessing to others. Don't sit on what you have. Bless others with it!








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Meditation No. 9

Meditation Title: Pleasure


Eccles 2:1-3 I thought in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good." But that also proved to be meaningless. "Laughter," I said, "is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?" I tried cheering myself with wine.


Pleasure features highly in our society in these early years of the twenty first century. Even the person on benefit so often seems to manage to buy drink, cigarettes and Sky TV. Going up the social scale, eating out has become far more common than thirty years ago when it was only the province of the rich. No longer. Fitness Clubs abound with members, Theme Parks are full in the holidays, flights abroad are packed as soon as the holidays come, house and garden makeovers are not uncommon. Oh no, pleasure activities play a large party of modern life in an affluent society.

Almost certainly, more than at any previous time in history, pleasure activities are within the reach of large numbers of people. Ask around. In any one small area enquire how many people have travelled abroad or participated in some form of adventure activity – white water rafting, bungee jumping, pot holing, etc. etc. You'd be surprised. Yes, there is the underclass where these things are mostly still out of reach, but for that biggest social block of all in the middle, those with some money, there you will find almost without thinking the attitude, the world is my oyster.

Solomon had been there before us. He had the money and the opportunity to test out pleasure. ‘Experience' is the god of postmodernism, and having new experiences is the object of many Google searches. Solomon had all the experiences he could find. Let's have a party, let's have a banquet, let's do….. whatever it was he had done it. Yes the wine had flowed among the privileged hangers on, and there had been much laughter, but afterwards, he felt jaded.

The media tell us that in Britain every weekend one million people take recreational drugs, but the one thing we do know about drugs is they wear off and we want some more. Last weekend's buzz must be matched at least this weekend. In my pre-Christian days, I have stood in a pub throughout the evening watching people get more and more into an inebriated state where, so often, sickness is the consequence. Health statistics tell us that drink related illnesses are increasing. The also tell us that sex-related diseases are rampant. Pleasure, in whatever form, is having its kickback.

Possibly more than anything else we've covered in these meditations so far, I believe this pleasure seeking that Solomon speaks about, is applicable to our society. It is applicable in two ways. First there are, as I've already suggested, larger and larger numbers reaching out for the pleasures that are available in this day of relative affluence (although again statistics suggest that much of it is done on debt), but also there are larger and larger numbers who are desperately trying to cover up an inner emptiness, the same emptiness that Solomon revealed in this book. “What does pleasure accomplish?” he asks us. A short term buzz, and then afterwards a variety of physical maladies and a flat feeling, a jaded feeling that remains – until the next time.

Now the thing about pleasure is that we are made for it. Have you ever realised how are bodies have been designed by God to have pleasurable experiences? Whether it be food, drink or whatever. God has given us a world of incredible provision with incredible variety, and given us the senses to enjoy it. Yet push God out of the frame and it all seems pointless. Searching after pleasure, in itself, is a pointless exercise. Solomon was right. Making pleasure your primary goal means that it is quickly devalued. Pleasure, it seems, is a bonus that God has given to your lives. It's not supposed to be the primary goal, simply a bonus to all else. Wisdom is required to go with pleasure, for too much of a thing is clearly harmful – whatever the thing. Self-control is a vital characteristic if we are not to become jaded. Wisdom and self-control both come from God.

Pleasure without thankfulness is a greedy gorging. Thankfulness is the awareness of provision that is not to be taken for granted. Thankfulness recognises that God is the provider of all good things. So, next time you go out for a meal, be thankful. Next time you go away on holiday, be thankful. Next time you go swimming, golfing, climbing, walking or whatever, be thankful.









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Meditation No. 10

Meditation Title: Projects


Eccles 2:4,5,11    I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them….Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.


Sometimes when someone is run down or has lost direction in life, they are encouraged to get a hobby, start a project, do something that has an aim in it, have a goal to go for, do something positive. TV seems full of programmes where someone is contemplating moving house, buying a house to develop it, taking their existing house and giving it a makeover, or giving their garden a makeover. In the largely affluent days in which we live, projects are all the rage. There are people whose project is to start a small business. It may be to develop an invention, set up a small shop, provide gardening services, computing services or whatever.

There is a buzz starting a project. It is exciting. There is the thrill of what might be, what I might be able to achieve, what I might be able to create. In all of these things you have plans, an idea of what you want to achieve. It might be ideas of what you can do with your kitchen, or of a new patio outside the French windows. It may be to completely restyle the garden, creating new paths, new border shapes, an arch leading to an arbour, a new tree or bush creating a new shape, perhaps laying down a vegetable garden or putting in new fruit bushes or trees. There is a pleasure in doing such things; it seems to fulfil part of that creative urge we have.

Have you noticed this: that all these things are creating something new, because we have this creative urge because we are made in the image of our Creator? So much of the time we take this for granted, but why would Solomon have bothered with all these things in his list of achievements; he could have simply lounged around letting everyone else serve him, eating and drinking and being lazy. When you're on holiday you can do that but you know that it is not a satisfying life. It is a strange thing but being a human being means, according to psychologists, that we have certain needs, among which are the need to achieve.

Many of us allow the enemy to quash us; he tells us we are a failure, or we have no creative talents so we could do nothing. So many of us give up and don't try for anything and so that creative side that wants to achieve something never kicks in and we go through life unfulfilled. We miss out on a whole big area of potential. Has there been a creative urge you had but life and the enemy has squashed it, so you never even think about it now – but you did once? Was there a project you had on your heart but it just seemed too much effort to get off the ground? Is it a time for you to look again at these things with the Lord's help?

No, Solomon in his early days of encounter with the Lord had a thrill at the opportunities that were before him. So he didn't sit back and just let the years drift by, he undertook great projects. As he did that there was probably a buzz in Israel. People were employed to help him and there was an air of expectancy in the land as he started to transform it. That's one of the joys of architects, town planners and landscape gardeners, they have the joy of seeing an area transformed, and what a sense of achievement it creates. That's how it would have been in the early days with Solomon as he built houses, planted vineyards, laid down parks and planted trees. What a sense of achievement and what a sense of fulfilment. But now? Now he looks out on all he has done. There it is. he did that! But why, he wonders. Now he is looking through jaded eyes.

Yes, there is all of that which he has achieved but his relationship with the Lord is gone. The heady days when they completed the Temple and the glory of God came down in the most incredible way and filled it, all that is just memories now. Somehow, slowly down through the years, as he gave way to his desires and brought in yet another foreign wife, together with her foreign religion, slowly but surely, all the glory of the past evaporated. The Lord would not share His glory with foreign idols, so He stood back, and all Solomon is left with, are monuments to that past glory. Yes, all the big buildings are still there, the great parks are still there, the big vineyards are still producing grapes, but these things are now just monuments to what once was.

Do you look back on your achievements and wonder? Do you see all that you achieved but feel that it was all empty activity? Have you come to a point in life when you look around you and have a sense that the cost of all those things was too great – you lost the relationship with the Lord you once had? The tragic thing about Solomon was that these wives and their religions sapped his will. He could have had a massive clear out of all their idols and tell them that they would worship the One True God only. He could have called a national day of repentance and led the people back into a living, vibrant relationship with the Lord – but he didn't.

Solomon's life might have appeared on a ‘school report' as “Brilliant start, great endeavours, amazing achievements, but completely faded away.” How tragic! It isn't too late if you've become aware that you have drifted away from the Lord over the years. It will be hard to make that effort to come back to Him, but is anything less than that worth it? Don't end like Solomon. Let your last years be years of fruitfulness and great joy and thankfulness. That is our potential, even when we've slipped. Go for it!








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Meditation No. 11

Meditation Title: Greatness


Eccles 2:9    I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me.


Ambition is a funny thing isn't it. It's the desire to get on, achieve things, climb the promotional ladder, and achieve greatness. Some of us have so little self-esteem we never think about climbing such ladders – those are for other people. Is that right? Can't our Lord Jesus take us and do things through us? Remember it's not our greatness but his. Do you remember what God said to Paul:My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9). That suggests that God can take our feelings of weakness and move through them to achieve His will. There's just one little thing the Lord looks for in you, despite your weakness – servant-heartedness!

Do you remember what Jesus said to his disciples: Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (Jn 13:14,15) and also, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,” (Mt 20:26). Greatness in God's kingdom comes through serving which is why Jesus said of himself, The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Mt 23:11). It doesn't have to be great acts of service: if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Mt 10:42). Just providing basic hospitality was sufficient in Jesus' eyes. Yes, in God's kingdom, greatness is measured by servant-heartedness, and we can all have that if we want it.

Solomon became great by affluence and power. He has just listed off all of his achievements that we considered yesterday and then he adds, I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces..” (v.7,8). If you went into his palace you would see it. He had slaves by the dozen serving him. Outside the city in the countryside he had farm managers looking after his herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. His ‘business' was flourishing. In his palace there was silver and gold in abundance and furniture and articles of great value and beauty, the things he had amassed in the course of trading.

When the Queen of Sheba came to see it all we are told: When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed.” (1 Kings 10:4,5). As a Queen from the rich country of Egypt she had plenty but when she saw the opulence of Solomon's life she was overwhelmed. We have various well known names in the modern world, men or woman associated with immense riches, some whom have so much they hardly know what to do with it. Solomon was their equivalent. This was greatness measured on the affluence scale and he was at the top of it!

After our verse today Solomon said, In all this my wisdom stayed with me.” In other words, all the wisdom that God had given him stayed with him in his affluence. His riches didn't take him away from the Lord. It wasn't actually the riches which jaded him – that came later. At that time he still had a living vibrant relationship with the Lord, and that meant that he enjoyed his riches, he enjoyed his affluence. The one thing Solomon's story tells us is that God is not against riches. In fact He provided the means for Solomon to get it.

When, in the dream, He spoke to Solomon we find: So God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for--both riches and honor--so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.” (1 Kings 3:11 -13). It was God who gave him riches and honour. However with the riches comes responsibility, to hold onto the truth and never let it go – this is from God, you need the Lord! Jesus warned, You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Mt 6:24). You can have money but as soon as you start worshipping it you have lost the plot.

So here we have seen two sorts of greatness and they are both good if they are both in relationship with the Lord. There is the greatness that comes from serving the Lord and it doesn't take money to do this, just an open heart. There is also the greatness of achieving success in the world, and God is not against that, but with it comes a danger, that we drift away from the Lord. It was Solomon's wrong usage of some of his wealth – to win foreign wives – that brought his downfall. Beware the dangers if you have left the bottom rungs of the ladder. Riches are never the issue. The issue is the reality of your relationship with the Lord, whether you have little or much.





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Series Theme:   Ecclesiastes Meditations

Meditation No. 12

Meditation Title: Nothing Gained


Eccles 2:10,11   My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labour. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.


Really, right the way throughout this book, the message is the same; it just comes in different ways. Solomon has lived a full and active life. He has done a lot of things and achieved a great deal. The country is transformed because of him, yet as he reaches old age, his thoughts are not happy. There is, for us, a danger in pondering these things and it is that we appear too negative about life, but we must remind ourselves in each meditation why it may appear like that, and we also need to look for the positives. These meditations are not meant to be depressing but, I believe, this book is in the canon of Scripture to give us a healthy dose of reality. Without it, we live in dreamland.

When we are young we have great hopes and great ambitions, and there's nothing wrong with that as long as we go about it in the right way. As the king's son appointed to follow on, Solomon realised the potential that was ahead of him and reached for it. He used his power and his position and his wealth to do as many things as he could, things that came to his mind. The one thing you could not call him was lazy. He got on with stuff and achieved things and, as we've just said, the country was transformed.

If he hadn't been the king and had he lived in Britain in our time, he'd had received a knighthood for services to the nation! As he looks back on those days of labour, he realises they had been good. It comes when you are working positively for something, when you are seeking to achieve specific goals and they are coming one by one as you push on. He realised that he had really enjoyed doing what he was doing: My heart took delight in all my work. There really is a sense of fulfilment when you are working hard and seeing the fruit of your labours. They had been good years and the enjoyment he had doing it, was all the reward he asked for. They had been fulfilling days.

But now he's reached old age and he's looking back on those things. He no longer has those goals ahead of him. He's been there, done it and achieved it, and anyway, he no longer has the energy and drive to do those things any longer. That is one of the frustrations of old age. So here he is in old age. He wanders around all the great projects that he has been involved in creating. They're up and running now and they no longer need his drive and energy; they're running on their own now. They don't need his constant attention.

The down side of success is that we make ourselves redundant. If it's all up and working we're no longer needed. Yes, he's still acknowledged for who he is, but the young guys are running the stuff now, and they really don't want him under their feel while they get on with running life. He's done it and now they run it. Out the way, old fellah! Leave us to it. So he looks at it all and wonders, what's the point? The zing has gone out of his life!

He hadn't realised it, but as each new wife came along, she sapped his spiritual energy and so now he's just a shell of the man he once was. As he wanders round his estates, all he's got left are memories and they make it worse. He remembers what he once was, but he's no longer like that. Age and foreign wives have taken their toll. The memories just accentuate the change and make him feel even worse about the present. He's just left with this feeling: what's it all about? The trouble was, that when he had his relationship with the Lord, he had never fully appreciated it. That's a problem with our lives. So often when we have good times, we just take them for granted and it is only when they are past that we appreciate how good they had been. When the edge is gone, it is difficult to get it back.

What are the lessons here? First, if you are a young person, savour each moment, realise that you won't have this time again. Don't take it for granted. Build thankfulness to God into your life. Yes, aim for big things; go all out for them – but not at the expense of your relationship with the Lord. Savour that, it is the most important thing you have and you won't appreciate it until the years have gone. Whatever you do, don't let anything sap your spiritual energy. Invest your life in God and in old age you will still be fruitful.

Second, if you are now an older person, be grateful for the good days of the past. Ask the Lord to show you the good things of your life and rejoice in it. You should have arrived in old age with a lot of wisdom and experience. Use them to bless others. Don't push them on them, but just use them to bless them. Ask the Lord to help you be fruitful in old age so that you have no regrets as you look back. Enjoy the day – with the Lord. Let Him put meaning to every day whether you be young or old, or working like a beaver somewhere in between! Be blessed in the day!







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Meditation No. 13

Meditation Title: Wisdom is better than Folly


Eccles 2:12-14 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. ….. I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in the darkness;


Now there are some things that you might think are obvious, but perhaps there are things we take for granted or just don't think about, and it takes Solomon's pondering to make us aware of this. For instance, how often in modern life have you come across the word ‘wisdom'? We talk a lot about learning and studying, but ‘wisdom' we rarely hear mentioned. But if we rarely hear about wisdom, we never hear about ‘folly'. I could almost guarantee that you have never heard the word folly through the modern media. And the word ‘madness' isn't much better! No, these are words that don't crop up in modern vocabulary and therefore we have to conclude they are words which hold little meaning or value for us today?

Now that is a strange thing because wisdom crops up a lot in the Bible (218 times in the NIV!). We're told to get it in the Old Testament (Prov 4:5) and to ask God for it in the New Testament (Jas 1:5). In the most common sense it is simply ‘knowing how to' which may apply to a multitude of everyday things, but in a wider sense it is ‘how to live life properly'. The start of wisdom we're told is the fear of the Lord (Psa 111:10), having a right attitude towards God. It was fully worked out in Solomon's life as both a natural attribute that he obviously had, but also as a gift from God (see 1 Kings).

So having been given wisdom, Solomon turned his mind to thinking about wisdom. What was it, why was it, how did it work out? Possibly these might have been the sort of things he considered. Perhaps that was why he wrote the Proverbs. The first ten chapters are full of talk about wisdom and getting it, and later chapters are full of examples of it in practical living. He came to see that it was a vital ingredient for successful living and implored his sons to get it. In those days wisdom had been a key and vital ingredient of his life and he wanted others to have it. Why is it that we hear of it so little today? Perhaps because wisdom starts with God – for it's all about knowing how to live properly according to the way God has designed us – and in a day when God is largely rejected by our society, it's not going to be a popular subject. Our loss!

Yet Solomon didn't stop there. As we've noted before, he went on to consider insanity or madness. Where, he must have thought, are the boundaries between sanity and insanity? What is it that makes us declare that someone is insane? Where is the dividing line between the two? Is there any value in insanity or is it something to be avoided if at all possible? All right, draw back from the dividing line over which you step into insanity, but is everything this side of sanity, good? This, perhaps, was when he started thinking about ‘folly'. Is there good behaviour and silly behaviour? If there is wise behaviour, is there stupid behaviour?

When Abigail met David and tried to protect her husband who had spoken harshly to David's servants, she said, May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name--his name is Fool, and folly goes with him.” (1 Sam 25:25) Nabal's thoughts, words and deeds were folly, stupid. In his case they were stupid because a) he had received David's protection and it would have been good to acknowledge that with thanks, and b) David's army were so powerful that he ought to have realised that harsh words would bring retribution. Folly here was the inability to appreciate dynamics of the situation, and act in a way that would result in harm.

In the Proverbs Solomon personified folly: The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge.” (Prov 9:13). Later he wrote,the folly of fools is deception. Fools mock at making amends for sin,” (Prov 14:8,9). Fools think they can get away with sin and they are deceived. To be deceived is to be made a fool of. Solomon also wrote, Folly delights a man who lacks judgment.” (Prov 15:21). A person who can't judge between right and wrong, who has no concern for such distinctions, is foolish, he says. He also wrote, “He who answers before listening--that is his folly and his shame.” (Prov 18:13) If you ignore what other are saying and just push your views, that too is folly, he says. But why? Because foolishness brings retribution: folly brings punishment to fools.” (Prov 16:22 ), and A man's own folly ruins his life.” (Prov 19:3). By its very nature, folly means things go wrong, and people react in such ways that harm comes back on you.

Surely this is why Solomon went on to say in today's verses, I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. In the light you can see where you are going. In the dark you can't. The same is true of wisdom and folly, so the conclusion should be obvious. But if it is obvious, then surely we should think about these things and seek for wisdom and seek to ensure that we do not think, speak or act like a fool. There is a clear distinction and we would do well to heed it.








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Series Theme:   Ecclesiastes Meditations

Meditation No. 14

Meditation Title: The Same End


Eccles 2:14-16   I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. Then I thought in my heart, "The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?" I said in my heart, "This too is meaningless." For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!


Death, they say, is a great leveller! Think about this for a moment. Here is Solomon and he's probably the world's best example from ancient times of a man who, in modern parlance, had been there, done it and got the tee-shirt! From all he tells us in this book, in all we read of his life in 1 Kings, and all we catch of his wisdom in the book of Proverbs, here is a man whose life had been full! Whether it is actually true or not, he seems to have been a man constantly on the go. He is a great national leader and he's the richest man in the world. He is looked up to by other kings. He stands out like no other – and it's all the work of God.

There are times in the Old Testament when I look and wonder if the Lord did something with someone or allowed a certain set of circumstances, simply so that in the days to come, we would be able to look and understand the incredible range of people and circumstances. Job is an obvious classic example of a rich man who had it all taken away from him, a case study on how men react under such circumstances. Samson was a case study of how charismatic people with immense strength cope with it – or don't. Solomon is the classic example of a man who has been given immense wisdom, a case study in how to fill your life with activity and achievement. There are great men and ordinary men in the Bible, evil women and good women. There are rich men and not so rich men; there are women with big families and women who can't have children. The range of people, their characteristics and their circumstances is enormous, yet there is one common fact that unites them all – they all died. They lived out their years, and then died.

We were all born. That we know today. We know how we came onto this planet. We also know, deep down, that one day we will no longer be here. One day we are all going to die: man is destined to die once.” (Heb 9:27). Hence the world's saying, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Cor 15:32 ). We all know that death is there lurking and we never know when it will come for us. Every day across the world, there are people dying at all ages. We never know when it will come, but come it will. For many it is something to be feared, the great unknown: those … held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Heb 2:15).

Solomon has been pondering the wise and the foolish and now he faces this truth: "The fate of the fool will overtake me also”. Having realised that, he thought, What then do I gain by being wise?” You can be as wise as you like, as rich as you like, and as powerful as you like, but your end is going to be the same as the fool: you will die! As we said death is the great leveller. We need to realise that this latest question from Solomon should be seen in the context of his wondering about death. Previously he has concluded that there are good and practical reasons why it is better to be wise than foolish. No, his present question is purely in the context of death. When it comes to death, all your great wisdom counts for nothing! Great wisdom will not stop you dying. Great riches will not stop you dying. Bill Gates is going to die one day and then be answerable to his Maker. Every rich and powerful person across the face of the earth is one day going to die. They will not be able to escape it. It doesn't matter how rich or how powerful, they are all going to die and all face God. It doesn't matter whether they believe in an afterlife or not, death will happen and then they will know!

But Solomon has got a further humbling thought in his mind: For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Not only will you die, but in the years that follow here on earth – the earth where you are not – those who are left here will soon forget you. Oh yes, every now and then, you will come to someone's remembrance, but mostly you will be forgotten. However great you think yourself today, in a hundred years, your body will be dust, and your soul will be in heaven or hell, and on earth here, there will probably be no one who remembers you! What a cheerful meditation! Well, no, it's not meant to be; it's meant to be realistic.

What are the lessons here? First, make the most of today. You'll only live it once and all the days you have are limited. Death will come. Second, make the most of today with God, because how you live in response to Him will determine what happens after death. Now you may think we've made rather heavy weather of these verses, but they bring out a most serious point – you will die, and after that there is eternity. If that is so, and if what you do today determines your eternity, then what you do today takes on a new significance! How you respond to Jesus, how you respond to the call of his Spirit; these things will determine your eternal destiny. Don't waste today!









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Series Theme:   Ecclesiastes Meditations

Meditation No. 15

Meditation Title: You can't take it with you


Eccles 2:17,18    So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me .


Today's title sums it up, yet I'm sure some people don't believe it! Observe people's priorities, the things people consider the most important. We make choices in life and those choices reveal our priorities. The priorities for the person who does not believe in God MUST be to seek to create some sort of meaning in life. If life is purely material and there is no God then all we can do is try and fill our lives with activities that make us feel we have meaning. So some people put all their energies into making money, building a business, developing a career, or having a family. For the person with no God, these all becomes exercises at creating meaning. And who knows, success comes. Lots of money, a thriving business, a renowned career, a great family; perhaps it all works out really well.

And then one day you are confronted with the unpleasant fact that you are getting old. Possibly, for it happens to many, you are threatened with what appears a terminal illness. However it happens, suddenly you are made to realise that your days are limited and death IS coming. At that point you look at your big bank balances, and your stocks and shares, you look at the fame you have achieved, you look at the business that is still blossoming and you look at the family where there are now even great grand children, and you suddenly realise that sometime in the not distant future, all this is going to be separated from you and you are going to lie down and die, and it is all going to continue without you. This reality has a sobering effect upon you and, like Solomon you look at it all and wonder and conclude it is all meaningless because this is what you have achieved – and there is a lot to show – but you can take none of it with you!

But for you, if you are a Christian, that is not how it is. At some point you came to realise that your life was missing something, your life was inadequate, your life was wrong, and you were godless. You heard about Jesus and you responded eagerly to the good news of the Gospel and suddenly life changed. Suddenly one of Jesus' enigmatic sayings meant sense: Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 10:39). All the time you had been working to find the meaning of life, it seemed elusive. You found yourself and achieved great things, but it was all meaningless. This was not ‘life'. It still left you with an empty feeling, and then you came to that all-important day when you surrendered to Jesus Christ and suddenly everything made sense, suddenly there was meaning to do with life, and it was all to do with God.

Initially (and hopefully still is) there was a hunger in you, that wanted to know more, wanted to know God, wanted to know about Him and what he had done for you, wanted to know what he wanted of you, and wanted to know what He said He had for you. Suddenly life was filled with God-questions and it took on a completely new perspective. In the present you came across a reassuring instruction:seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:33). Put God first and he'll sort out and provide all the material things you need. Suddenly that took the pressure off having to succeed. The all important thing was now God and what He wanted for your life, for He promised that if you left it up to Him, then blessing would follow.

But much more than that, you found constant references in the New Testament to you having an eternal future. Death was not the end. After death came the next phase, an even more gloriously wonderful phase of living in heaven in God's presence. That knowledge brought a new perspective to life here today. Yes, it was a limited time but it was a time given by God, inspired and directed by God and it was given over to pleasing Him and blessing the people around you. That brought a new freedom in respect of your career, your business and everything else.

These were all temporary things and although they were important, they were secondary to knowing God and knowing His will for your life. This meant that when it came to making decisions – God's will or your career – God's will came first, and to your surprise, your career blossomed as well, because God blessed it. Will the knowledge of God's will, changes of direction came as well, and with those changes of direction came even more blessing. Three times in my life I have gone with God's guidance and every time my quality of life has gone up. Twice I have changed my complete career but twice life just got better. This is how it is with God.

As you've looked over these last paragraphs, have you been able to identify with what is described there? I hope so. If life is stale, if life is frustrating, if life has lost it's meaning, it's not about perking up your career, it's about checking your relationship with the Lord. That is the crucial key to your life here on earth and the life to follow.








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Meditation No. 16

Meditation Title: Who will follow me?


Eccles 2:18,19  I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.


Do you ever find yourself in light sleep and a particular dream or set of thoughts keeps on going round and round. It's a little bit like that here with Solomon. He's started with the thought that all he's ever done is meaningless because one day he's going to die and whether he's wise or a fool that is going to happen. Death was inevitable. But then as he thought some more he also realised that all that he had done and achieved was meaningless in the face of death because he could not take it with him. As that thought settled in his mind, he then realised that not only could he not take it with him, but he would have to leave it to someone, probably in his family, who would be left after he had gone, and who would then take everything he had left and use it as he will.

That thought didn't settle very well in him either. He continued on, almost in despair, from our verses above, So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labour under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune.” (v.20,21). Here he was; he had put all his life into great projects, bringing prosperity to the country and to his family, great riches and wealth like few had seen before him, and for what, to be left to his children who may squander it all foolishly. Whatever was the point of all of that? What a waste of time!

In fact, for Solomon, these thoughts were not too far from the truth, because after he died, his son Rehoboam acted foolishly and lost three quarters of the kingdom. Before long Israel had been invaded and soon all of Solomon's wealth was taken, but it was all for the same reason: Solomon's foolishness in drifting away from the Lord because of his foreign wives.

So is it a total waste of time being successful during our lifetime? Is it meaningless that we have to hand it all over to our children when we die, not knowing if they will use what we leave wisely or not? There have got to be at least two aspects to the answer to those questions. The first one is to recognize what we have already been saying in these mediations, that our lives will only have real meaning as far as we have a living relationship with the Lord. Knowing Him, knowing His guidance, sensing His purpose for our lives, these are the things that bring meaning to us. Our work, our career etc. should flow out of that relationship and because they do they should receive the guidance and blessing of the Lord. When it is like that we have a real sense of purpose, achievement and fulfilment that is properly balanced, that enables us to form, keep and maintain relationships in a family that are not drained away by our work. Work becomes just a part of our lives; relationship with others is the healthy balance.

Indeed if we have a healthy balance from the Lord, then there will be other things in our lives as well as work, which we use and enjoy as recreation, the fourth balancing part of our lives – God, family, work, recreation. Indeed if we are wise and allow the Lord to lead us, our lives will have a giving element to them as well, the fifth balancing part to our lives, as we look outwards and allow the Lord to use us to bless others. When we can find this fivefold balance to our lives – the Lord, family, work, recreation, giving out – then we will truly find a sense of fulfilment and meaning and purpose. That will truly be a good life.

But what about leaving everything to our children? Is that meaningless? That raises the question of what we leave to them. If it is purely money and possessions then we have missed half of what could be. Surely the greatest things we can leave them include the knowledge of being loved by us, a sense of security in that love, an understanding of the good and right way to walk with the Lord and to live out their lives in a relationship with Him, walking in righteousness and holiness.

We cannot guarantee they walk in these things but we can leave them an example in their memories. Hopefully they will follow our example, but that is up to them for we cannot make them. If we leave them money and possessions, we need to do it in love and trust, leaving them to use it wisely – or otherwise. It will be down to them. What they do with it may be a memorial to our memory – or not. As we pass on we may ask the Lord to give them wisdom to use it wisely, and trust that He will. We may also pray that He helps them have the same balance in their lives, after you have gone – the Lord, family, work, recreation, giving out, and in that way you will know that your life was meaningful and you contributed to the same being able to be said about theirs. May it be so!








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Series Theme:   Ecclesiastes Meditations

Meditation No. 17

Meditation Title: More than just work


Eccles 2:24,25   A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?


It's taken two chapters of pondering before Solomon comes up with this conclusion. But isn't that how it is with us foolish, sinful human beings. We have to rumble through all the possibilities until we see that most of them are futile and there is only one answer worth holding onto. The trouble is today that most people will not work their way through these things like Solomon did. One of the enemy's strategies is to say, “It's all right, you don't want to think about such things, only religious people do that. You're all right as you are!” This is true about the futility of the sin of mankind and it is true of the wonderful good news that the Gospel brings us: most people just don't want to bother to think about it.

Somebody once wrote: “Cannon J.B.Phillips recalls in The Ring of Truth, 'hundreds of conversations with people, many of them of higher intellectual calibre than myself, who quite obviously had no idea what Christianity is about.' He concluded that 'they knew virtually nothing' about the New Testament. The Resurrection 'the most important even event in human history is politely and quietly by-passed. For it is not as though the evidence had been examined and found unconvincing; it had simply never been examined.'” This is the horrifying truth, that millions of people will go to hell because they could not be bothered to think about the truth about life and the truth about the Gospel.

Solomon has been thinking, admittedly from a jaded perspective where his relationship with the Lord has lost its power, but even from there he comes to this wise conclusion. Remember, he has just been going through a number of reasons why struggling and striving to achieve through work or a career can be a thankless task, and so his conclusion is as a result of all of that thinking. You can struggle and strive and achieve great things, he had said, but at the end of it all, you hand it over to others to enjoy, you die and have to leave it all behind. If you think your work is going to have eternal impact, don't waste your time; it won't and it can't! So what does that leave you with?

It leaves you with the only conclusion possible: you must learn to enjoy each day as it comes, and get fulfilment from what you do, because that is all God has allowed of you. Now that is interesting because it is only the second time in two chapters that he has mentioned God. The first one was in chapter one when he said what a burden God has put on mankind giving them so much to learn. These references to God, seem a grudging acknowledgement of the Lord, the One who at one time had been the all-important person in Solomon's life. Sadly now, that is no longer so, and all he is left with is the grudging acknowledgment of how God has designed things to be.

So is this truth, this statement of Solomon's? A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. Is it true that all we can do is get on with life on a daily basis, enjoy our food, enjoy our drink, and find some satisfaction in our work? Well from the standpoint of a person who does not know the Lord – or who has lost contact with the Lord – yes, it is true. What else is there? But there, as it keeps on coming up in these meditations, is the crux of the matter. It is all about knowing the Lord or not knowing the Lord? Notorious atheist Richard Dawkins, making waves in the early part of the twenty-first century with his writings and TV programmes inadvertently reveals the truth. He complains that atheists are not having impact and it's been the Christians who have made all the running. Well yes, it is the Christians who have made the running! Christians who have been motivated by the love of God to start schools, build hospitals and orphanages, start Unions and so on. It hasn't just been ‘work' it's been the God-given vision of meeting the needs of the poor and of blessing others. The energy and life of God in them has taken them outside themselves.

Yesterday I wrote about the balance of “the Lord, family, work, recreation, and giving out.” Many people omit the first and the last of those five things, and their lives are meaningless. It is when you add the first and the last that meaning and purpose and fulfillment truly come. It is that last one that Christians have been known for – giving out – and that has resulted in the world being blessed and God being glorified. If we do the ‘giving out' without God, it just becomes a self-centred, godless thing, and it is seen as something just to build our egos. When it comes with God's motivation, out of a relationship with Him, then it comes with a selflessness that is good to behold. This is the dimension that takes us beyond merely eating and drinking and getting satisfaction from our work. Tragically so many miss out and have never seen it. See it, live it, be blessed and be a blessing!







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Series Theme:   Ecclesiastes Meditations

Meditation No. 18

Meditation Title: Rewards


Eccles 2:26 To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind


It is interesting; even the man or woman who is far from God knows some truth. We can't but help know truth because it is the way God has made us. Here is Solomon, jaded by a largely godless life and yet as he works through the truth of life, he can't help himself but arrive at truth. He knows it because he's come from it. In our society there are many elderly people who know the truth because they heard it when they were children and went to Sunday School. Yes, when the older generation were young it was the usual thing to go to Sunday School and there they heard and learnt things they've never been able to quite forget.

Others have had ‘chance' encounters with religion and briefly they heard the truth, and it is still there in the back of their minds. Oh yes, God has a strange way of confronting us with the truth. Solomon felt moved in his old age to write these things down. He had written the Proverbs and the Song of Solomon; he was a prolific writer and even in old age he can't stop himself and so he finds himself writing this rather jaded diatribe about life, but even in the midst of it the truth rises up and has to be written.

Put in its most simple form, it is that God blesses the righteous and curses the unrighteous. Or, if you like, in purely materialistic terms the person who lives God's way has a good life and the person who doesn't has a wearisome life. Why is that? Partly it is the way God has made us and partly it is to do with the relationship we have with him.

Two lives. Let's take the sinner or the unrighteous man first. This is the person who is self-centred and thus godless and who seeks to live their way and only their way, living for personal peace and comfort. This person ultimately has no restraint, they have nothing on which to fix their standards or their ethics, and so they find themselves cutting corners in life, doing others down, ever pressing themselves upwards, and all the while the edges of what is permissible gradually move more and more until there are no boundaries. This person is ever striving to achieve, striving for more, and all the while deep down there is an unhappiness, a discontentment, a feeling of being jaded with life.

The best they feel they can get is just to work and work to get more, but deep down they know they it is all a waste of time because they cannot take it with them, so what's the point? Perhaps if I work harder, perhaps if I achieve more, perhaps if I can climb one more rung up the social or business ladder, I will feel good, and so they strive and strive, but the feeling good never actually comes. They try to cover it up and pretend it is not there, but the feeling of lack of fulfilment and lack of purpose is still there, because after all is said and done, without God that is all there is. Quite often along the way, the Lord brings circumstances into their lives that are designed to drive them to Him, but like Pharaoh with Moses, they harden their hearts and refuse to respond and come to Him. But on the last day they will never be able to say they didn't know.

But then there is the ‘righteous' man, the man or woman who pleases God. How do people please God? They are honest about who they are; they acknowledge their sinfulness, their godless tendencies and their unrighteous tendencies and they recognise their need. Then when they hear about Jesus Christ, they come to God with penitent, open, seeking hearts, hearts that are willing to surrender and give themselves to Him for Him to do whatever needs doing. They are people who are then forgiven and cleansed and adopted as God's children; they are people who receive His Holy Spirit. They are people who start learning about God's way of living from His word; they are people who start learning to live in response to His Holy Spirit's guidance.

As they start living with God's standards, they find that a life of honesty and integrity, of love, care, thoughtfulness, consideration for others, acceptance of others, and plain goodness, is good! They find God speaks to them and guides them. They find that His guidance means they do things well or good things happen and they are blessed. They find that living as a child of God is good and wholesome and enjoyable. They catch a sense of purpose and as they go with the will of God for them, they realise it is good and a blessing. They find a sense of fulfilment in flowing with that will of God and they marvel at the wonder of God's love for them.

Did you notice in this paragraph there was no spiritual language? Yes, they probably read their Bible to find out more of God's way for them, they probably pray as they talk out their lives with their heavenly Father, they probably worship as they let their hearts rise up in adoration for God, and they probably share God's love with others, because it is the natural thing to do. But those are all additional expressions of their lives with God. The important thing is that they live, and living with God is good and they are blessed. Knowing God is a life transforming thing. It's not just for Sundays or for Quiet Times; it's for the whole of life. Their relationships, their learning, their working, are all transformed by the love and blessing of God. Oh yes, the statement, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness almost seems an understatement, but perhaps that was because it was coming from the pen of a jaded man, but it is still the truth, even if it doesn't say the half of it!