|9 What gain have the workers from their toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful for its time; moreover he has put a sense of eternity into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to be merry and partake of good things in this life; 13 moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. 14 I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.
I’m not really big on computer games, but I found one I liked many years ago. It was called Myst. The goal of the game was to explore a semi-deserted island, but in order to do so you had to solve a series. Each new move brought a new puzzle that had to be solved.
Of course, the more puzzles you can solve, the more interesting the game was. If you could not solve them you ended up wandered aimlessly around the island.
I had a very hard time with the game at first. The directions were not clear at all. The first puzzle you had to solve was to figure out that the game was a series of puzzles. The puzzles were hard, I was very frustrated when I first started playing. I knew there was more to the game than just meandering around the island, but I could not figure out what it was.
Qohelet says our life is like that. We know that there is more to this game called life, but we have a hard time figuring out what it is. Do we have an ultimate purpose? What is the meaning to our life? We know that there is more to life than just meandering around. Qohelet says that God “has put a sense of eternity into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
If it all stopped there, we would say that life was pretty miserable. It would be like God put in a Myst-like game, with puzzles to solve, but puzzles that had no answer. (It reminds me of the old joke, “How do you confuse a Presbyterian Minister? Put him in a round room and tell he there is potential new member in the corner.”)
But Qohelet says more. He says we can three things that help us deal with our troubled relationship to eternity. First, enjoy the moment, or as Qohelet says, “Make merry.” If we can live in the moment, then we have eternity at our grasp. In the present moment there is no past or future. Time is our enemy when we worry about the past, which we cannot change, or the future, which has not yet happened.
The second is to enjoy food, drink, and the work of our hands. This is related to the first, but here Qohelet encourages us to make the most of the life we have been given, and points us to two anchors of life—food and work. The majority of our lives are taken with these two endeavors. If we can embrace them, we can embrace life itself.
The third is the basis for understanding the first two—to understand that God is eternal, and stand in awe of God’s eternal nature. To contemplate the nature of God is to contemplate eternity itself. We are formed by what we give our minds to, and when we give our minds to God, in devotion and service as well as contemplation, we are changed, and the spark of eternity that lies within us grows.
Thoughts and Questions
- Qohelet says that not only has God put eternity in our minds, God has also given us a beautiful world to enjoy. In what ways can we enjoy the beauty of the world around us, and how do you think that draws us closer to God?
- Take a moment and recount all the good things in your life. When we focus on what is wrong, we tend to see more of what is wrong. When we focus on what is right and good, we tend to see more of that. This is a rhetorical question of course, but which would you rather have running through your mind—the things that are right and good, or all the things that need to fixed?
- What are some ways we can contemplate the nature of God? Can you do by looking at nature? In worship? In prayer? Try to spend at least five minutes a day, for the rest of Lent, thinking about the nature of God. (Hint: The Psalms can be a great help in this!)