Christian realism in the book of Ecclesiastes
Stanley Gale takes us through Ecclesiastes, not in a detailed study; rather, it allows the book to be a study on life. After all, there can hardly be a more up to date commentary on modern-day life than this ancient book! What does life 'under the sun' have to offer? What is God's purpose for us? We see the sanity of living, not in vanity, but to the glory of God.
Somehow there is a myth floating around that when you follow Jesus life has certain tangible perks. When your Father is God and Jesus is the reigning King, you expect that finances won’t be quite as tight, relationships will be easier, and life will be a bit merrier. A little bit of false advertising. Seemingly innocent expectations. But these beliefs are far from innocent. When you expect wine and roses and end up with gruel, your confidence in the Lord wanes. Maybe, you wonder, this relationship with Christ is just a life insurance policy after all. It is good for when you die, but costly for when you live. Life insurance policies are boring, at best. Maybe the Bible has no real-world application.
And what about the many men and women who jettison their faith because they encounter suffering – lots of suffering – and following Christ seems to make absolutely no difference? They have been spared nothing. There is a rule in suffering: the more intense the suffering, the more alone you feel from both other people and the Lord. There are times when life is a painful mess, and if God doesn’t speak to us in the midst of that mess, why bother?
In Ecclesiastes, God speaks into the mess. Ecclesiastes is not about happy thoughts that deny earthly realities. Instead, the preacher, along with the other voice we hear in Ecclesiastes, open our eyes even wider than normal. They take us to all the hard places. They hear our questions and run further with them until all is laid bare. Every once in a while you might think that Ecclesiastes is written by a dour existentialist, but, somehow, even before you get to the end of the book, you can tell that this examination of life will end in hope and result in more meaning and fullness that we can comprehend.
At the end of Stan’s time with you in Ecclesiastes, you won’t have a formula for wealth, wisdom or beauty, but you will find comfort, hope and meaning as you know your God is worthy of your complete trust.
Stanley Gale trained at Westminster Theological Seminary and Covenant Theological Seminary. He has served as a pastor for over twenty five years and has authored several books, including The Prayer of Jehoshaphat; What is Spiritual Warfare?