The quest for salvation
Dear Listeners, During this month (of March) I have had the privilege of taking you along to a unique book in the Bible, the book of Ecclesiastes. At first impression, we said, the book is peculiar, obscure, puzzling, mysterious, or what have you; yet, upon close scrutiny we received a clear message from the Preacher, the author of this book. Yes, his overview and observations were realistic and sobering, whatever he observed in this life “under the sun;” yet, it was to direct our attention to God, who is “above the sun,” who is the Maker of heaven and earth, and at His plan, His work in this world. We heard his cry for the Christ, we saw God’s gift of grace in Him, and we found life outside of ourselves in Jesus Christ. He is the hope of this world, and He gives a future to your life, to your labour, and to your situations in life! Then today we will see that this is all a part and parcel of the Preacher’s quest for salvation, and he shows us the sum of his quests. The Preacher, dear listeners, didn’t just think a lot about life, about life in this world, he also participated in it. He says (1:13), “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 wind.” With these words the Preacher started out his extensive investigation. He observed and explored all things, keeping his eyes and ears wide open. He also tried it out himself, the life of enjoying pleasures such as eating, drinking, and merry-making… That’s not it, the Preacher concluded. In this way the Preacher travelled the world, considered all facets of life: the world of finances and moneys; he tried out a life of riches, life in nature, labour, social and political life, and in the end he comes to the same conclusion he’d observed in the beginning: we’re living in a world of much futility and senselessness!
You may be rich, but when you die someone else takes off with your money; there’s no gain in riches. You may enjoy it, but that’s about it! There are cycles in nature; there is destruction in the work of man, breakdowns in relationships, and injustice where you would expect justice. No man, dear listener, can find conclusions about the world in the world itself; or the sum of life in life itself! “Everything is meaningless,” says the Preacher. Thankfully, the Preacher belonged to the people of the LORD. In the midst of this futile world he stood in the temple of God. That’s where the LORD spoke, where He gave His promises and prospects for the salvation of life. The LORD would break through the futilities of life. He would deliver from the curse that’s lying on this world because of man’s fall into sin! That’s why the Preacher exhorted his audience to be very careful when going to the house of the LORD, to guard their steps and to listen well. That’s where the answers are given! That’s where the awe of the LORD is instilled! That’s where the work of reconciliation takes place. It’s that message he reiterates at the end of his book: if you wish to determine the true meaning and value 2 of life, you have to use a different criterion: “Now all has been heard, here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man! That’s not empty, senseless! “Fear God!” Have a deep respect for God that is, and live in awe for Him! Realize that God is there and that He is God! Realize that this world in which you’ve looked around and lived and enjoyed and enriched yourself and have worked, etc., that this is God’s world, the world of your Maker! He says it to the youth, to the elderly, and to everyone else who hears his message: “Live for God; fear the LORD!” In other words, don’t look around in this world, trying to find your answers, wisdom, and conclusions in it; look up to God for answers, and fear Him in all that you do! Today, as people living in the NT dispensation, we would put it this way: “Remember Jesus Christ in all that you do; realize that He is your Lord in heaven! He came to earth to deliver you from sin and guilt and death; He came to purchase you with His precious blood! He is the gift of God’s love for your salvation! Live in that faith, live in Christ, and live again for the glory of God! The fear of the LORD makes God the centre of your life again, for whom you live and through whom you live! “Fear God and keep His commandments!” Of course, you’d say dear listener, that’s part of it: it should be obvious and evident that you live for God! Faith and works show us that our faith is living!
For this is the whole duty of man, the Preacher adds. It is the whole man, he says literally. That’s what makes him a man again, a man of God; it shows that he has been delivered from the futility of life, from the senselessness of life, when man is living for God again! Then the Preacher adds as his explanation, as the reason for this word of wisdom: “For God will bring every deed into judgment.” You can leave the rest up to Him, so to speak! He will come on the clouds to judge the living and the dead! Jesus Christ! He will come to explain what you can’t understand, can’t judge. There will be a last judgment in which God will see what you have done with this life, what you have lived for, and where you have found the sense of your life, the purpose of your life, the truth of your life, and the joy of your life! Did you find it in God, through Jesus Christ, or not? Yes, dear listener, then it could be, indeed, that on the outside a life looked neat, impressive, or productive, yet that all things were done for yourself, feeding your pride, forcing your way, and doing your own thing. Then the Lord will say: that life was futile, for it wasn’t lived for Me! That life was senseless, for it didn’t give glory to Me! That life was evil, for it wasn’t lived in awe and obedience to Me! Then in that judgment it could also be – what comfort that may give today! – that though your life showed your stumbling, your struggling with sin, which you confessed to the Lord, yet that your heart was directed to God, that you lived in the fear of the LORD and in the sincere desire to seek Him in obedience to His will. Then the Lord will say: in spite of all your shortcomings and sins, which I have removed as far as east is from the west, in spite of all that was broken and sad, your life still was fruitful and joyful and meaningful, for you lived it in Jesus Christ and you lived it in service to Me! That’s the way of wisdom, of grace, of life, and of hope, which is the answer to the quest of the book Ecclesiastes and the answer of salvation for you, dear listener, when you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! For in Him you will find the way, the truth, and the life, eternally! Thanks for listening.