The Cutting Room Floor – Saying Fare Thee Well to Ecclesiastes…

I’ve said in the previous 2 or 3 posts what I think is an adequate farewell to the Teacher, but I did want of finish this inaugural edition of The Cutting Room Floor by looking at a few verses in the last chapters of Ecclesiastes.  This book has certainly led me into some introspection and uncomfortable reflections over the past few months and I’m beginning to see some good come from that, especially in terms of perspective.  As debates and issues and worries and crises (all legitimate!), it helps to have the “big picture” perspective that the Teacher offers: this – all of this – is fleeting!  Soon, it will all be a memory!  This does not have to lead the reader to despair, but perhaps to greater humility and even greater appreciation for what about our lives that we can enjoy.  This, I think, is where the Teacher ultimately ends up.  And now about those verses:

1. “Feasts are made for laughter; wine gladdens life, and money meets every need.” (10:10) 

I have mentioned on this blog and repeatedly told the Bible Study group that the Teacher is one voice among many in Scripture, bringing a unique perspective to the Biblical witness.  This is a good example.  The last phrase in this verse is in conflict with the teachings of Jesus and the rest of the New Testament, not to mention the prophets.  Money can certainly meet some needs, but surely not every need.  This highlights our need to read the Teacher with some understanding of Hebrew wisdom literature and Hebrew poetry.  The Teacher is not a literalist and throughout Ecclesiastes uses hyperbole to make his point.  Even though I understand this, the end of this verse still caught me off guard.

2. “Whoever observes the wind will not sow; and whoever regards the clouds will not reap.” (11:4)

There are a number of verses that I found helpful and relatable, 11:4 being one of those.  The first part of this chapter concerns finance and wise work and the point here is that we can spend so much time checking conditions, taking assessments, and measuring variables that we don’t actually get to work.  Life well lived and work well done involves getting your hands dirty.  At some point, you’ve got to put down the gauges and thermometers and put your hand to the plow.  This doesn’t mean that evaluation and accountability are unimportant – in fact they are crucial! – but it does mean that we can’t be so worried about measuring, so obssesed with weather forecasts that we neglect working in the field.

3. “The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings that are given by the one shepherd.” (12:11)

A goad is a pointed stick or staff that also includes a crook – a shepherd’s staff with a point at the end.  This was used to drive cattle and sheep.  The point was to ‘encourage’ them to move forward while the hook was used to keep them from running too far ahead.  This is the intent of wisdom – to prod us, even sharply to action while at the same time pulling us back from foolishness and destruction.  I like that image, but the image of nails firmly fixed is even more compelling to me.  We might think about a modern-day house and all its components: the foundation, the framing, the drywall/plaster, the wiring and plumbing – all the concrete, wood, wire, metal.  And the typical home is held together by relatively small nails.  If you magically removed all of the hidden nails from a typical modern home, the whole thing would collapse.  Such is the case with wisdom.  These proverbs are small and wisdom is typically hidden, often seeming to be out of view.  Yet if wisdom is removed, the whole thing collapses.  That image fits and helps me understand that wisdom need not be loud or prideful, but is quiet and sturdy.  With all that I have struggled with in Ecclesiastes, I appreciate that little image at the end of the book.

I cannot honestly say that I’ve enjoyed studying this book, but it has been good.  I have gained an appreciation for what the Teacher has to offer, even if I don’t ultimately agree with some of his conclusions (especially when putting them in conversation with Jesus).

Thanks for reading!  I hope to write more as we begin our study of Christian denominations.  Until then, you can find the audio of the Ecclesiastes study on our website.  Grace and peace to you in the Name of Jesus Christ!

 

Wes

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