2011년 4월 14일 목요일

Intro to Ecclesiastes

God is good! God is sovereign! I just finished Luke, which I read because it's the book Mars Hill Church is in right now. So I wondered where to go next. Well, I chose Ecclesiastes because I had pulled that sermon series off the Mars Hill web site as my additional nourishment between new Luke sermons. Suffice to say, the timing couldn't be better. Surely God knows what we need and when we need it! Even the introduction alone has given me a firm grounding that I very much need right now. Consider how much I lift here from the NIV Study Bible as an advertisement therefor. I got mine used from Amazon.com for less than $8 including shipping, so don't let fear of the cost stand between you and your own copy if you find this exciting or helpful. The introduction postulates who the author is, then moves on to the content:

With a wisdom matured by many years, he takes the measure of human beings, examining their limits and their lot. He has attempted to see what human wisdom can do, and he has discovered that human wisdom, even when it has its beginning in "the fear of the Lord", has limits to its powers when it attempts to go it alone -- limits that circumscribe its perspectives and relativize its counsel. Most significantly, it cannot find out the larger purposes of God or the ultimate meaning of human existence. With respect to these it can only pose questions.

This is a warning to me and all of us not to think that our ideas are God's ideas. It's easy for us to see when other people are screwing up in this area -- when people we consider evil or stupid have social or economic or political plans for making the world a good and happy place. But we are just as convinced as they are as to the great wisdom of our own ideas. Let's not get too big for our britches. So as I look for work and make the related decisions, I can judge if work is good or bad (trash collecting, teaching, healing good; convincing people to buy useless junk, selling abortions, taking advantage of people's vulnerabilities bad). But I can't judge where I specifically need to be at any time. That must be left to God's judgment. I am praying, though, for work that gives me a powerful sense of satisfaction. Epic's recruitment letter has me very excited and already has my brain at work. Do they do health management software for patients? Think of the efficiency and savings! Think of the increased patient satisfaction that would encourage patients to choose health care providers that look at the patient holistically! So I feel very drawn to it. There's also -- though I'm just guessing -- the prospect of much higher pay than I've been used to. Think of the wonderful things I could do with that money! Help to underwrite health clinics and potable water for the poor! Helping to defray adoption expenses! But ultimately it's God's wisdom I have to trust. Moving right along:
Nevertheless, he does take a hard look at the human enterprise -- an enterprise in which he himself has fully participated. He sees a busy, busy human ant hill in mad pursuit of many things, trying now this, now that, laboring away as if by dint of effort humans could master the world, lay bare its deepest secrets, change its fundamental structures, somehow burst through the bounds of human limitations, build for themselves enduring monuments, control their destiny, achieve a state of secure and lasting happiness -- people laboring at life with an overblown conception of human powers and consequently pursuing unrealistic hopes and aspirations.
This is a reiteration of what came before, but with more of a "Don't get a swelled head" focus. Remember that we can have an impact on our corner of the world. We can be honest mechanics, skilled cabinetmakers, top-notch physicians, passionate and skilled teachers -- but we need to trust the overarching story to God.
1. Humans cannot by all their striving achieve anything of ultimate or enduring significance. Nothing appears to be going anywhere, and people cannot by all their efforts break out of this caged treadmill; they cannot ultimately change anything. Hence they often toil foolishly. All their striving "under the sun" 'after unreal goals leads only to disillusionment. 2. Wisdom is better than folly -- it is God's gift to those who please Him.
Stop there for a moment! Wisdom is not something we achieve through our own efforts. It is a gift that God bestows on the smart and simple alike. I need to remember that I have seen people with profound intellectual disabilities that nonetheless possess amazing wisdom. I have seen brilliant people who devastate their lives and the lives of those around them for lack of wisdom. So I need to pray for my "daily bread" of wisdom -- and humility.
But it is unwarranted to expect too much even from such wisdom -- to expect that human wisdom is capable of solving all problems or of securing for itself enduring rewards or advantages.
All of the satisfaction I might find on the job is the same as the satisfaction of the truck driver who gets his cargo where it's going on time, and who is a safe and courteous driver. And ultimately it's no more important. It's just feeding my own particular passions. Never forget the joy of finding a trustworthy mechanic -- and thus never think that your work, because humans might value it more, is of greater value. And it could be that the most profoundly disabled baby who only lives for a few hours has a far greater lasting impact on those around him.
3. Experience confronts humans with many apparent disharmonies and anomalies that wisdom cannot unravel. 4. Although God made humankind upright, people have gone in search of many "schemed" (for getting ahead of taking advantage of others. So even humans are a disappointment. 5. People cannot know or control what will come after them, or even what lies in the more immediate future; therefore all their efforts remain balanced on the razor's edge of uncertainty.
Think of all human endeavors that get blasted to bits by tornadoes or tsunamis. God alone knows what the true and lasting significance of our lives really is.
6. God keeps humans in their place.
Back to the tsunamis. Don't overestimate the value of the work of your own human brains and hands.
7. God has ordered all things, and a human being cannot change God's appointments or fully understand or appreciate them. But the world is not fundamentally chaotic or irrational. It is ordered by God, and it is for humans to accept matters as they are by God's appointment, including their own limitations. Everything has its "time" and is good in its time.
This is a comfort. My stupid choices can still be worked into God's good plan. And I can trust Him to make the best of even my worst. This doesn't mean that I don't have to be as smart and wise and I can be. But it is a reminder not to fret too much over my human failings and shortcomings. Choose as wisely as I can, but trust in God to guide the overall plan. That's enough to chew on for now. More later!

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