TODAY’S READING: Ecclesiastes 1–6
Ecclesiastes is the most pessimistic of all the books in the Bible. It reveals what it feels like to forget the mission of God, to wander from the covenant to bless all peoples, to live an inward middle-class life and wake up in your 40s panicked and unfulfilled. Donald Stamps said: “God has placed within the human heart an inherent desire for more than just the earthly… Consequently, material things, secular activities, and the pleasures of this earth will never fully satisfy.” Ecclesiastes is the mourning song of the person who claimed the name of Christ for decades while doing nothing for the cause of Christ globally. Ecclesiastes is the groan of the one who has only fed on the things of earth and become malnourished. No man or woman can bear for long the realization that life is meaningless.
The beauty of Ecclesiastes is that purposelessness is contrasted with the fear of the Lord. When we fear the Lord by respecting Him, by obeying His command to preach the gospel to all the peoples of the world, we find purpose, meaning, and joy. It’s not rocket science. If your life lacks meaning, it’s probably because you’re not engaged in God’s mission as you should be. The way out of a purposeless life is to find your purpose and part in God’s glory being lauded by every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.
Ecclesiastes deals with realities, such as the life we ended up living and not the life we expected to live. Some disappointments in life are due to our own drift, and others to demonic attacks or unfortunate events. “The realities that stem from Genesis 3 are the stark background for the wrestlings of Job and Ecclesiastes: satanic malice, suffering, frustration, meaningless toil, unpredictable consequences, uncertain futures, the twistedness of life and the final mockery of death. Wisdom by itself cannot answer these questions, but it provides a clue where the answer may be found—in the fear of the Lord God himself.”
If the answers to our despair at life getting away from us as time flies by and our expectations are dashed and if hope for a wasted life is found in the fear of the Lord, then what is that fear exactly? Ironically, part of the answer is linked to the fear of vanity and a fleeting life. Ecclesiastes 6:12 reminds us that life is a shadow, gone before we realize it. Waking up to that reality is a good start. The fear of meaninglessness can lead us to search for purpose, and the search for purpose ends up in God and His mission because God put eternity in the hearts of men, making everything beautiful in its time (3:11)
Essentially, the preacher of Ecclesiastes helps us realize that we weren’t made for this present earth and that our ultimate satisfaction is in eternity, not in anything here and now. The recognition of the temporal as unsatisfying only devastates if there is no eternal life. Vanity in all things here and now is great missionary fuel. A deep dissatisfaction with this life can lead to great desire for eternal life (no death, curse, sin, sickness, or tears) and that desire leads us to the Scriptures (see Matt. 24:14). Thus, we see our satisfaction (to go home) is inseparably linked to God’s satisfaction (representatives of all the peoples of the earth going home), and our purpose becomes clear: Make disciples of all nations and then we can all go home, all be satisfied, all be glad. God placed a pessimistic book in His Word to help us remember what His purpose and our satisfaction is: Making disciples of all peoples, including the Alawite of Syria, so we can all go home.
 Donald C. Stamps. Editor. The Full Life Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992. 949.
 Christopher J. H. Wright. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006. 447.