Today’s reading: Ecclesiastes 1-12, Ps 74-75
On Day 50, the halfway point of the perfect 100, we step into a curious book located near the midpoint of our Bibles. The “teacher” who is the author is probably best known for the familiar passage found in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, verses forever immortalized by the musical group, The Byrds. It is arguably the most profound and certainly the most memorable section of the book.
Through much of Ecclesiastes, the author seems to ramble on in a stream of consciousness, seeking to understand the meaning of life. Yet, if we can stay attentive, we’ll catch some jewels of wisdom along the way. His greatest points of clarity come near the middle of the book and again at its conclusion. In these verses, we learn that we should enjoy the days that God has given us (5:18-20) and keep God’s commandments all along the way (12:13).
These two jewels undergird an overarching but unstated theme that runs throughout the book–we are not as in control of our lives as we like to think. A Hebrew word that is repeated 27 times in Ecclesiastes is most often translated vanity. In The Message, Eugene Peterson translates the word smoke–an insightful choice that alludes to the “smoke and mirrors” game we have a tendency to play in an effort to fool ourselves and others about our importance and the degree of control we have in life. The author of Ecclesiastes is under no such illusion and shares his discovery with his readers so that they might escape this trap as well.
The book of Ecclesiastes challenges us to give up self-inflated notions of ourselves and acknowledge that the workings of God are beyond our comprehension. Halfway along our journey through the Bible, that’s a good reminder.