March 16, 2013

Revealing Christ In The Old Testament XVI: Breath of Life


The expression "under the sun" occurs no less than 28 times in Ecclesiastes, and is nowhere else in the Bible. "Under the Heaven" is mentioned 3 times and "upon the earth " 7 times. The word "vanity" or “all is vanity” occurs 37 times. There is at least 40 times that the Spirit of God names the earth or the things belonging to the earth. It is only in the last few verses that we see things "above the sun" or something not of this world.

One thing is clear at Ecclesiastes end, to view things in this world apart from Jesus Christ/God is to have an unsolvable problem on our hands. A life apart from God becomes an unfathomable puzzle and ends in a distressed human spirit and broken psyche. This is because man was made to be with God and to try and exist outside of that created purposeful relationship is to live a life empty of true meaning.

To live in a world of skepticism, pure empiricism and materialism results in a meaningless empty life worth nothing. The reason Ecclesiastes comes off as so negative and bleak is that it paints a picture of worldly pleasure devoid of the One Thing/One Being that matters. God. Everything else we pursue in this life when matched up against God  (and our longing for Him) just shows how inadequate the things of this world are. The things of this world fail to satisfy our deepest longings and desires of the human heart.

The world, apart from God, cannot fully reach mankind’s purposeful end. Therefore “All is vanity." Vanity here means something empty and transitory in nature. It can also be understood as "vapor" or "mere breath". It is therefore meaningless. It is Solomon who draws these distinctions, the man in all of history who was in the best position to do so. The king who had everything…yet had nothing as he rightfully admits. The man who could have been the ideal king that had wealth, youth, and strength. He was even given the honor of building the Temple for God. A work forbidden to his father. Having had just about everything including wisdom second to none we see full philosophical insight come home to roost. We see it in its full fruition here and what does Solomon discover? Satisfaction is not earthly or “under the sun”. It is in the very last verse that we find the real truth of the matter. It is in these verses that we transcend “under the sun” and reach “above the sun” or to the One not of this world.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ~”The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Love God, obey Him, trust Him, and all will be well with you in the end. Judgment approaches in which all wrongs will be righted, and all mysteries cleared up, and you will be made glad with a joy unspeakable. This is the key to the book. The book seems overtly negative but in reality if correctly understood, might be more joyful than Philippians.

When the “self” is the center of life, and everything is looked at from that standpoint, all is failure. When we find our new center in Christ everything revolves round Him, then all falls rightly into its right place as it was created and designed to do. We can then rest assured that even in our failures (especially in our failures), God’s good plans come to fruition through mercy and grace through the Gospel of Christ. When we put ourselves first we fail and I believe this is where a majority of the modern evangelical churches that put the “self” first fail also. We've sadly replaced the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a psychological "self-help" mentality or "your best life now" false teaching. I suggest that God would much rather have failures to deal with than successes. The sick need a physician, those that are well-off do not.. Many modern churches are more concerned with feeding people’s egos than tell them the truth. The truth is that they are not the center of Creation nor are they the focal point in salvation…Christ is.

When man convinces himself or believes that there is nothing to worship "above the sun" they inevitably turn to things "under the sun" or themselves (narcissism, self-gratification, sexual idolatry) or even things below them (Romans 1:23). As I have heard it said: Man’s heart is an idol factory. It was Blaise Pascal that once put it this way:
What else does this craving proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object, in other words, by God himself. - "Pensees"
When man gives up on God or apostatizes from God, he ends up making a god that is a bastardization of both the divine and something of the creation anyway. In doing this man ends up messing up the image of both. We then get the equivalent of Baal-Yahweh worship. It is an attempt by sinful man to bring God down to his level and an attempt to exalt ourselves to the level of God. We try to raise ourselves to a level or position higher than is warranted when we really should be humbling ourselves in God's presence.

We are to find rest and satisfaction for our souls in God, in Christ Jesus. It is in Him that we can breath easy.

When begin to ask the questions, “What about me” or “Why me?” We miss the point totally by putting ourselves in our own way on our path to sanctification. It isn’t ever about us in the big picture. It is about Christ. Solomon understood this and called it the way he saw it. The things of this world are a trap and a ballast in our quest for holiness. We do not take any of this junk with us. Its the proverbial, "You've never seen a moving van at a funeral."  It isn't until we divest ourselves of the drivel and debris of this world and jettison the baggage that we can finally unburden ourselves. Once this sinful crushing weight is removed we can then breathe easier and not struggle under the suffocating effects of a fallen world and sin.

Everything under the sun is indeed a vesper or vapor. All here in this world is indeed meaningless, especially without God.

James 4:14 ~"What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes."

It is Christ who is the One that gives the life to produce the the breath or gives a life beyond the breath...because He is the life. It is Jesus Christ that gives everything including the Scripture's their meaning. It is therefore ironic that He would condescend and come from "above" or "beyond the sun" to dwell under the sun for a transient period only to be suffocated by being hung on a cross so that we could be with Him in eternity. An eternity sharing with Him the only thing that is not vanity...eternal life in His presence given through grace.

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