Smoke on the Water
Ecclesiastes 1:1-11; 12:11-14
These are the words of the Teacher, David’s son and king in Jerusalem
Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Teacher says.]
There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke.
What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old planet earth.
The sun comes up and the sun goes down, then does it again, and again—the same old round.
The wind blows south, the wind blows north. Around and around and around it blows, blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind.
All the rivers flow into the sea, but the sea never fills up. The rivers keep flowing to the same old place, and then start all over and do it again.
Everything’s boring, utterly boring— no one can find any meaning in it. Boring to the eye, boring to the ear.
What was will be again, what happened will happen again. There’s nothing new on this earth.
Year after year it’s the same old thing. Does someone call out, “Hey, this is new”? Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story.
Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. And the things that will happen tomorrow?
Nobody’ll remember them either. Don’t count on being remembered.
The words of the wise prod us to live well. They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd. But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. And that’s it. Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or evil.
“Ecclesiastes is a John-the-Baptist kind of book. It functions not as a meal but as a bath. It is not nourishment; it is cleansing. It is repentance. It is purging. We read Ecclesiastes to get scrubbed clean from illusion and sentiment, from ideas that are idolatrous and feelings that cloy. It is an exposé and rejection of every arrogant and ignorant expectation that we can live our lives by ourselves on our own terms.” - Eugene Peterson
The Prods and Nails
The Big Questions
For further reading: Encountering Ecclesiastes: A Book for Our Time by James Limburg
Isaac Gaff is Managing Director of Worship & Creative Arts at Calvary UMC