The honesty of the Bible: life is a whirlwind

Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Absolute futility,” says the Teacher.

“Absolute futility. Everything is futile.”

What does a person gain for all his efforts
that he labors at under the sun?

Sometimes, it seems if you look past the smiles, everything is a facade.

The total meaninglessness of everything we do - circulate emails, push paper, move rocks here, then move the rocks there - can feel like life is absurd, meaningless, folly.

We sacrifice our lives to get somewhere, then realize that our destination wasn’t worth arriving at. The journey was exhausting, and the view was disappointing.

Man, the Bible is so honest in capturing the human condition.

Yet I love how after many chapters of searching everywhere for fulfillment, the narrator of the book brings one final perspective:

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil (Eccl 12:13-14).

As Jerry Shepherd interprets the book,

Abruptly, the narrator brings the whole to a conclusion. Enough said! Here’s what’s important: “Fear God and keep his commandments.” Those who think that in some way the narrator is here summarizing Qohelet’s [the Teacher’s] thought can do so only by glossing over what Qohelet has actually said. Qohelet has never told his readers to keep the commandments; if anything, he has done the opposite (see 7:16; 11:9). While he has encouraged the fear of God (3:14; 5:7; 8:12), the exposition above has shown that his fear is in fact only “terror” before the One who is stronger, and that whatever his piety may be, it is unmixed with anything like heartfelt devotion.

The narrator says that this fear of God and keeping of his commandments is kol-hāʾādām, “all of the man.” This is the entirety of humanity’s existence. Here is an “everything,” an “all,” that is not a hebel. Throughout the entire book, Qohelet has searched for something under the sun that is not meaningless, something that is not absurd. The narrator says that Qohelet never found it because he never looked in the right place. It cannot be found by empirical investigation, by observation of nature, or by studying the accumulated “wisdom of the ages and the sages.” It is found in God and in his revealed Torah.

What will my life be today?

A useless chasing after the wind?

Or a day in God’s presence, filled with worship and joy as I serve others?