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introduction to meaninglessness

April 1, 2012

The “punch line” of Ecclesiastes is contained in the last two verses of the book:  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.  (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV)

only God matters …

The entire Old Testament is summarized in those last two verses: (a) The law (“keep His commandments”); the prophets (“bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil”); and wisdom (“Fear God,” which according to Proverbs 9:10 is the beginning of all wisdom).

The last two verses of the book also point to the New Testament. As a precondition to becoming a follower of Christ, it is necessary that a person have a large, even fearful, understanding of God-the-all-knowing-all-seeing-Judge. Only then does it make sense for that person to realize that he or she cannot possibly rise to God’s standard of perfect holiness, and only then does our desperate need for a Savior become clear. On the other hand, a follower of Christ, that is, one who loves Jesus Christ and relies upon Him, expresses and acts out his or her love for Jesus Christ be keeping His commandments (John 14:18-21).

… or else life is just a meaningless mist

The theme of the book of Ecclesiastes is that life without God is hebel [H1892], that is, a transient, meaningless vapor or breath or mist. Life for humans, from this perspective, is hardly different than that of a goldfish swimming in a bowl.

life in a meaningless world

We are hardwired to find meaning in life somehow and somewhere. People who do not find their meaning and identity in God, often try to find it somewhere else: status, work, career, family, reputation, contribution to history, timeline on, pleasure, etc.

This is frustrating, because it does not work. When we try to find meaning in these ways, we become exhausted and disappointed. Worse, the more adept we feel we have become on our own (“under the sun,” that is, without God), the more sinful and corrupt we tend to become. Indeed, the Bible describes atheism as both foolish and corrupting (see Psalm 14:1-3 and Psalm 53:1).

Which is why denial of God, or separation from God, is itself a form of hell (see Matthew 27:45-46).

Audio MP3 Discussion of this post is available here.

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