Focal Passage: Ecc. 3:9-15
I’m awful with directions.
No, seriously. I couldn’t find the floor if I tripped. The sad part about it is
that I could have avoided getting lost so many times had I just acknowledged
this deficiency earlier. Instead, I always had ready-made justifications for
why I was getting “turned around.”
They’d go something like the following:
“Someone gave me bad directions,” “I was deep in thought and missed the turn,”
“Road signs were wrong,” “I’m still recovering from an alien abduction.” You
know, the standard excuses. What
made matters even worse was that, aside from the alien abduction thing, I
actually believed these excuses myself! I could not admit to myself that I was
simply bad with directions.
We often find it difficult
to acknowledge our limitations. Though couched in some admittedly bleak
language, that’s a point Qohelet (the author of Ecclesiastes) wants to drive
home in Ecclesiastes 3. Having marked
out the limits of human existence in verses 1-8, Qohelet now turns his
attention to the limits of human knowledge. Humans cannot fathom God’s ways (v.
11), and upon admitting this ignorance humans can revere God all the more (v.
But Qohelet doesn’t stop there.
He makes the striking claim that humans have no advantage over the animals;
just as their origins are the same, so too their ends will be the same (vv.
Now before we cringe at what we think is a devaluing of humanity, it is
important here to remember that Qohelet’s point is theological, not biological.
Notice in verse 18 that it is God’s desire that humans see they are like the
animals. Why? Because when it comes to knowing the ways of God, humans have
more limitations than they readily admit.
Qohelet concludes by writing
that a person should “enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can
bring him to see what will happen after him?” (v. 22, NIV). In other words,
instead of fretting over what God has not revealed, we should find happiness in
the here and now, seizing each day as a gift from God (v. 13). Does accepting
our “lot” mean we can never express to God our dissatisfaction or
disillusionment? Of course not. If that were the case, a book like Ecclesiastes
could have never been written! Instead, we must recognize our limited
knowledge, and humbly rely on God’s infinite wisdom.
In case you’re wondering, I
finally began using a GPS. It was a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law.
Like Qohelet, she realized
that sometimes it takes a little nudge before we’ll admit our limitations.