But keep digging, keep digging, and a treasure emerges. I love the phrase Denny Bos uses of so many people in the community: a diamond in the rough. He sees the good within when so many people cannot. To discover a treasure in the sand and dirt, at first not even recognizing it’s value, till it emerges. This is the Kingdom of God.
Today, as an intro to Ecc., I go to what I consider to be the heart of the book, the treasure that is discovered by Solomon, the writer, the “Teacher,” as he searches for meaning, as he searches for God. Solomon’s journey echoes our search for meaning and purpose. This is why an incredible number of people have found great hope and joy in Ecclesiastes, because it echoes our experiences. Others find it confusing and depressing. Here in Ecc. 3 is the moment the treasure emerges, the search for meaning, the search for God… I can still feel that sense of hope but uncertainty as I saw the glimpse of glass in the sand… you think you have your life figured out, that everything is going to come together, that you cannot possibly sink any lower in confusion, so you hesitantly start to dig, afraid of being disappointed one more time, but you have to keep digging.
The question is asked in Ecc. 3:9: “What does the worker [the one who is searching] gain from all his toil?” Will the search yield just another ordinary piece of broken glass, a shiny pebble, an illusion, or will it yield the greatest treasure of all? What does the worker gain? As the dust is brushed away, it sure feels like a glass ball, and the treasure comes into view: Ecc. 3:10… “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time.” The aha moment when you realize the great possibility of a treasure, a renewed life…. “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.” There’s the banner, /the treasure: the beauty of God is within you all along. God has placed within your heart a yearning for eternity. Even in the midst of hopelessness, even when you are overwhelmed…
Like Solomon and the book of Ecclesiastes there may be a lot of clutter, a lot of dirt, a lot of questions, but the treasure is within. If I had not spotted the glare that day on the beach, maybe I would have missed the glass ball with a net, but it was there whether I found it or not. “God has also set eternity in the hearts of men!” The treasure is there, waiting to be discovered, placed by God himself. Like a glass ball with a net buried amongst the sand and driftwood and pebbles and seaweed. Waiting to be discovered. God has placed a yearning for eternity within your heart. Your job is to find the treasure.
When I went to school the president at the time, David Alan Hubbard, was considered an expert on the wisdom books of the Bible… He said of the book of Proverbs that this is the book of wisdom: live by it’s principles and you will have a good and fulfilling life. Proverbs is filled with wise sayings. Dr. Hubbard then said Ecclesiastes could be summarized this way: “I tried living by the book of Proverbs, and it didn’t work.” That’s why you get all this talk about the meaninglessness of life. Or the futility of life (READ Ecc. 2:2-12).
After 25 years, I declare Dr. Hubbard was wrong. I have a better way of describing Ecclesiastes. Proverbs is about living your life by Wisdom, making good choices, adopting healthy and God honoring values. The book of Ecclesiastes is the training manual, as if to say, “I have looked at Proverbs and seen the way of Wisdom, now show me how to live such a life when life is hard, confusing, depressing, when a satisfying life seems to elusive, when bad things happen. Ecclesiastes brings you back to the basics of what’s most important… Ecclesiastes is realistic, unbelievably realistic. When Ecc says, “He has made everything beautiful in it’s time.” Often you cannot see the beauty of your life because of the debris cluttering your heart… but the treasure is there, waiting to be discovered. A good description of the church might be a community in which people are invited to come and search for buried treasure…
On the bookshelf of my office at home, there are some books I have for the title alone. One such book is called “Transition.” It’s about the stages of life and how faith impacts the transitions, from youth to adult, a mid life crises, growing old. Life is about changes. We get used to a certain set of abilities and circumstances, then something happens and we are thrown for a loop, illness perhaps, or death, or a wedding or graduation or loss of a job. The book of Ecclesiastes makes the most sense in the middle of transitions, in the midst of loss; the foundation of one “time” is pulled from under us. And we don’t always handle it all that well. This is why Ecc. can seem mysterious to the person who has it all together, and why it is profound for the person going through a major transition, like my first year of college. If life is settled for you and everything is good, you do not have the same needs. Ecclesiastes helps us through the transitions of life and emerge with a strength of confidence in God ~ sorting through the questions of life ~ this is why most people accept the Lord Jesus Christ when they are in the middle of a crisis ~ that’s when they are searching and asking the deep questions: What’s the purpose of my life? Why is this happening? What’s the point?
I heard an interesting story: the student asked, what is the meaning of life? The rabbi responded, “what a wonderful question. Why would you want to exchange it for an answer?” //I get the idea, but I think there is an answer: God has placed a yearning for eternity in your heart, keep sorting through the difficulties of life, the transitions, cleaning off the sand and the seaweed, so you rediscover once again the beautiful person God has created you to be. God will see you through the transitions. Ecclesiastes is a guide book, helping us work through the process of discovering and rediscovering the yearning for eternity that is placed within all of us by God himself.
Some of you know the “Jesus Calling” book….The June devotional is a fitting summary of the book of Ecclesiastes. Written from the perspective of Jesus: “Much frustration and failure result from your seeking perfection in this life. There is nothing perfect in this world except me. That is why closeness to me satisfies deep yearnings and fills you with joy. I have planted longing for perfection in every human heart. This is a good desire which I alone can fulfill. But most people seek this fulfillment in other people and earthly pleasures or achievements….Make me the deepest desire of your heart. Let me fulfill your yearning for perfection.”
Ecc. 3:1-8 is perhaps the most well known of all texts in the book of Ecc. These words make so much sense because what is described is transitions. “a time for everything” the scripture begins. The Bible also uses the word “season.” READ. Life is transitions, transitioning from one season to the next. We seek stability, yet life is about change. Those who do the best are those who are able to settle into new transitions. Ecc. 3:9 asks an open ended question. READ. A real question. A question hearkening back to the seasons of life. Two alternative attitudes are exposed: READ Ecc. 3:10: a BURDEN. A mess. Are the seasons, the transitions a burden that weigh you down. OR, Beautiful. READ Ecc. 3:11a. It all takes time. When a transition is thrust upon you there is often a time of grief, a time of shock, a time of adjustment, but in time ~ a key word in this scripture ~ in time, how do you see your new life, a burden, or beautiful. The beauty is there in every season of life, every moment, every phase, because God has put it there, the only question is do you see it. The glass float was in the sand whether I found it or not. Do you see your life as a burden, or is it beautiful? God has already declared that everything is beautiful in it’s time! Yesterday I was poking around the website of a friend, a missionary in China, she’s going to come and photograph Esther and Wesley’s wedding! What a great photographer. A recent picture is an weathered old Chinese man ~ what a beautiful picture. Everything, everyone, is beautiful in its time. And the reason your life is beautiful, every season ~ God has placed eternity in your heart. Therein is your stability.
You will never find stability if you are going to depend on life staying the same. The children will grow up. Loved ones will die. Children will be born. The kids will move out of the house. You will get wrinkles. One season may be a season of sickness. Life is about transitions/seasons. Is it a burden? something you detest? something that makes you mad at God? or is there a wonderful beauty. Anytime you accept and appreciate anything for what it is, there is a beauty. A new season, a new life, a new opportunity. Yearn for eternity, that’s where all the seasons of life are headed…
One more note. READ Ecc. 3:12b. Cannot fathom… God sees the whole of our life, we see a season. We don’t always know when one season will end and another begin. Some are predictable, like going away to college, but not all, a change of finances, a change of health, a change of attitudes, a divorce. We do not know.
Search. Are you feeling a sense of hopelessness, uncertainty, confusion? Search for the buried treasure. There are seasons of life. Refuse to accept the defeatist attitude that life is a burden, but understand there is a God given beauty to every moment, every season, every time! Search for the buried treasure, the yearning for eternity that is there. Like the glass ball with a net, it is on the beach/in your heart, whether you find it or not. Get rid of the clutter of your heart, and yearn for the perfection of God. Stability will never be found in a constant predictable life on earth that never changes ~ stability comes from God himself who is calling you by placing within you a yearning for eternity. God has made you beautiful! Find the beauty by yearning to be with the Lord Jesus Christ forever and ever. Amen.