today, as in antiquity, the answer to the ultimate question of “life, the universe, everything” stands as both something that many do not accept and something that remains illusive to live out for those that do accept it.
to bring the conversation into clarity:
- humanity has long searched for an answer for the reason why we are here.
- God is the beginning and the end of the answer to the ultimate question (genesis 1:1).
- that answer is either difficult for the world to believe because it is either misunderstood or seemingly too simple
over the years as i have searched, studied, and learned more about God, i often find myself coming back to the book of ecclesiastes to ground my thoughts and focus my attention. specifically to how the book ends.
“‘vanity of vanities,’ says the preacher, ‘all is vanity!’ in addition to being a wise man, the preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. the preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. the words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. but beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. the conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. for God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” ecclesiastes 12:8-14 (nasb)
authorship of ecclesiastes is often attributed to king solomon, you know the wisest of the wise—king david’s son. solomon, who when first anointed king plead to God for discernment, and that plea was granted. from God’s own mouth solomon was proclaimed to be the wisest man to ever live.
remember this, it is important.
solomon spends the first 99% of the book of ecclesiastes just destroying the world verbally. seriously, he speaks about all of his own exploits, his own immeasurable wisdom, his incomprehensible wealth, his amazing achievements, and all of the things he did that puts all of us to shame. he takes all of those things that we would see as worth and puts them in a big pile with all of his sin, his disobedience, and everything he did very-very wrong in life; then he pretty much lights them all on fire.
in today’s culture solomon would be a cross between stephen hawking and warren buffet: just stupid smart and successful by wordly standards. after he lays down twelve chapters of wisdom regarding science, finance, commerce, war, love, and everything else “under the son,” solomon concludes that all of it, everything in his impressive life, is vanity.
in short this means that all that he did in life he considered truly unimportant. this is humbling because if a guy like that thought his life was nothing but vanity then what hope do i have for the achievements in my life?
immediately after calling everything meaningless, the author goes on to say that solomon gave in his life great nuggets of wisdom and teaching – but these nuggets had nothing to do with him. really, in verses 9-11 the author makes it very clear who the source of the solomon’s wisdom was: “the one Sheppard”—God.
now here is where it gets really interesting: after tearing apart the world, his own life, everything good and bad he has been a part of, calling it completely vapid and meaningless, not worth the effort it took, and establishing that there was one source to the wisdom he had, he gave us a stern warning.
the author warned that seeking knowledge for knowledge’s sake is completely and absolutely a worthless endeavor. it never gets us anywhere. the search for knowledge is an endless paradox: the more we search for answers the more questions we get; the more questions we get the more answers we seek. this goes on and on ad infinitum. so, as i mentioned in my last post, the answer to the ultimate question might as well be 42.
it all begins with fear
so here we are. we know a worldly paradigm cannot give us the answers we seek to the question of “life, the universe, everything.” we know that the Bible tells us our ultimate purpose and where the ultimate answer comes from. we also now know that the wisest person that will ever live came to the conclusion that his entire life and existence is and of itself meaningless.
fortunately the author of ecclesiastes does not leave us hanging. rather, he tells us where wisdom ends and living our purpose begins: to fear God.
hebrew word of the day
“yare” the hebrew word for fear is used 314 times in the Old Testament and carries the meaning “to be afraid; to stand in awe of; to honor and respect.” the entirety of Christian experience is summed up in the two things the author of eccelsiastes offers as the conclusion of the matter: fear and obey.
so lets take a pause right here and unpack the word fear for a moment: fear is not just being afraid, rather Godly fear, “yare,” is to stand in awe of, and to respect God.
so as a conclusion to this blog post i offer the following paraphrase of the author’s words: “when you look at the entirety of your life, and everything good and bad in it, and realize the futility of it, this remains: stand in awe of God; honor God; respect God; and do so by obeying what God has asked you to do.”