Living on the ragged edge. Isn’t that what it feels like these days? Like we’re barely holding on? It’s not new to us in the 21st century. There was a king who had everything, wealth, wisdom, and power, and yet he still felt empty and proclaimed everything was meaningless. The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is a peek into his journals.
Solomon’s perspective wasn’t all that different than from where many operate today. He tells us, in his journals, to look closely at the world we can see and the answers it seems to give. The phrase under the sun becomes something of a keynote. It’s reiterated nearly thirty times in Solomon’s journal. His starting point is the world we can observe and he emphasizes that our observation is at ground level. Solomon’s perspective is a strictly human point of view.
He tells us in his journal that he applied [his] mind to seek and to search out wisdom to find meaning and satisfaction in life. The Hebrew gives us a little bit of insight and this insight describes Solomon’s mission. The Hebrew for applied his mind is to investigate the roots of the matter. It’s intensive research much like what a doctoral candidate does for a dissertation. It’s pursuing every possible angle, making sure the research is thorough.
Basically Solomon says, I decided to research the roots of all things to discover the meaning and purpose of my existence. Whether it was passion or pleasure or philosophy or sex or money or some creative project – whatever – he went after each subject, every objective, to find out all that he could about them, how they got started, and what were the final results. His research was thorough.
But that’s not all. He also searched out. He explored all sides. It’s a practical word for experimentation. Solomon got involved. He participated. He investigated and experienced all angles of each subject. He became an expert in living life … apart from God.
That’s what Ecclesiastes is all about. It’s Solomon’s dissertation and personal journal exploring all avenues of life hoping to find some meaning and purpose to his otherwise futile and boring existence.
Do you have any idea how many are hanging on to a ragged edge reality by their fingernails? It’s the ragged edge reality of life is somewhere between sad and bad. All it takes is a quick look around to discover our painful human existence. There’s a lot of ugliness and a lot of futility. Mainly, as Solomon discovered long ago, there’s a lot of emptiness. There’s nothing down here under the sun that will give us a sense of lasting satisfaction.
And it’s planned that way! How else would we realize our need for a living God?!?
It doesn’t matter how good your professional practice is. It doesn’t matter how big your house is or how exciting your future is. It doesn’t matter how hard you work or how large you paycheck or how sincere your efforts. When you strip away all the externals, you realize how temporary their satisfaction. When you come back to reality, it’s horribly empty.
Solomon, the realist, put it like this: it’s like chasing the wind. it looks like this: You work, so you can make money, so you can spend it, so you work more, so you can make more, so you can spend more, and you’ll work harder to make more … so goes the endless cycle of chasing the wind.
Solomon does come to terms with reality. We’ll look a little closer at that in Living on the Ragged Edge, 3. In the meantime, you can follow his journey in Ecclesiastes and see how it compares to yours.
But let me give you a sneak peek. Solomon’s discovery? The living God. The only One who can change my focus. The beautiful thing about God’s entrance is that when God steps on to the scene and gives me the lenses through which I’m able to gain a new perspective, life changes. It changes from boredom and emptiness, profitlessness and purposelessness to meaning, direction, definition, hope, encouragement and – best of all – deliverance from despair.
The wonderful news is that God changes the perspective of anyone who says, I want it. It doesn’t cost you a thing. You don’t have to read a series of books. You don’t have to be on probation a year and a half. You don’t have to keep going to church to earn your way in. You don’t have to pray a whole lot. You don’t even have to give give up your sins (an impossibility anyway). Whether you’re the richest of the rich, the poorest of the poor, or anywhere in-between, all you do is accept the gift. The gift is the power of God through Jesus. Maybe it’s time to check your perspective of living on the ragged edge.
Sunday bonus: Alan Hovhannes was a 20th century Armenian-American composer. Here’s one of my favorite’s of his, Prayer of St. Gregory. Personally, I think it’s best enjoyed with the sound turned up! Consider it mood music while reading Ecclesiastes.
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