We are looking at Ecclesiastes for the exhortations while we do the "I AM" sermon series. And last week we saw how the main character in the book, the Critic, says 38 times that everything is hevel, hevel, utterly hevel. That's the Hebrew word in the Bible and it is a metaphor to describe how life is fleeting and temporary. It refers to something like smoke or vapor. When you try to grab onto it, it slips through your fingers.
The critic points out all the areas in life where we typically latch onto to find meaning, purpose, and ultimate joy. The critic challenges us to see how in the end these things will let us down. The critic dismantles the notion that we can find the meaning of life apart from God.
Today I want to look at chapter 1 verses 3-4 and 10-11. They say "What do you gain by all the toil at which you toil under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after."
The things that the critic has to say is tough to hear. No one wants to hear that a generation will come and a generation will go and no one is going to remember you, but the reason why I appreciate the critic is that we all know this is true. And the freeing part of acknowledging these tough truths is that when we acknowledge them, we can take steps forward in addressing them and accepting them.
So, again, what is the critic saying here? The critic is saying, "you people work so hard day in and day out and you think that through you are building a name for yourself that will last beyond you. You think the world revolves around you and that you are special. But go to tell it to the mountain and see if it cares. The mountain was here long before you and will be here long after you."
Again, this is kind of depressing to think about, but it is important to address this head on and call it how it is. If we are honest with ourselves we all will agree that time flies by, time marches on, and we cannot stop it. We cannot stop or slow down the march of time. Tied to this concept, the critic says, you are not going to be remembered.
For example, how many of you know where your great grandparents grew up? How about where they are buried? Ok, how about an easier one, do you even know their names?
The reality that we need to come to grips with, and the Bible is honest about, is that your own great grandchildren most likely will not even remember your name.
So how do we answer this challenging reality? The critic also uses a phrase that points us in the right direction – "there is nothing new under the sun".
We cannot address the challenge set before us by looking at anything under the sun. The phrase means that we cannot look to the things under the sun, namely the things in our day to day life to fully satisfy us and bring meaning to our life in and of themselves.
But what if, God created the sun? What if there is a God that is above the sun, above the march of time?
The truth is: a person created the world. That person was full of life and light and he came to the earth as a person. His light shines into darkness.
Now everything means everything. Everything has meaning because there is a god. Everything is a reflection of God’s nature.
With God, our day to day matters. The project you are working on, the patient you are interacting with, the decision you are making, the product you are launching, the team you are managing, the customer you are selling to, the child you are parenting – either these have meaning or they don’t. If there is a god then 3000 years from now we will talk about these days.
Or to put it another way, does your conversation with a co-worker in the break room mean something? Or your child is up at 4am with night terrors and you need to be up with them and you are losing your sleep. You could say, in these situations, the conversation at the water cooler doesn’t matter, its meaningless. Or the interaction with my child doesn’t matter, its meaningless. We are all going to die anyways and no one will remember us, let alone these conversations.
But what if 3000 years from now we are around the throne talking with that person who we met in the breakroom. And 3000 years from now we are talking with our kid around the throne. See, with God, everything means everything now.
I want to exhort us this morning to care deeply about the day to day matters in our lives by accepting hevel, and turning to Jesus. We need Jesus who is above the sun. We need to accept the reality that in and of ourselves, our names will not live on. I'm sorry if this is a new concept to you, but compared to a mountain that existed long before you, you are not that impressive. But Jesus is impressive. Our day to day lives do matter because Jesus is real.
Prayer of Confession
Father, you are big. You are good. You are above the sun. Our day to day lives in and of themselves often seem pointless, and yet we know and feel that this cannot be the case. And that is because we were created for a different world. Our day to day lives matter because you are God.
Father, we confess that we often chase after temporary and fleeting things. We often live our lives thinking our name will live on forever because of what we are doing with the working of our hands.
Father, this is a great evil, and we know that if we in the church regard sin in our midst, our prayers will be ineffectual, so we confess our individual sins to you now. . . .
Father, we thank you that you have given us the gift of your son Jesus who is solid, and stable, and consistent to forgive us of our sins when we confess them to you. Jesus, thank you for sacrificially dying on our behalf so that we can have life. We often get lured into living our daily life apart from you, but you are the faithful one who brings us back. By your Spirit now, be pleased to help us latch onto your grace and your mercy and your story, and let us enjoy the little things in our daily life and to see purpose and meaning in our daily life through faith in you. In Jesus’s name amen.