Ecclesiastes: Lament and Hope

As we continue our study of Ecclesiastes, it feels a lot like the author keeps repeating himself: things do not go well, the righteous do not get what they deserve (nor do the wicked), and the same fate (death) awaits us all. Nonetheless, one should still eat, drink, and enjoy life.

It’s an odd message and difficult to understand (see last blog post). Yet, it also feels hopeful. So much of the words continue to resonate with the reality that many things don’t work out the way we expect them (cf. Eccl. 9:11). When it feels like too many people, both within the church and the academy, pretend that things are better than they are, the honest realism of Ecclesiastes is refreshing.

And yet, I’m also glad that there is more to the Bible than Ecclesiastes. There is hope in Ecclesiastes, but it feels muted. The author’s words to make the best out of things: eat, drink, and be merry (Eccl 9:7a) are easier to live out when we can believe that “God really has approved of what we do (Eccl 9:7b).” Through Christ’s death, we can know that we have already been justified, and this gives us the freedom not just to strive to do good in a world that seems unfair but also to delight in God and enjoy life.

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