Trying the Wrong Roads
Lord God Almighty, You created all that I know of, and all that I shall learn of. Hallelujah, Sovereign God.
Consider: "Not until we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God's holiness and sovereignty...willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours" (James I. Packer).
The inventor Thomas Edison (1847-1931) famously said of his many unsuccessful experiments, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Basketball legend Michael Jordan says much the same: "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." Their point is simple: before you find the right road, you may need to eliminate the wrong roads.
The Teacher takes a similar approach here. Before he urges us towards a workable search for wisdom and satisfaction, he wants to let us know which roads he has tried and found wanting. He tries pleasure (2), wine (3), homemaking (4), gardening (5), engineering (6), power (7), wealth and entertainment (8). None of these bring satisfaction. Even wisdom, as it is commonly understood, proves fruitless (12-16).
It is remarkable that this list remains so relevant, centuries later. How many of us watch home-improvement shows on television, or spend our weekends making the perfect garden? How often do we place our hope in increased wealth, or try to gain power, or believe that the latest talent show will make us happy? The Teacher has understood us without ever having owned a flat-screen TV. All of this, he says, will not satisfy our hunger. We need something more, something deeper. The hint of what that something might be is still to come. For now it is enough that we are looking for it; that we have seen the inadequacies of all we have been chasing. The Teacher wants to show us where hope lies and, for that, he wants us hungry.
How does a passage like this help you focus on the truly important things in life? What are they?
Loving Lord, in Christ I can live fully now and one day I will live forever. You give a purpose to live for and a hope to die for.
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