Read through the Bible, Part 26

Proverbs 23 – Ecclesiastes 10; 2 Corinthians 3 – 10

Few people are unfamiliar with the name C.S. Lewis. He was a literary genius par excellence. Like few others in history he was able to span the literary spectrum offering works on literary scholarship as well as children’s stories and even on Christian apologetics. He was a committed and thoughtful Christian and tenacious defender of the faith.

It’s because of this that many were startled when they read his A Grief Observed, a book that was a reflection on life, and especially death, after his young wife’s death. In the book he spoke of the pain of grief in vivid detail. “It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.” But that was tame compared to his transparency when he spoke about God and his presence in the midst of the pain of grief.

Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about consolations of religion or I shall suspect you don’t understand.

Or when he asked, “Meanwhile, where is God?” He answered,

Go to him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become.

Many were startled to hear a bulwark of the faith talk like that. Likewise, as we are reading this week through Ecclesiastes, some of you may be surprised, troubled, and even confused to hear the author of Ecclesiastes — the Preacher, the son of David! — talk the way he does. We usually think of the Bible as a book that offers a message of hope; a book that offers us a way of viewing the world that transcends our circumstances; a book that offers us consolation and peace. But then we come to Ecclesiastes and we are hit in the nose with the words, “Vanity of vanities, says the preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Excuse me? What sort of book is this that we have stumbled upon?

Ecclesiastes is an honest look at a broken world. It’s not a book for the faint of heart, the hyper-spiritual, or for those uninitiated with pain. It is a book, however, for those situated in the real world; in the real world of pain and brokenness. It’s a book for those who ask “why?” And for those who try to make sense of this existence we call life. Why am I here anyway? I’m just going to die and be forgotten. Does any of this really matter? This book gets into the real questions of life, the ones that plague us deep down and the ones we are often afraid to talk about in church.

Vanity is a word of fog or darkness. Fog is tough to drive in because you can’t see through it or what’s up ahead. And that is how this life is, says the Preacher. In the fog we need faith and in the darkness we need God’s light to shine. It may take a little while, but the Preacher offers to us some light and guidance by the time we get to the end. ~ Pastor Tallman

Next Week’s Reading: Ecclesiastes 11 – Isaiah 9; 2 Corinthians 11 – Galatians 3