It has been almost two years since I’ve had the opportunity to share things on my heart that the Lord has placed there. As many of you know, I have been leading a men’s Bible study on Wednesday mornings with a group on men who are mostly members or regular attendees of Greater Portland Bible Church. It has been an incredible study as we’ve dug deeply into Solomon’s book of Ecclesiastes. If you have not studied it, I highly recommend it because it addresses the most fundamental questions about life and what we think it is and desire it to be. What is life? How can I experience it? Why don’t I feel like I’m living life? These and many more like it are often questions most of us don’t pause to think much of, yet grasping for life seems to consume us.
Four times in this book we come upon the strange yet well-known theme that seems to reverberate within it pages. Following are the verses:
- “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)
- “Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19)
- And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 8:15)
- “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7)
It is from this ancient book that we hear the words “eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” or “eat, drink and be merry, for life is short.” In fact, some historians attribute this saying to Epicurus who lived some 500 years after Solomon. Wonder where he got it!
I could not help but begin to ask myself “why eat” and “why drink.” It seems so obvious, we do so because we hunger and thirst for food and water so we can live. As we know this hunger and thirst never seems to stop, it is never satisfied. We may stop when we have eaten sufficiently at lunch, but that is short lived because dinner is just around the corner and most of us can’t wait. This draws a very clear picture for me of the hunger and thirst that we find in this world. It makes me want to ask people what they are after in life, what do they really want in life, and then why haven’t they gotten it yet. It seems to me that people are never satisfied. They seem to be toiling and laboring for more, yet frustrated, even angry, because they haven’t gotten it. The problem as I see it is they don’t understand what they are really grasping for. Everything seems so futile, which is what Solomon keeps repeating.
Now this “satisfaction and happiness” in life is what Solomon applied himself to discover. It was a long search whose conclusion is alluded to in the book and is stated very clearly at the end. He writes; “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). It was not until much later in life that Solomon began to discover that the answer lay with fearing God. Until we come to the realization that God is the giver of life and that He gives life as a gift, we will find life frustrating and vane. As Solomon so aptly states at the beginning of his book; “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
So, what have I learned that has made an imprint on my mind and my life? I have learned that I have no power within myself to produce, let alone replicate, the life that Jesus came to give and gives abundantly that will bring me satisfaction and happiness in life. I’ve learned that life is given as a gift by the Giver of life and that learning how to live is somehow linked tightly with my learning how to “fear Him.” This is a journey that I am on moment by moment every day.
So, let’s all come to the table hungry to “eat, drink and be merry” with Him who is the giver of life.