The Scriptorium

Culture-Weary

Even the good stuff loses its appeal. Ecclesiastes 12.6-8

Ecclesiastes 12 (4)

Pray Psalm 71.8.
Let my mouth be filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all the day.

Read
Ecclesiastes 12.6-8.

Prepare.
1. Which aspects of culture are suggested in these verses?

2. Why are these items of cultured paired with “dust” and “spirit”?

Meditate.
The metaphors in this section of Solomon’s poetic narrative appear to relate to culture and work. Some day the pleasures of gold, silver, and honest work (drawing water from a well) will all be in the past and will lose their thrall. If Rehoboam makes these his aim, trusting in things for meaning, purpose, and happiness, then dark days await him, indeed.

One day all the things Rehoboam pursued for happiness will be turned to dust; he’ll be in the grave, and his spirit will stand before God to give an account of his stewardship. Verse 8 is what the fool can expect to hear, while the righteous will be greeted in eternity with, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Advertisers advocate retirement. They think people should be happy to have had work, but glad when it’s finally done. Retirees have so many plans, so many things they want to do. Ah, yes: retirement! The best time of life. No?

Some retirees die shortly after they’ve stopped working; everything they’ve lived for is gone, nothing much excites them now, and they have no reason to continue in this life. When asked what he would do after he retired, Alabama football coach Bear Bryant answered, “I’ll probably just die.” He did, three months after retiring.

Solomon’s quotation of “Vanity of vanities” in verse 8 creates a nice inclusio for the book of Ecclesiastes as a whole (cf. 1.2), as well as an ominous warning of the eternal displeasure of God that awaits those who neglect Him and follow their own course in life.

Reflect.
1. Why are culture and work so much a part of human life? How can we keep these from becoming idols?

2. How should they regard culture and work who live “under heaven” rather than “under the sun”?

3. Why is it important that we always keep in mind that one day we will give an accounting of our lives to God?

What could be said more clearly than that the matter of the flesh, which he styled dust because it springs from the seed of man and seems to be sown by his acts, must again return to the earth because it was taken from the earth? At the same time he points out that the spirit which is not begotten by intercourse between the sexes, but belongs to God alone in a special way, returns to its creator.
John Cassian (360-432), Conference 8.25

Thank You, Lord, for the gifts of work and culture. Help me always to use these so that…

Pray Psalm 71.4-8.
Pray for the Lord’s protection and guidance, and that He – and nothing else – will be your hope throughout the day ahead.

Sing Psalm 71.4-8, 3.
Psalm 71.4-8, 3 (Solid Rock: My Hope is Built on Nothing Less)
From wicked hands redeem me, Lord, from all who wrest and break Your Word.
My hope, my confidence from youth, my praise forever reaches You.
Refrain, v. 3
A Rock of habitation be; command Your Word to rescue me.
My Rock and Fortress ever be!

While many see in me a sign, I shelter in Your strength will find.
Lord, fill my mouth with endless praise and with Your glory all my days.
Refrain

T. M. Moore

Where does the book of Ecclesiastes fit in the overall flow of Scripture? Our series of studies, God’s Covenant, can show you, and help you discover the great beauty of the unity and diversity of Scripture, and how it all points to Christ. To order your copy of this important workbook, click here.

You can download all the studies in this series on Ecclesiastes by clicking here. If you value Scriptorium as a free resource for your walk with the Lord, please consider supporting our work with your gifts and offerings. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button  at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore