3D Devotion 7.5.2019

Ecclesiastes 3:9-22 NRSV

9What gain have the workers from their toil? 10I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.
11He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. 14I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. 15That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.
16Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. 17I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work. 18I said in my heart with regard to human beings that God is testing them to show that they are but animals. 19For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. 20All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21Who knows whether the human spirit goes upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth? 22So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them?

Old Testament scholar and professor, ,Walter Brueggemann, refers to Ecclesiastes as The Edge of Negativity. As we read Ecclesiastes we find the term ‘negative” to be very pertinent and descriptive. However, Ecclesiastes does make some positive statements about God. The first, God governs long term. God will outlast all creatureliness and will preserve all that is, was, and will be.  Second, God is the one who judges, who pays attention to conduct in the world, and who gives people what they have coming to them. There is a reckoning and an accountability that cannot be escaped. Moral coherence exists and conduct counts.  Finally, God gives. As a matter of fact, there is nothing except what God gives. There is less emphasis on God’s generosity and more on the act of remoteness.  
More closely to the text for today, God is completely indifferent to differentiations in the world. No evidence is given here that anything on earth matters at all to the way in which Yahweh deals with the world. Here in this text, there is no distinction between animals and human. “the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity.”
There are three huge themes that run throughout the Gospels and Paul that are missing here in Ecclesiastes- the incarnation of God in Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus and its impact upon humanity, and the grace of God interacting with humanity. On this side of these three themes it is easy to have a positive view of God, of our relationship to God and our relationship to other people and to God’s creation. We do not need to fall into negativity but can live and die with hope. We live with the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus, Paul, Luther and Wesley. God is above the fray of sin and in the midst of sin to save; he is beyond death and confronting death that we might live; he is  in the middle of our pain and despair to call us to life lived with hope.

God, we thank you for caring. Amen.

Ken Casey

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