Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life
A daily devotion for February 19th
16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man's labor on earth—his eyes not seeing sleep day or night- 17 then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.
1 So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God's hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him. 2 All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
As it is with the good man,
so with the sinner;
as it is with those who take oaths,
so with those who are afraid to take them.
3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. 4 Anyone who is among the living has hope —even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
5 For the living know that they will die,
but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
and even the memory of them is forgotten.
6 Their love, their hate
and their jealousy have long since vanished;
never again will they have a part
in anything that happens under the sun.
No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it. (Ecclesiastes 8:17b)
The Searcher's claim is quite clear: life is too complicated, too vast, too filled with conflicting elements for any one of us to figure out all the answers. Though we stay up all night and day, trying to think through and understand the complicated events that bring to pass the circumstances of our lives, we will never fully understand.
The Bible attaches no stigma to trying to understand life. Rather, the pursuit of knowledge is everywhere encouraged in Scripture. We must never adopt the attitude of anti-intellectualism that characterizes some segments of Christianity today. We are to reason and think about what God is doing and what life gives us. But we must always remember that no matter how much we try to think about life, mysteries will still remain. We do not have enough data, nor do we have enough ability to see life in its totality to answer all the questions. We must be content with some degree of mystery.
Though the wisest man of the ancient world wrote these words, he admits that humans cannot know all the answers. He even says that diligence in labor will not unravel life's mysteries:
Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. We will still be left knitting our brows, scratching our heads, asking the eternal
Even when people claim to know the answers behind what happens to us, they are really only deceiving themselves. Many people are unwilling to accept the truth of Scripture until they can understand everything in it. But if you are waiting for that, you will never make it. Although this book was written almost 2,500 years ago, it is still true, even in our age of advanced knowledge, that no one can find all the answers.
When you think about your own life, about how many of the things that have happened to you have been determined by events over which you had no control—events that had to fall together in a certain pattern before they could ever come to pass—you can see how true these words are. No one can find out all the answers. Luis Palau has often remarked about the many events that had to come together for him and me ever to have met in a city in northern Argentina. We met in a rather simple way, yet that event changed both of our lives. That meeting eventually launched him into a worldwide evangelistic ministry, and thousands upon thousands have come to Christ as a result of it. How could that happen? As far as Luis was concerned, it all hung upon a simple decision to go or not to go to a meeting one evening. How can we understand that strange merging of simplicity and complexity? The Searcher argues that life is too complicated for us ever to answer all the questions.
Lord, teach me to cry out with the apostle Paul,Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing!(Romans 11:33)
Life Application: We soon run out of brain power when trying to find answers to the mystery of life. Is understanding everything in Scripture necessary before accepting it as truth?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.