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The Smoke Clears - Seeing New Light In Ecclesiastes

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

Kwong Wai Cheng

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

(Ecclesiastes 1:2)

When I first read Ecclesiastes as a young Christian, it was quite a depressing book. Imagine reading “meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless” all over the book. Indeed, the very logical argument of the transience and random-ness of life (e.g., we all have to die one day, we can’t bring anything with us, endless cycle of sin repeating itself, and good things do not necessarily happen to good people), makes all forms of worldly desires, vanities, and discipline rather… MEANINGLESS. *shuddering from the overwhelming negativity*

That is until I got to learn recently about the root word for “meaningless” in Ecclesiastes. It came from the Hebrew word havel, meaning “smoke” or “vapour”. Now, a new picture forms in my mind: we often don’t have a clear picture, or a holistic view of life as we try to find the right way through this smoke. Hence we stumble sometimes, and get lost, and sometimes (miraculously) we actually get it right! Either way, just as Solomon tested everything to gain knowledge, so we should work towards dispelling the ‘fog’ in our beliefs and value system.

Contrary to what I used to think, Ecclesiastes is not about NOT PURSUING any earthly goals, but to put all my pursuits in the right perspective, to realise that things change and I should not be fixated by them.

Solomon also left us a 'compass' at the end of Ecclesiastes, pointing to us that as long as we fear God and keep his commandments, we are headed in the right direction. So I can be happy with a general direction, without needing a step-by-step, foolproof way to get there.

Not matter how much I hate the unknown, or when I don’t have a clear view of the returns of my effort, I need to be secure, knowing that all these are part of the journey of life.

Kwong Wai Cheng

Wai Cheng is fascinated with words, especially the Word. Her life has always been revolving around words/Word, in one way or another. And she hopes to always hold fast to the Word, to draw strength and gain wisdom, to do the right things in God's sight.