Scripture Reflections @ CEC by Cindy Graff
Updated: May 14
God himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end he came from heaven. He has written it down in a book! Oh, give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be: “A man of one book.” – John Wesley
Scripture & Devotion: Ecclesiastes 7:10-12
Do not ask, “Why were the former days better than these?” for it is not wise to ask such questions. Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.
On the wisdom of looking ahead
Several years ago, while preparing to lead a workshop at a woman’s conference at our church, I was asked to create a handout with a list of verses from scripture that spoke most meaningfully to me in specific circumstances, such as when I needed strength for each new day, or focus and perspective for meditating on God’s word, or reassurance about God’s desire and ability to act on my behalf.
I had included Ecclesiastes 7:10 in that list because it has been a reminder I have needed many times throughout my life. When faced with distressing circumstances such as personal tragedy, financial uncertainty, or disappointed expectations, I am easily tempted to long for things to be the way they used to be, before the trouble came. When my mother died less than two weeks after my twenty-third birthday (and just eight weeks before my wedding); when my husband and I moved to Oregon so that he could attend graduate school at OSU and I spent months trying to find a job while our finances slowly drained away; when cancelling a real estate purchase caused lasting estrangement in a once-close friendship: those were times I felt like the Israelites who wanted to return to Egypt rather than endure hardship on the journey to the promised land.
This time as I read the verse, I was struck by its context. The two verses that follow, verses 11 and 12, talk about “shelter” and “preserving life.” What an intriguing application to our current circumstances as we stay at home and try to avoid the viral pandemic that is now ravaging the world! It seems hard to believe that just a few short months ago, only scientists or physicians with a background in epidemiology were familiar with the term “coronavirus”. Yet, now, something so small that we can’t even see it has robbed us of much of what used to be our normal everyday lives and routines. There isn’t a single person I know who doesn’t wish we could turn back the clock.
We long to visit with and hug our loved ones who are not living with us in our homes. We all miss the days when a trip to the supermarket or the Post Office was not an occasion for fear and trepidation. It is completely understandable that we want our school-aged children to spend time in person with trained teachers who are experts in their fields. It would be so nice to be able to smile without a mask at people we encounter while out for a walk instead of having to vacate the sidewalk and go into the street in order to maintain a proper six-foot “social-distancing” radius. Of course we would love to be able to gather for worship at our church every Sunday or go out to dinner at our favorite restaurant as we did before.
Sometimes it seems as though we have lost so much, and our great unspoken fear is that life will never be the same again. But isn’t that the very circumstance to which these verses speak? Even if we can return to some sort of cultural “normalcy”, our reality has already experienced a major paradigm shift, one that has made it abundantly clear that we will need to rely increasingly on the One with the power to preserve and to save. I believe this acknowledgement of dependence, like that of a child upon the parent, is the “wisdom, like an inheritance” mentioned in this passage of scripture. The coronavirus pandemic has made it blatantly obvious that we cannot depend on “money” to shelter us; countless thousands have lost their sources of income. Neither is having wealth a guarantee of protection from becoming ill, as even movie stars, world leaders, media personalities, and professional athletes have suffered from the disease.
While it is prudent to decrease our risk of becoming infected by observing all the sheltering and anti-exposure guidelines that the experts give us, the only “knowledge” that can truly preserve our lives in the spiritual sense is that which comes from knowing God. To put a different spin on verse 11, having the wisdom not to dwell on the past, longing for the way things used to be, is indeed a “good thing” and a “benefit to those who see the Son,” for we know that Jesus holds our future. He has promised to be with us no matter what the circumstances, in all places, for all time to come.
We are grateful for Your promises to us, most especially the promise of your presence with us in any and every circumstance. Give wisdom where we need it, and give us Your perspective on all of our days.