When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labor on earth—his eyes not seeing sleep day or night— 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. Ecclesiastes 8:16-17
Solomon was known as the wisest man who ever lived. This was his summary. Wow.
First of all it challenges me to be humble (and to lighten up). There are certain things that will remain a mystery and there is nothing I can do to change that. He is talking about the nature of life, of man and of God. So I’m pretty much resolved to live with partial understanding.
I’ve watched this play out hundreds of times with people in their knowledge and giftings. For some reason God puts us in places where we fall short– and either react in pride, or humble dependence.
About the time I’ve got something figured out I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 13:12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
This verse in 1 Corinthians talks about the present and future. Thankfully when Jesus returns we’ll have brilliant minds capable of more than we can imagine. We’ll need them for our eternal tasks on the new earth, ever expanding and being challenged…
Here is the other side of the coin re: Solomon’s statement in Ecclesiastes. Check it out– “When I applied my mind to know wisdom…” He wasn’t passive! He didn’t sit back and say “well, I can’t figure it out so, whatever…” We have been given the mind of Christ, and our minds are being renewed and transformed by God’s Word on a daily basis. We can live with utmost confidence in the faithfulness of Jesus (even when our understanding is “in part”).
Part of getting ready for eternity (where our minds will be more like Jesus’) is to expand our minds now.
This past month I was able to read a few books and it was an amazing experience. I read 2 books by Christopher Wright, an Old Testament scholar from England. One was titled “The Mission of God’s People” and the other “The God I Don’t Understand.” I was reminded of how smart some people are (Dr Wright in this case). Secondly, God used the books to challenge my own thinking and to reframe His purposes for my life. That’s not an exaggeration.
So, hopefully I/we go forward in humility, increased thoughtfulness, and renewed passion to love and serve Jesus.