John Blair - Ecclesiastes 1:1-7 - Bulawayo, Zimbabwe - 1982

It is a real privilege to be here with God's people in the country. We've heard much about this country and to me, it's a wonderful privilege to be here. I take an occasional look backwards and to me it's wonderful how I've been able to continue till the present, but it is only because of God's grace.

More prayers have been said for this country than for many others.  I'm beginning to understand that a lot of credit for me is due to God and the prayers of God's people.  We can be thankful that we're in a family who has members who care for one another.  Like to think that as a result of this meeting we can understand the greatness of our calling in Christ.  If we don't understand the value of it, we won't make the sacrifice as we should.  If we value this Way of God, we will look after it.  

Solomon's words.  The value of words often depends on the standing of the person who spoke them.  If you went through a red robot (traffic light) and I said to you that you are under arrest, you'd think it a joke, but if a burley policeman said the same words, you'd take them very seriously.  A successful person's advice, we'll take heed to, but we won't take too much notice of advice from an unsuccessful person.  We can place reliance on Solomon - he was a preacher, son of King David, a King in Israel.  That makes us value his words.  

The Book of Kings tells more about Solomon.  He was an accomplished person, and we can value his words.  Kings 4:32.  He spake 3,000 proverbs.  He was a sage, a wise man.  His songs were 1,005, he was a musician.  He spoke about many trees - he was a botanist.  Cedars in Lebanon were mighty trees.  He'd be able to tell about them and the hyssop, the type of timber and their age.  See what a man he was.  He was able to speak about fishes, birds, animals - a zoologist - we can afford to take notice of his words. 

Vanity of vanity, all is vanity.  I can imagine him sitting reflecting on past life - entering life with nothing on, no clothes or knowledge.  Then he grew and inherited wealth.  Through wisdom, he was able to increase that wealth.  Now he realized the sands of time were running out and he had serious thoughts and knowing it would not be long before he would leave all he'd built to someone else who may not be as wise.  He came to the conclusion that life is just empty and worthless. 

Business men are always worrying about profit.  If they don't make a profit, the shareholders would tell them to close business.  Solomon was wise and could see that people could go right through life and come to the end with exactly the same as they began with in the beginning.  A child comes into the world with fists clenched and goes out with hands open and with nothing in them.  He says, "What profit is there of all labour under the sun?"  We may be very successful in life but will go out with nothing.  Ask ourselves, "What is profit to life?"  None.  What advantage have we over the unborn?  None if we live for material things - we still go out profitless. 

You'll pay a lot to a lawyer to get advice.  Here, we've words of a King - free of charge.  Would we not be wise to take heed to them?  Everyday, people are born and adults are leaving but the world remains.  We're here for a little period, like a mighty army marching to the grave - humanity comes and goes.  He'd taken one father's wealth and now another would take it over. 

Solomon uses three illustrations from nature.  It's simple, unchanging universal. That is the reason Jesus chose the same sort or illustrations.  One generation comes and another goes.  Sun also rises and goes down.  In reality, the sun is stationary, but for practical purposes, it looks as if it rises.  It's weak in the morning, reaches peak at noon and declines again, - we can look into it's face.  Isn't it like life - like a new born babe - so weak, grows, develops and rises into life till his peak and then goes down.  In many cases, many are so weak and helpless just before going out to Eternity. 

In Srilanca, a man used to go into a jungle - he had wonderful strength to climb and help people.  Wrote wonderful books,  a writer and famous surgeon.  He must have had wonderful stamina.  He was bitten by a snake, and he cut it out and kept going.  One day I saw a picture of him at 92 years of age, and I saw a little shrivelled man in a wheel chair.  He soon went out to Eternity.  Like the sun, he rose to get to the heights in fame and power and went down western slopes to complete the circle of life.  We do the same and don't take these earthly things with us. 

He uses 3 illustrations.  They all end where they started from.  The wind comes and returns to where it started.  Sir Winston Churchill was a wonderful orator, who was able to swing people to the left or right with his words.  After his peak, he went down. 

Then it speaks of rivers.  There are mighty rivers in the world, very useful to mankind but they all have the same thing in common - came from Heaven as rain, down to rivers, then down to the seas and lifted by the process of evaporation to the Heavens.  We think of people who are so useful and others who live in obscurity, they all go right round the circle of life and end up in the grave.  It's too bad if there's nothing more to life than that.  Think of how empty life would be and purposeless without Jesus in our lives.  The emblems remind us of the life of Christ.

 

In John 14, Jesus spoke to His disciples and said, "I go to prepare a place for you.....and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."  John 17:24, "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou has given Me, be with Me where I am that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me..."  Through the Gospel, God has shown us a Way that we can live so that the reward of our labours can go with us.  Jesus here was speaking to His disciples but they didn't realize the wonder of His words spoken.  "I'm going away and coming back so you will be where I am."  These disciples were not very mature at this time so to speak.  Didn't realise that Jesus was offering reunion after death. 


If you live in Jesus' Will, you will be reunited with Him.  I believe they loved Jesus very much and were very sad when He was taken, and they were so disappointed that they went back to their old way of living.  To think that after death, they'd be reunited not only with Jesus but one with another.  A wonderful family He has brought us into, an unending relationship, something that spanned over death.  If only disciples had kept that vision clear before them.  End of this life is not the end of our relationship with Christ.  We'll come from North and South including Abraham.....  Shouldn't we strive to be united in the Will of God. 


Mark 16:6, "Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified.  He is risen; He is not here.  Behold the place where they laid Him."  Those words must have had a wonderful effect on them.  Wonderful words of hope for perishing humanity.  Go and look for yourselves.  Though they didn't fully realize when He first said, "Where I am..."  They remembered it and it added a new dimension and meaning to life.  No wonder Paul said, "If we have no vision of the resurrection, let's eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow, we die."  Seeing Him risen must have changed and electrified these men to think of having a part in Eternal Life. 


Those weak, frightened men went out proclaiming the risen Christ with courage.  History claims that Peter was crucified upside down.  He wanted a part in a better resurrection.  This life wasn't dear any more.  Acts tells they were beaten and told not to preach.  "Ought we to take heed to what you say or to God," Peter said, "Judge for yourselves who we ought to take heed to."  That messenger gave wonderful words when he said, "Jesus whom ye seek is not here, but He is risen, behold the place." Hope brings wonderful thankfulness, which should arise in our hearts when we think of what Jesus has brought us into.  If we keep a vision of Jesus , it will help us through difficult days. 


When we take a service, (funeral) we bury the body not the spirit.  The spirit goes back to God who gave it.  Peter spoke with the Lord Jesus, "He hath shown me that I must put off shortly this tabernacle."  Peter knew his body must go to the grave and spirit back to God.  We can run - the end of this life if not the end at all.  God in His own good time will give that life a new body.  Paul said, "Death is a clothing upon, not an unclothing."  On that occasion, we'll receive more - an experience of gain.  For worldly people, death means a loss of all they have left behind.  We know that Jesus rose again with a similar body but a better one.  You could recognise the nailprints but the body did not respond to the laws of nature - Jesus could go through closed doors.  It's the kind of body God wants to give us, a better body, a resurrected body. 


I Corinthians 15:34, "Awake to righteousness - speak this to your shame."  They were beginning to lose their vision of the resurrection life and drifting back to the old way of life.  Farmers that sow seed or wheat, have faith in the resurrection of what they sow.  Therefore they put it in the ground and let it die and they have a wonderful bargain.  If we could have faith that there's a resurrection and sow ourselves and not let things of earth rob us.  If we let earthly things take all our time, if we haven't got a vision, we'll hang on to our life and we won't read, pray, and instruct our children.  If we do these things, there is to be a rich harvest.  The disciples were willing to lose a few short years to gain endless eternity.  If the farmer hadn't faith, he'd keep the seed and there would be no harvest.  People have faith in nature but not in the God of nature.  "Thou fool, this night they soul shall be required of thee.  Then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? "  ....not spiritualising.  When this body goes back to the dust, we must die then this new life comes up from it.  You sow a bare grain of wheat and from it something more wonderful comes up.  You know the seed is wheat and what comes up is wheat, but from it springs a plant with maybe 100 or more, something much more wonderful comes up. 


The resurrected body will be much more wonderful.  He spoke about the dead, those gone back to the grave.  Those still living will be caught up into the air, (God's family) and will receive a resurrected body, an immortal one because we can't inherit the Kingdom of God with a human body.  Some people doubted that God could give them a body, but it's in the reach of God to give us a spiritual body when the time comes.  He gives fish, birds, etc., different kinds of bodies and makes heavenly bodies, moon, stars, etc. 


"O death, where is thy sting?"  Death is very painful especially to those who have only lived for this world.  The person who is not living for God is leaving their home and goes out into Eternity to live in isolation.  But for the people of God, they are not leaving home, but going home to God, that is for those who have lived in the Will of God.  Path of the just is like shining light that is getting better and better, brighter and brighter.  There's no more light to that day.  Path of the wicked gets blacker and blacker.  To God's children, the grave and death have been robbed of it's victory through Christ. 


May we be encouraged to sacrifice and lose our lives in this world so that we may gain Eternity.  Suffer loss and be grateful for all Jesus has done and sacrificed for us to bring this wonderful Salvation within our reach.