To eat, to drink and enjoy oneself…
Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 The good fruits of honest labor are given by God for human enjoyment
Image created by DALL-E 3 AI
”Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.“
Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 NASB1995
We don’t often refer to Ecclesiastes in Heaven On Wheels; a quick search showed that in just about two years, this is only the third devotional written about this treasure of Old Testament wisdom. Although rabbinical tradition points to Solomon, the son of David, as the author, the name Ecclesiastes comes from a Latin transliteration of the name Kohelet (also known as Qohelet) who is thought to have written the book around 450 B.C.
The Book of Ecclesiastes gained a lot of modern attention in 1965 when the rock group The Byrds recorded Pete Seeger’s song Turn… Turn… Turn…, which used Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 as the basis for its lyrics.
Starting with verses 18 and 19 in Chapter 5, Kohelet provided advice that is fitting for this new year — to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself. That may sound a bit selfish or even hedonistic, so let’s take a look at a commentary on the verses (Ray Stedman, Precept Austin):
Enjoyment does not come from possessions, or from riches. Nor does it come from companionship, from popularity and fame, from the approval and the admiration of others. Enjoyment comes by knowing the Living God and taking everything from his hand with thanksgiving, whether it be pain or pleasure. That is the gift of God, and that is the lesson of this great book.
Beautiful words! If you’re poor, if you’re alone, if you toil in obscurity, and if nobody cares about your work, you can still be happy. Knowing the Living God and taking all life experiences — good and bad — with thanksgiving will bring you enjoyment. In fact, no less a theologian than Martin Luther thought that these verses were key to understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes.
Luther wrote: “This statement is the interpreter of the entire book: Solomon (author’s note — Solomon was thought to be the author of Ecclesiastes in Luther’s day) intends to forbid vain anxieties, so that we may happily enjoy the things that are present and not care at all about the things that are in the future, lest we permit the present moment, our moment, to slip away” (Luther’s Works 15:93).
Chapter 5 ends at verse 20, which I’ll repeat here: For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart. Have you known people who spent their later years living in the past? They’ll obsess about a great high school football game they played in, talk for hours about how important they were years ago in their chosen career, yet they have no enjoyment in their present lives. They’re searching fruitlessly for past happiness while ignoring the blessings that God is giving them now!
Once again from Ray Stedman via Precept Austin (emphasis is mine)
When people discover the richness of life which God has provided they do not think of the past, or even talk about it. They do not talk about the future either because they are so richly involved with the savor of life right now. How good it is to know the Living God, to know that he controls what comes into your life. He expects you to make choices; Scripture always encourages that. But rejoice in the wisdom of a Father's heart, and richly enjoy what is handed you day-by-day; that is the secret of life. Such a one "will not much remember the days of his life" because God will keep him occupied "with joy in his heart."
If you choose to do anything different in 2024 (the so-called “New Year’s Resolution”), perhaps it should be to “rejoice in the wisdom of a Father’s heart, and richly enjoy what is handed you day-by-day”. Let God keep you occupied with joy in your heart!
P.S. - Barb’s devotional tomorrow goes into what happens when you let eating, drinking and enjoying yourself go too far…
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Father in Heaven, You have blessed me richly in my lifetime. I pray that you will instill in me the ability to enjoy everything that comes my way, as it is Your will and Your blessing that will keep me occupied with joy in my heart. AMEN.