En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life!

Posted by Scott on February 21, 2008

by Ray Stedman!

READ: Ecclesiastes 8:16-9:6

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 8:17b).

The Searcher’s claim is quite clear: life is too complicated, too vast, too filled with conflicting elements for any one of us to figure out all the answers. Though we stay up all night and day, trying to think through and understand the complicated events that bring to pass the circumstances of our lives, we will never fully understand.

The Bible attaches no stigma to trying to understand life. Rather, the pursuit of knowledge is everywhere encouraged in Scripture. We must never adopt the attitude of anti-intellectualism that characterizes some segments of Christianity today. We are to reason and think about what God is doing and what life gives us. But we must always remember that no matter how much we try to think about life, mysteries will still remain. We do not have enough data, nor do we have enough ability to see life in its totality to answer all the questions. We must be content with some degree of mystery.

Though the wisest man of the ancient world wrote these words, he admits that humans cannot know all the answers. He even says that diligence in labor will not unravel life’s mysteries: “Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning.” We will still be left knitting our brows, scratching our heads, asking the eternal “Why?”

Even when people claim to know the answers behind what happens to us, they are really only deceiving themselves. Many people are unwilling to accept the truth of Scripture until they can understand everything in it. But if you are waiting for that, you will never make it. Although this book was written almost 2,500 years ago, it is still true, even in our age of advanced knowledge, that no one can find all the answers.

When you think about your own life, about how many of the things that have happened to you have been determined by events over which you had no control—events that had to fall together in a certain pattern before they could ever come to pass—you can see how true these words are. No one can find out all the answers. Luis Palau has often remarked about the many events that had to come together for him and me ever to have met in a city in northern Argentina. We met in a rather simple way, yet that event changed both of our lives. That meeting eventually launched him into a worldwide evangelistic ministry, and thousands upon thousands have come to Christ as a result of it. How could that happen? As far as Luis was concerned, it all hung upon a simple decision to go or not to go to a meeting one evening. How can we understand that strange merging of simplicity and complexity? The Searcher argues that life is too complicated for us ever to answer all the questions.

Lord, teach me to cry out with the apostle Paul, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing (Romans 11:33)!

This daily devotion was inspired by one of Ray’s sermons. Please read “Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life” (or listen to the audio file  Listen to Ray) for more on this portion of scripture.

-Scott Bailey 2008

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