Today is three weeks since I had my wisdom teeth removed. As I work slowly through Ecclesiastes, the pun is not lost on me. I lost my wisdom three weeks ago, and it hurt. Actually, it still hurts. Perhaps it was a lapse in wisdom which caused my oral surgeon to leave my dry sockets undetected. Perhaps it was a lapse in judgement for me to spend hours and hours cleaning my sister’s new house two days after my surgery. I don’t know who was at fault, I never will and it doesn’t matter, but yesterday found me back in the surgeon’s office describing a deep, radiant pain through my remaining teeth.
The surgeon packed my cavity (ew, right?) with medicated gauze which tastes like how I imagine wormwood would taste, and told me to come back in two days. When I leave the office tomorrow, I will be sorely tempted to say, “Goodbye, I hope to never see you again!”
If there is something that I’ve learned from three weeks with varying degrees of oral pain, it is this: chew slowly.
The second chapter in Ecclesiastes really gets down to business quickly. It starts with Solomon, reckless and fed-up, saying to himself:“Let me dabble and test you in pleasure and see if there is any good in that.” He finds laughter to be “foolishness” and pleasure pointless. He tries wine, but wisdom finds him even there. In my next post, we will talk about all of the work he throws himself into (there is so, so much in these short chapters, you really just have to delve into them yourself!) but for now, let’s skip to the end of the chapter.
“There is nothing better than for people to eat and drink and to see the good in their hard work. These beautiful gifts, I realized, too, come from God’s hand. For who can eat and drink and enjoy the good things if not me? To those who seek to please God, He gives wisdom and knowledge and joyfulness; but to those who are wicked, God keeps them busy harvesting and storing up for those in whom He delights. But even this is fleeting; it’s like trying to embrace the wind.” Ecclesiastes 2:24-26
Just as January seemed like the worst possible time of the year to read, “I soon discovered the harsh realities of the work God has given us that keeps us so busy. I have witnessed all that is done under the sun, and indeed, all is fleeting, like trying to embrace the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:13b-14) as Lent begins, I find verses about wine and food quite ironic. Though I recognize Lent in my own way, I have decided not to fast from anything in particular this year. I am already rather consumed and busy (more about that in my next post!) and the strain of my commitments has already driven me to my knees in the past few days. Also, though fasting has it’s place in the Christian disciplines, I am with Solomon when he says, “For who can eat and drink and enjoy the good things if not me?”
Jesus Himself didn’t fast twice weekly as was customary for many pious Jews. When questioned by John’s disciples, He said: “Guests at the wedding can’t fast when the bridegroom is with them. It would be wrong to do anything but feast. When the bridegroom is snatched away from them, then the time will come to fast and mourn.”
Obviously, Jesus was calling Himself “the bridegroom” and “snatched away” refers to his crucifixion. I do not sit at a table with Jesus in the flesh. He has already been snatched away. However, “the helper” has come and He is my seal of salvation. With God’s spirit sealing me, I know that nothing can “snatch me away” from Him. Romans 8:35 says, “So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing.”
God-in-the-flesh was snatched away from us, but He rose again and went to prepare a place for us! When He left, he sent His very spirit, or mind, to stay with us while we wait. So really, the bridegroom is with us, in a form. In John 16, Jesus said, “The Spirit has unlimited access to Me, to all that I possess and know, just as everything the Father has is Mine. That is the reason I am confident He will care for My own and reveal the path to you.” In Matthew 12 He said that when His spirit comes, we are to “recognize it and rejoice.” Jesus quoted Isaiah in the synagogue stating, “In short, the Spirit is upon Me to proclaim that now is the time; this is the jubilee season of the Eternal One’s grace.”
The earth is still “groaning with birthing pains” for Christ’s return. Satan is being allowed to tempt, hunt and harass for a time. Things are yet to be set right, our place is yet to be fully prepared. We are waiting. And yet, we are already citizens of heaven! Food and drink are beautiful gifts that come from God’s hand. They may simply pass through our bodies and leave us unsatisfied yet again. They may run out and leave us hungry. They cannot make us happy (I think we’ve all tried that with a carton of ice cream at least once.) But who can enjoy them if not us? I’ve been chewing slowly and I think I will continue to do so. The few days following my surgery when my diet was very restricted, I longed for the food I couldn’t eat, much more than I anticipated. I wanted a sandwich, I wanted protein and carbs, I wanted the crunch of an apple and the satisfaction of using a knife and fork.
Solomon tried to run from wisdom, but he found that he couldn’t lose it. He innately knew the ways of God. I had my wisdom teeth removed surgically, but I haven’t forgotten where they were! (Ow!) At the end of this passage, Solomon returns to his old soliloquy of, “but even this is fleeting.” And it’s true; food and drink are indeed fleeting. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t good gifts to be enjoyed. And who should enjoy them more than those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and who have been filled with The Bread of Life and Living Water?