Meditations in Ecclesiastes : 10 : Projects
Eccles 2:4,5,11 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them….Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
Sometimes when someone is run down or has lost direction in life, they are encouraged to get a hobby, start a project, do something that has an aim in it, have a goal to go for, do something positive. TV seems full of programmes where someone is contemplating moving house, buying a house to develop it, taking their existing house and giving it a makeover, or giving their garden a makeover. In the largely affluent days in which we live, projects are all the rage. There are people whose project is to start a small business. It may be to develop an invention, set up a small shop, provide gardening services, computing services or whatever.
There is a buzz starting a project. It is exciting. There is the thrill of what might be, what I might be able to achieve, what I might be able to create. In all of these things you have plans, an idea of what you want to achieve. It might be ideas of what you can do with your kitchen, or of a new patio outside the French windows. it may be to completely restyle the garden, creating new paths, new border shapes, an arch leading to an arbour, a new tree or bush creating a new shape, perhaps laying down a vegetable garden or putting in new fruit bushes or trees. There is a pleasure in doing such things; it seems to fulfil part of that creative urge we have.
Have you noticed this: that all these things are creating something new, because we have this creative urge because we are made in the image of our Creator? So much of the time we take this for granted, but why would Solomon have bothered with all these things in his list of achievements; he could have simply lounged around letting everyone else serve him, eating and drinking and being lazy. When you’re on holiday you can do that but you know that it is not a satisfying life. It is a strange thing but being a human being means, according to psychologists, that we have certain needs, among which are the need to achieve.
Many of us allow the enemy to quash us; he tells us we are a failure, or we have no creative talents so we could do nothing. So many of us give up and don’t try for anything and so that creative side that wants to achieve something never kicks in and we go through life unfulfilled. We miss out on a whole big area of potential. Has there been a creative urge you had but life has squashed it, so you never even think about it now – but you did once? Was there a project you had on your heart but it just seemed too much effort to get off the ground? Is it a time for you to look again at these things with the Lord’s help?
No, Solomon in his early days of encounter with the Lord had a thrill at the opportunities that were before him. So he didn’t sit back and just let the years drift by, he undertook great projects. As he did that there was probably a buzz in Israel. People were employed to help him and there was an air of expectancy in the land as he started to transform it. That’s one of the joys of architects, town planners and landscape gardeners, they have the joy of seeing an area transformed, and what a sense of achievement it creates. That’s how it would have been in the early days with Solomon as he built houses, planted vineyards, laid down parks and planted trees. What a sense of achievement and what a sense of fulfilment. But now?
Now he looks out on all he has done. There it is. He did that! But why, he wonders. Now he is looking through jaded eyes. Yes, there is all of that which he has achieved but his relationship with the Lord is gone. The heady days when they completed the Temple and the glory of God came down in the most incredible way and filled it, all that is just memories now. Somehow, slowly down through the years, as he gave way to his desires and brought in yet another foreign wife, together with her foreign religion, slowly but surely, all the glory of the past evaporated. The Lord would not share His glory with foreign idols, so He stood back, and all Solomon is left with, are monuments to that past glory. Yes, all the big buildings are still there, the great parks are still there, the big vineyards are still producing grapes, but these things are now just monuments to what once was.
Do you look back on your achievements and wonder? Do you see all that you achieved but feel that it was all empty activity? Have you come to a point in life when you look around you and have a sense that the cost of all those things was too great – you lost the relationship with the Lord you once had? The tragic thing about Solomon was that these wives and their religions sapped his will. He could have had a massive clear out of all their idols and tell them that they would worship the One True God only. He could have called a national day of repentance and led the people back into a living, vibrant relationship with the Lord – but he didn’t.
Solomon’s life might have appeared on a ‘school report’ as “Brilliant start, great endeavours, amazing achievements, but completely faded away.” How tragic! It isn’t too late if you’ve become aware that you have drifted away from the Lord over the years. It will be hard to make that effort to come back to Him, but is anything less than that worth it? Don’t end like Solomon. Let your last years be years of fruitfulness and great joy and thankfulness. That is our potential, even when we’ve slipped. Go for it!