For the last two weeks, the Old Testament text has been from Genesis, and the two texts were nearly one right after the other. In another week, the text will AGAIN be from Genesis. But this present week is special. This is the week when the Old Testament text is from the book of Ecclesiastes. Now how different is that?
It is actually not so different.
Here is a text from the beginning of the book of Genesis, the second creation account, the one which focuses on the creation of man and woman:
When NO bush of the field was yet in the land and NO small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had NOT caused it to rain on the land, and there was NO man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground--then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food… (Genesis 2:5-9a).
I emphasized the negatives in the first half of the text because some of them are clearly in the text—and they do not appear in the second half of the text, after the turning point of the mist and the watering of the whole face of the ground. There are also implied negatives in this first half of the text. Adam works in a garden before the Fall into sin, but he works in a field after the Fall. And it also only rains after the Fall, during the Flood. The first part is certainly negative. And water is an important part of the turning point.
The first verses of Ecclesiastes have a similar structure. The text for this Sunday is from Ecclesiastes 1:2, then verses 12-14, and then 2:18-26. The following text is between the first two sections of the appointed reading (1:3-11):
What does man [adam] gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All the streams run to the sea, but the sea is NOT full; to the place when the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are full of weariness; a man CANNOT utter it; the eye is NOT satisfied with seeing, NOR the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is NOTHING new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us. There is NO remembrance of former things [’first men’ or ‘men of old’], NOR will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.
Hopefully the similarities are noticeable. The main difference is that the negatives in the Genesis account are at the beginning, where, in the second text, they are at the end. Perhaps the intention of this structural difference is to take us back to the beginning, to help us to remember our history. The content certainly supports that message. And it seems that some people today could very much benefit from that advice.
Another difference is that the structure around the turning point does not seem so neatly arranged. To help a little with this difficulty, I added a few words in brackets above. The first word in brackets is the Hebrew word for man, and this is obviously where Adam got his name. The second set of brackets has a couple possible translations of the phrase ‘former things’, both of which might make a person think of Adam.
In both cases though, the water is in the middle.
Water is obviously an important thing. Our bodies are approximately sixty percent water. Water is a majority of who we are.
It is not surprising, then, that Jesus chose to be around water for a significant period of his life. He also chose some fishermen to follow him. And he also talked about being ‘living water’. And after his followers were around him for a while, he also talked about people drinking his blood. And then, at his death, blood and water poured out of him.
How is that for being at the center of things?
By the way, if you would like to look at the vast majority of the introduction to the gospel account I used to summarize the life of Jesus above, but in basically the same format I have been using, here it is below (and I again added some brackets to be helpful):
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was NOT any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has NOT overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was NOT the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did NOT know him. He came to his own, and his own people did NOT receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, NOT of blood NOR of the will of the flesh NOR of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh [approximately sixty percent water] and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.”’) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:1-17).