Never Ending Curiosity Ecclesiastes 1:8
Our curiosity is great… Curiosity drives us to activities that weary us in our quest to satisfy our inquisitive self. Consider a toddler in the kitchen--cabinets opened, pans rattling on the floor and/or those pans/bowls, etc. being stacked and re-stacked floor to shelf to floor to shelf, or giggling as flour pours over their head, or their question and the birth of a question for the remainder of life, “What’s this?”. Consider the outdoor nature walk of a child or the height attained on a swing set as their imagination flies to the clouds on their quest to explore new things. Consider the “pressing the limits” of a middle schooler/preteen or their asking, “What will become of me?” Consider the questions of the high schooler at an occupation fair or their question that drives all their experience and experiments in life, “What is the meaning of life?” Consider the course choices and the declaring of a major of a college student, or consider the move of a young adult to a new city or country, or the question that is on the mind of the college and career class, “Is this the will of God for my life?” Consider the middle aged and older who are able to travel throughout the state, nation, or across the oceans to see how things compare to home leaving a yearning for more of the idyllic experience for life. They seem to always return from those times, exhausted and glad to be in their safe place called home. It seems all who are middle age and older are also asking, “When I look back on my life to this point, am I happy with my accomplishments?” Some are even asking, “Why do I feel burned out and disillusioned?”
We are insatiable in our quest to fill the human mind, body, and spirit with a feeling of worth, accomplishment, and purpose. We are driven by curiosity to fill our life, to expand our life, to enjoy our life. Yet, for all our curiosity in life, we have to agree with the poet Carl Sandburg as he compared life to an onion--”you peel it off one layer at a time and sometimes you weep.” We weep when our heart desires aren’t delivered as promised. We weep as we look for and long for truth and knowledge but are never satisfied with the explanations we are given by this world.
Why do we indulge our curiosity(?) because we can never explain what we do not understand or comprehend (v. 8). “All things are wearisome; man is not able to tell it…” is not cynical distrust in all belief systems but rather an humble recognition of our limits as a human. Unable to explain the world, we must turn to God as the source of truth. Solomon included the words of Agur who had a keen theological mind. Agur wrote, (Proverbs 30) ”...I do not have the understanding of a man. Neither have I learned wisdom, nor do I have the knowledge of the Holy One. Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son’s name? Surely you know! Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.” Was Agur seeking to find Jesus, who is the answer to these questions?
Hebrew though is concrete/set in stone/inflexible. (For example, Jesus three days in the tomb turns out to be a part of three days and not three 24-hour days). So instead of attempting to speak of an invisible intellect, Solomon notes the physical eye and ear in a metaphorical statement:
Our eyes can see the horizon but never “what is coming next”. Mankind seems nearsighted. We can see the things in life that are close to us. Distant objects are blurry… Consider the eye. In simplest terms, it would take too long otherwise, light rays enter the eye through the cornea, the clear front “window” of the eye. The cornea's refractive power bends the light rays in such a way that they pass freely through the pupil, the opening in the center of the iris, through which light enters the eye. The iris works like a shutter in a camera. However, if a cataract covers the eye, there are limits to seeing color (for those not color blind) and the cataract reduces or dims the light to the eye limiting sight. Eyes enable us the simplicity to “watch your step” and enables the complicated gathering of the imagery and pictures of our world. With the eye we see aspects of nature from flower to pebble to forest to mountain to the colors of the rainbow; shapes of art from architecture to sculpture to paintings; symbols of knowledge from simple math to calculus and more. We see the many faces of love. We see the glories of space viewed in the telescope as well as the amoeba in water viewed under a microscope. Our eyes enable us to know the distance between the hunter and the prey and to define the correct prey--bass or catfish, pig or deer, bat to ball, ball to goal, unless it is golf and then “Where did that shot go(?)”. Our eyes awaken us to passion and enable the reading of the consciousness of the soul written on a face. It is that which our eye beholds that often inspire us to action and our curiosity feeds the line of vision of our eye and the length of time spent in the gaze. The eye is never satisfied with its natural limits. We wear glasses, utilize binoculars, scopes, zoom lens, and telescopes. What we cannot see, we rely on x-rays, ct-scans, sonograms and imaging. Yet, for all we see, the eye continues its quest of curiosity until it dies. It seems never satisfied.
Our ear keeps receiving words but finds few answers. We listen for the whisper of gossip. We listen for the word of warning or the word to the wise. We hear proverbs and perils and promises. We hear that which causes us to laugh or cry, movements of music or the clattering of an oil deprived motor. When our hearing is impaired we seek a remedy. We get the wax out or insert a hearing device. We don’t want to miss a sound.
Yet for all the eye can see, the eye is never satisfied. The ear is never filled. What drives the eye and the ear in their curious quests? It is the limitless nature of the human soul on its quest for an understanding of life. Yet for all we see and hear in the material world that might satisfy our quest for the moment, we return, again and again, to the quest seeking more to see and more to hear for we forget what has been seen and what we heard. We are again hungry and thirsty because we have not been perpetually filled with that which satisfies. In fact in Proverbs 27:20, Solomon compare the never satisfied eye with death and hell, which are never satisfied--”Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.” Why are we never satisfied? In the human experience, it is a spiritual quest more than a physical quest that is ever wearying, cannot drink it’s fill, never has enough... unless...unless we look to Jesus.
Neither the fancies nor fantasies of this world can satisfy the need for concrete answers to life’s quest. A life wrapped in fiction is called insanity. Curiosity can become so controlling that it often fails to recognize deception. Deceit is like a mirage. It appears real but has no true substance. It is a delusion with no lasting value. See the commercial that promises a classiness with a new car or the work superiority with a new truck. Hear the telemarketer’s phone offer than assures of financial safety with a simple payment or contract...or national security or lower taxes with a single vote. All filling eye and ear but no lasting value. Consider the offers of Satan to our spiritual curiosity, the same offer made to Jesus, the Son of God--“Worship me and I’ll give you the world,” he says (Matthew 4:8-9).The Apostle Paul warns young pastor Timothy (II Timothy 2:16-17 to avoid “worldly and empty chatter” which is a reference to false teachings/heresy. It seems a couple of Paul’s friends in ministry had heard and were teaching that the final resurrection of the dead had already taken place. Paul said to believe this heresy heard was equivalent to gangrene in the body--death. What do you hear? Is it leading you to life or death?
Meditating on what is seen in the heights of the mountains and the beauty of the valleys cannot explain life with answers that will give one hope for the future. The worship of nature leaves one only with majestic thoughts and an eroding future. Our vision of high places, of lush pastures, or even the valley of the shadow of death must be guided by the Shepherd for the Soul--Jesus Christ the Lord.
The sun, moon, and stars, though stable in their courses, cannot give stability to living life in the complex, complicated, intricate, elaborate, impenetrable, bewildering, involute nature of this world. Horoscopes don’t work. Our only stability comes from the life and teachings of Jesus.
As our eyes may become diseased and our ears falter in their hearing, so it is true of our soul. That which one sees and hears with a dead-in-trespasses-and-sin-sick soul is inferior to the life-beauty found in Jesus Christ our Lord. Our soul is made alive in Christ--made alive to love God and to love our neighbor, finding joy as we eat a meal with sinners and share with them how Jesus loves them, made to see the needs of mankind and enabled to meet those needs in compassion. We are on mission with Jesus (Luke 4:18-19)...He was rich, he wasn’t popular in his town, he was height deprived, and he was curious. He was curious to see Jesus with his own eyes. When he heard Jesus was passing through Jericho, he ditched his dignity and “climbed into a sycamore tree in order to see Him.” (Luke 19:4). As Jesus walked by, he saw Zach, Zacheus, and told Zach to hurry on down because Zach’s house and Zach’s soul was Jesus destination. As they walked to Zach’s house, Zach heard the grumbling of those who called him a sinner. Zach confessed and promised restitution beyond what the law required. Even more, Zach would give half of what he had to the poor. Zach’s curiosity to see Jesus led to Jesus calling Zach to a relationship that filled the emptiness of his soul. Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house… for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:9-10)
Even as our ears may hear a good Bible study or sermon, it isn’t the hearing but the response of the soul. Last Monday, a pastor-friend in west Texas responded to my update article based on Nehemiah 8. He said he thought he was reading his sermons from the past month. Last Sunday, he preached II Chronicles 7:14 focused on the simple fact that for real spiritual renewal to take place there has to be real repentance. He said he was afraid the sermon had fallen on DEAF EARS. Do we live the Word of God? Consider the multitude that heard the Sermon on the Mount. When they heard the sermon, they “...were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority…” (Matthew 7:28). They continued to follow Him but we have no record of anyone who went out to do what He taught. Or consider John’s narrative in chapter 6 of his gospel where Jesus teaches that He is the Bread of Life--“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who come to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I say to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.’” Hearing this the Jews argued about what He meant and as a result of the message heard and the discussions surrounding the message that were heard, “...many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.’”
We must, like Zacchaeus, set our eyes on Jesus. For as we look “full in His wonderful face, the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”. Our eyes are only satisfied when we see life through the eyes of Jesus and react to life as He reacted. It is then that “things” that were wearisome will be set aside as things that matter in God’s Kingdom become priorities in our life. When people and their souls are worth more than stuff, we are seeing as Jesus sees. We must atune our ears to the voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. Our ears are only satisfied when we hear the Word of our Lord and order our lives according to His Word. When we hear the cries of the lonely, the hurting, the destitute, the pleas of the oppressed, the rumbling stomach of the hungry, we are hearing what Jesus hears. It only happens when we are in right relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.
How’s your curiosity? Are you worn out, burned out, or thriving? Where is your curiosity pointing you? Are you dissatisfied with life and all that you see and hear? Oh, join me in knowing, as the hymn says, “I am satisfied in Jesus; He is all the world to me.” For He has satisfied my eyes and ears. He has satisfied the curiosity of my soul! As God told His prophet Jeremiah (31:14) that He would turn Israel’s mourning to joy when they were returned from exile saying, “‘I will fill [saturate] the soul of the priests with abundance [fatness], and My people will be satisfied with My goodness,’ declares the Lord.” So He has filled my eyes and my ears and my soul when He redeemed me and made me His own. So He will fill your eyes and your ears and your soul when He rescues you and plants your feet on His higher ground so that you can survey life’s battlefield and see His victories on your behalf!
Indeed, the Apostle Paul is correct regarding true wisdom as he draws from the Prophet Isaiah (64) writing in I Corinthians, Things which the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man... all THAT God has prepared for those who love Him. For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” Now that satisfies! We receive the Spirit and thereby the mind of Christ, when we know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of life.