Take time to introduce yourselves to one another (over drinks or snacks if possible). Then ask group members to answer this question:
Over the course of this term, we’ve explored the ancient book of Ecclesiastes. Though Ecclesiastes comes from a very different culture and time to ours, it touches on some of the most profound issues of humanity.
Ask for a volunteer to read Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 to the group, praying a short prayer that, however much they’ve come to know God, they’d know him better as a result of your time together.
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Suggested questions to help your discussion.
Verse 11 suggests that the Teacher (and Jesus) use words that are like nail-embedded goads, prodding us in the right direction. Whilst these words aren’t cruel, they can be painful at times to hear. Their wise words are intended to keep us safe, by sticking in our memories and spurring our wills. As our Good Shepherd, Jesus guides us – and prods us, when necessary – because he loves us and knows us by name (John 10:11-16). His intentions for us are always good.
Verse 12 is not a biblical warrant for skipping that essay you have coming up! It’s not university education that is bad for us, but a form of unrelenting questioning.
Verse 12 alludes back to 1:8 and a theme that’s continued throughout Ecclesiastes. The more questions the Teacher has asked about the meaning of life, the closer he has got to the unknowable… and the wearier he has become. Barry Webb says, “Grappling with unanswerable questions brings exhaustion. Beyond this it is not safe to go.”
So asking questions isn’t wrong: far from it. But we must recognise their limits – and be satisfied that sometimes trusting God is better than knowing all the answers.
Some of our questions have answers that are worth pursuing and finding. Other questions have unknowable answers; we’re instead called to trust the God who loves us.
Ask someone to pray in the light of your discussions for the group.
Take time to pray together. Pray that you’d respond well to questions – your own and those of friends. Ask God for wisdom, for patience in finding answers together – but also the humility to say, “I don’t know.”
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