In Part 1 on joy in the monotony, we considered the effects of the curse on this earth, and saw that our toilsome and mundane experiences can help us grow nearer to God. Today, we consider how Christ overcomes the curse—bringing a spiritual awe and joy in our monotony.
"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."
Ecclesiastes closes with a specific, robust conclusion, which I so appreciate. The conclusion tells us that the only way to find lasting joy in the drudgery of our lives is through submission to the only One who transcends our lives. But this verse can only be life-giving for us to think about because we are already Christians by faith with the hope of salvation, now and ahead (1 Cor. 1:18; Rom. 5:9). Without Christ, that verse would be desperately discouraging. It would stand as if to say—who can do that?
Christ Became a Curse for Us
We could not enter into a life of rightful fear and grateful obedience to God by ourselves—never (Gal. 3:10-11). Without faith, we were enslaved to our sin.
But remember our hope.
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Gal. 3:12). Our precious Lord bought us complete righteousness, outside of our own fulfillment of the law:
"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe."
Our Christian faith is all so unexpected. Never without Him would our hearts and minds have discerned that God would need to die for us or that He wanted to give us righteousness. But, gloriously, though Adam's original sin brought death for us all, the righteousness of One brings righteousness and life available to all people.
"Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people."
What Lasts Beyond Our Moments
As believers, God has won our hearts with His kindness (Rom. 2:4). He has shown us that our felt burden in the monotony, drudgery, and toil of our days is actually due to sin—not merely emptiness or pain, which are consequences of sin (whether original sin, the sin of others, or personal sin). Because of that, the cross declares that we cannot confront the monotony of our moments with true joy unless we are forsaking sin and worshiping God in a way that flows from the personally-gripping truth that He has become a curse for us.
When we are, for example, motivated by His sacrifice to parent in the fleeting moments from compassion and truth, to work amidst our stress with integrity and dedication, or to bring our awe of God into our relationships and conversations, we align ourselves with God’s righteous pleasure and distance ourselves from the cause of the curse. Further, we align ourselves with the next world, which endures forever, and where we do belong, by grace through faith (Matt. 6:20); for as God’s righteous people in Christ, we are no longer suited to the curse! My comfort in monotonous, fleeting days is that I am working to build into myself and am communing with those around me in what lasts forever.
"Your righteousness is righteous forever,
and Your law is true…
Consider how I love Your precepts!
Give me life according to Your steadfast love.
The sum of Your word is truth,
and every one of Your righteous rules endures forever."
Ps. 119:142; 159-160
“Enjoy your moments.” It’s a sweet reminder, and in a limited sense, a worthy endeavor because of the gifts we do have on this earth. Yet, I appreciate the definitive conclusion to Ecclesiastes—fear God and keep Him commandments—because my attempt at finding lasting joy just in my moments had become, indefinitely, a drudgery itself. But unlimited and boundless are the goodness of God’s ways, awe and worship, and righteousness, through which I have a joy that starts here on this earth. I can press into this joy and know more of it.
Your joy may not consist in every mess you clean as a mother, in what your role at your job is, or in how every relationship is unfolding, and as we saw in Part 1, we cannot expect it would be so on this earth. But your joy can always be present in the toil and monotony. Out of the overflow of Christ in you and while having complete peace with God through Him, strive to be a God-fearer who obeys His commandments of righteousness in your moments. By doing so, you are cultivating in yourself and contributing to those around you in what will always matter and can increase in any circumstance.
All of this in your curse-filled, toilsome, aching, and monotonous days—doesn't this bring much joy?
Because We Are Awed
Because the root of the curse is sin, conversely, the root of curse-resistant joy in our moments is righteousness through awe in Christ as our sacrificial, risen Lord. The fitting feature of being righteous is that we praise Him.
"Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright."
This joy of worshipful righteousness transcends these earthly lives because it's all for God and He does. Fear God and keep His commandments; be in awe of Him and heed His righteous instruction; praise God with reverence and obey what He has taught; that's our whole, joyous duty (see also 1 John 5:3-4).
Our joy is far better than the drudgery bitter; we as believers have gone from curse to Christ.
"But Jesus said, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!'"