Chapter 4, “The Pastoral Work of Nay-Saying: Ecclesiastes” (Loc. 1428-1836)
The work of the pastor, as a visible individual, is often highly symbolic in people’s eyes, of the work of God. People want something from God and they expect the pastor to deliver it. There is, however, a drawback. “We work on a street teeming with competition. Every kind of religious leadership is offered to persons who want ‘god’” (Loc. 1450). Peterson suggests that people’s desires lie essentially in two directions, that they want miracles as they want answers (Loc. 1458). Amid the various demands, Ecclesiastes warns us what we must avoid (Loc. 1468). The dating and authorship are unclear. It is, however, clear that the preacher is in a time when religion and its wisdom are seen as delivering a life which is very fulfilling. We can discern that religious life was not entirely victorious. The author brings out the theme of enjoyment repeatedly (Loc. 1522) as if it is lacking in practice. The solution the preacher gives is the “yes” of the Gospel, not any other positive message (loc. 1536). as a result, when there is a message which tries to use God to gain our wants, the pastor’s response is “no” (Loc. 1565).
Peterson observes the pastoral function of the wisdom literature (Loc. 1592ff), noting that it is intended to focus worshipers in their everyday world. Contrary to this, the people found unsatisfying platitudes (Loc. 1640). Counter to this, God has revealed himself in Scripture which can be examined and held up to investigation (Loc. 1644). That knowledge and wisdom, though, needs to be kept in its context. It may not be divorced from God or it becomes mumbo-jumbo. “The only way to keep knowledge from becoming separated from relationship with God is to return to the confessional base of worship” (loc. 1662). Here we confess the God who works miracles at the same time that we learn to live in him whether he works those miracles or not. The true worship of God may well not be showy but will always be in consonance with God’s covenant (Loc. 1752). This is what creates vitality in worship.