salvation

I haven’t posted in awhile, in part because of the holidays and in part because my creativity was spent after sprinting to complete the manuscript for my forthcoming book on faith and doubt. I don’t want to say too much about it now, except that I think there is a need for a book on doubt that emphasizes what we know rather than what we don’t. This Fall I’ll see if I’m right.

I saw an interesting story on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago that seemed like a terrific analogy for the gospel. I turned it into an ODJ devotional on Ecclesiastes, and I’ll link to the story here in case any of you want to use it in a future sermon.

read > Ecclesiastes 2:1-26

But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere (v. 11).

Shin Dong-hyuk was born into a North Korean prison camp, where he lived until he was twenty-three. Shin never thought to escape, for he didn’t imagine that life was any different on the other side of the electrified fence. Then he met a new prisoner who had lived in Pyongyang and traveled to China. Park told Shin about the outside world, especially that people enjoyed pork and boiled chicken rather than the rats and insects Shin ate to survive. So one evening Shin and Park dropped the firewood they were collecting and ran toward the fence. Park arrived first, and was immediately electrocuted when he squeezed between the first and second wires. Shin crawled across his lifeless friend and scrambled to freedom. Today Shin lives in Seoul, where he calls attention to the barbaric conditions in the camps.

         Shin’s prison life couldn’t be more different from King Solomon’s, and yet they are very much the same. Solomon enjoyed every pleasure a man could want:  laughter, feasts, gardens, parks, palaces, and concubines. He made the rules that slaves like Shin were forced to obey. Yet Solomon too was trapped in a prison of despair. He admitted that he “came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind” (2:17).

         Our lives couldn’t be more different than either Shin’s or Solomon’s, yet they are very much the same. We don’t experience their extreme highs and lows, but we realize with them that nothing in this world can satisfy. True joy must come from the outside. A stranger must break into our world to tell us what we’re missing and then lay down his life so we can have it. Shin’s remarkable escape is too fantastic to believe, except that it’s happened before. It happened to me. Has it happened to you?

5 Comments

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  1. The book isn’t out until next Fall? Bad timing on my part – I’m teaching a series in my youth group right now about doubt (emphasizing the good in asking questions so long as the intention is to seek the truth, not just doubting for the sake of doubting). Any advance copies out there for one of your favorite former students?

    And then when one of those students is done with it he or she can pass it along to me😉

  2. This is all and nice, but our life is still vanity even after Christ’s sacrifice. I’m not sure if it is even an already-not yet deal. My life is vanity. God is not vanity, but I am. Striving after anything is vanity, according to Qoheleth. Loving God pushes away some of the vanity The Preacher speaks of, but does not negate it. I just think this misses the mark a little.

  3. I know the analogy has to fail, but Shin is still chasing after the wind. Even if you overcome the adverse conditions of one life, you are in the adverse conditions of another life.

  4. But I don’t think Mike’s point here is to “overcome adverse conditions” at all. Solomon’s conditions were not adverse.It’s having our eyes opened to a reality that we didn’t even realize existed. I think it’s a great analogy and may be helpful for explaining Jesus’ sacrifice in more modern terms for someone who needs it.

  5. The Preacher speaks of Solomon being in adverse conditions. He was trapped by the power of wealth, politics, and beauty. The reality that we are opened up to be Ecclesiastes is that all is vanity.

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