Thursday, January 20, 2011

Solomon's Solidarity with Shakespeare

Macbeth, in Shakespeare's famous tragedy of the same name, becomes aware of the futility of life as his world begins to crumble around him. He has lost his wife to an apparent suicidal act. His conscience is seared with cruel acts of murder and treason. His newly acquired kingdom is under an attack lead by some who are highly motivated by revenge. He speaks,

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (V, v, 19-24)

This soliloquy reminded me of Solomon's writings in Ecclesiastes. For example, "For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow?" (Ecc. 6:12) The metaphor of life being a shadow images what both authors are getting at. Similarly, Solomon also touches upon the idea of life amounting to nothing: "As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand." (Ecc. 5:15)

It seems that both writers shared similar sentiments about life's futility.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaks to life and it's supposed futility: "The backdrop of eternity puts the span of human life into perspective. Our time on earth is short, but eternity dignifies time even as it reminds us of our finitude." (Mohler, R. Albert. For the Fame of God's Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010. Print. 364)

Eternity, won and bought by Christ for us, dignifies life! Yes, we are finite. Yes, life is a vapor, a shadow. But Christ's work, wrought on the cross and resulting in eternal life, removes futility from the equation. More than that, the cross infuses life with meaning and purpose beyond our understanding or imagination. For those who are perishing, life is futile. But for those who are being saved, life is full of meaning.

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