Ecclesiastes is one of the most puzzling and provocative books in the entire Bible. Like coffee, it can be an “acquired taste” for people. In a dour sort of way, it deals with a key issue of human existence—namely, the meaning of life and all the questions surrounding that issue:
“Who am I, and why am I here?”
“What can I do with my life that will make it worthwhile?”
“What’s the ‘big picture’ of this world, and how do I fit into it?”
The everyday weariness, frustrations, injustices, and sense of emptiness that people often experience during life “under the sun” don’t seem to square with the fleeting moments of happiness, joy, contentment, and fulfillment that are also part of the human story.
Aggravating the problem is a certain death that looms over every person—a dread that stands in sharp contrast to the pulsating life that each living person has now.
Ecclesiastes challenges us to think deeply about foundational questions. Life and all it contains appear to be meaningless vapors—here today and gone tomorrow. What, then, is the big picture of this world and its intersection with our transitory lives?
And if there is no Big Story at all, what is the point of all our little stories? Ecclesiastes offers an answer that is rather surprising: Live now. Live forever. Amidst all the bad news of this world, there is good news in the end.
Justin Taylor yesterday posted the video, “Meet Baby Olivia,” which he rightly dubbed “the world’s most realistic animation of the development of a baby within her mother’s womb.” It’s a beautiful and medically accurate portrayal of life within the womb, from fertilization to birth.
It moved me to worship, and maybe it will inspire you, too. I have a nephew whose wife is expecting any day now, and a daughter who is expecting in three months. We’re praying for them both, along with their sons on the way (James and Samuel, respectively).
The journey these children take before delivery is breathtaking So many things have to go right for it to end (and begin) well. The real miracle is that it ever does. The miracle is life itself.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Fertilization Olivia’s life begins and her gender, ethnicity, hair color, eye color, and other traits are determined.
Week 1 Olivia implants in the lining of her mother’s uterus, where she’ll live for the next 9 months.
Week 3 By week three, Olivia’s heartbeat can be detected, her brain and gastrointestinal tract have begun to form, and the cells for her nerves, blood, and kidney have appeared. Her mother may know of Olivia’s existence through a pregnancy test at this stage.
Week 4 At just four weeks, the buds of Olivia’s arms are and legs are visibly forming, and the right and left hemispheres of her brain are beginning to take shape.
Weeks 5–6 At weeks five and six, Olivia moves spontaneously and reflexively, her bones begin to develop, and her brain activity can be recorded.
Weeks 7–8 Olivia can bring her hands together, she can hiccup, she has had over one million heartbeats, and her ovaries and the cells needed for future generations of children are present.
Weeks 9–10 Olivia’s stage of human development now classifies her as a fetus. She can suck her thumb, swallow, grasp an object, touch her face, sigh, and stretch out in her mother’s womb.
Weeks 11–14 Olivia can play in the womb and her taste buds have matured to discrete tastebuds. By week 14, Olivia’s lips and nose are fully formed, she makes complex facial expressions, and her mother can finally feel her movements.
Weeks 15–16 The neuron multiplication of Olivia’s brain is mostly complete and she is sensitive to touch. At this stage of development, ultrasounds can detect speaking movements in her voice box and her teeth are beginning to grow.
Weeks 19–21 By 19 weeks old, her heart has beaten over 20 million times. At 21 weeks old, Olivia could survive outside of the womb with much medical assistance.
Week 27 Olivia can recognize her parents’ voices and will react to sudden loud noises. Her eyes respond to light, and she also has a functioning sense of smell.
Week 38 Olivia exhibits breathing movements, she can produce tears, her umbilical cord is typically twenty to twenty-four inches long, and she will weigh between six and eight pounds at birth.