Is there something beautiful in your life you have been overlooking?
Here is the text of a message I gave today. How many of you have heard of King Solomon of the Bible? Today I want to talk about Solomon’s search for the true meaning of life.
If you have your Bibles, turn with me to the book of Ecclesiastes. One of the three books in the Bible attributed to Solomon. We know from the book of Proverbs that Solomon was a very wise man with a wealth of practical knowledge. Ecclesiastes, however, shows us a different side of King Solomon. Solomon is said to have written Ecclesiastes as he neared the end of his days. If we had the time to explore the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes it would seem that Solomon spent his whole life searching for that great something that could give life lasting meaning. This aging king is getting restless.
Ecclesiastes 1:2 states, “Vanity, vanity all is vanity.” Has anyone here heard this expression before? Solomon’s words highlight the brevity of human life in the grand scheme of the universe. Life is but a breath, a vapor, or as one person put it, vanity is like a beautiful soap bubble that appears, floats momentarily and vanishes quickly.
Ecclesiastes 1:3, “What advantage does a man have in all his work which he does under the sun?” Solomon goes on to tell us in the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes how he spent his whole life gathering riches, believing that it would bring him lasting happiness and contentment. Instead, he found it wasn’t the answer. Then, he took his great wealth and poured it into massive building projects. He spent more of it on extravagant entertainment and objects of pleasure, yet, nothing he pursued gave him the lasting satisfaction or fulfillment he so desperately sought. He turned to knowledge and tried to reason his way out of the problem.
In Ecclesiastes 2:17 we read, “So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after the wind.” Do you find yourself at times hating life?
In my own life I worked for a company for more than 30 years. I believed if I could dedicate myself to my job that it would give me everything in life I needed. I was willing to donate my entire life to it. When the company began to fail and people were laid off, salaries were cut, and prospects for advancement evaporated, I found myself trapped. I suddenly found myself hating and suddenly started worrying about what I would do for a job when this one failed. My career felt futile and striving after the wind.
Solomon, one of the wisest men of his day could not figure out the true meaning of life. I should point out that we encounter the phrase “under the sun” many times in Ecclesiastes. From what I’ve studied it appears to mean anything we do in life as human beings apart from God.
Follow along as I read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
These verses offer a good cross-section of life. Life holds good times and bad times. We don’t whine or complain about the good times, but no one wants to find him or herself in a bad season of life. Every aspect of life occurs under the watchful eye of heaven.
Solomon believes the events in our lives are governed by a set time and perhaps more importantly, a purpose. He sees that there is something at work in the world and in his life over which he has no control over. Nothing happens around him by chance, or “just because. ” The writer of Ecclesiastes is saying that all of life, your life, my life, is part of a grand design and guided by divine providence. “To everything there is a time or a season under heaven.”
What season are you in in your life? Whatever season you are in, good or bad, there are two things I want you to know:
First, you are not alone. If you know God, Romans 8:35-39 concludes that nothing in the universe can separate us from God’s love. If you don’t have a relationship with God, John 3:16 tells us just how much God loves every person. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not parish but have eternal life.” God sent Jesus Christ to make it possible for sinners to find God and have a relationship with him. You are not alone.
The second thing you need to know is that whatever season you find yourself in God knows (and cares) about the things you are dealing with. Any trouble you may be experiencing, any doubts, fears, pain, or heartache did not just happen by chance. God has a plan and a purpose for every person. We may not like the season of life we are in but God is right there with you. In the words of Moses found in Deuteronomy 31:6, “God will not leave you or forsake you.” And “if God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31
Getting back to our text, Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything appropriate in its time, He also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from beginning to end.” Putting eternity in our hearts is God’s call for us to seek him out. He wants us to know that this flawed physical world in which we live is not his final solution. Solomon reminds us that all of life can’t be explained. There will be things that happen in this life that we won’t understand until we reach the eternal shores of heaven.
So what about Solomon’s search for the true meaning of life? Solomon is telling us in the book of Ecclesiastes, “Listen to me! I’ve tried everything!” Searching for happiness apart from God is pointless (vanity, vanity, all is vanity). Dr. David Jeremiah put it this way; you won’t find eternal satisfaction in temporary, worldly things.
Solomon is imploring us instead of searching for the meaning of life, to search out the One who gives life it’s meaning. Let me say that again, instead of wasting your life searching for the meaning of life, search out the One who gives life it’s meaning. Once we have found God who gives life meaning, we may not understand everything that is happening to us and around us but we know whatever it is God loves us and its for God’s greater good and His glory. In God we can find peace.
In Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 Solomon has this to say about life if we are aligned with the One who gives life it’s meaning. “I know that there is nothing better for them, than to rejoice, and to do good so long as they live. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy good in all his labor, is the gift of God.” ASV
Jesus put it this way in Matthew 6:33, don’t worry about having enough stuff like food and clothes. Your heavenly father knows perfectly well that you need these things. God will give you these gifts if you give him first place in your life and live, as he wants you to live.
May God bless you and may you experience God’s peace in your life. He is the One who gives life it’s meaning.
In this last post on Ecclesiastes I thought it would be helpful to try to write a summary of my experience with the book.
We, like Solomon, face a dilemma. Earth, within the boundaries of our universe, continues on endlessly. We, on the other hand, are transient creatures; our lives are but a vapor, a breath in the grand scheme of things. Life “under the sun” (the human condition without God) seemed meaningless to Solomon because no matter what avenue he pursued, nothing gave him an advantage over the certainty of death. As he considers human mortality, he acknowledges the prospect of eternity, a thought placed in his heart by God. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
It is the intent of the writer of Ecclesiastes to take us by the hand and pull us to the edge of that abyss we call death. Solomon knew that by having us stand there at the brink, we would conclude that our life experiences alone leave us unprepared to face death. As we stand there, uncomfortable with the thought of our own demise, we are admonished to order our lives presently (today).
How will you respond to the message of Ecclesiastes, “vanity of vanities, everything is vanity” (life is a vapor, a breath) as we toil “under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2,3) Will you, like the fool reject the message and ignore the signposts pointing towards death and judgment?
“The fool has said in his heart there is no God…” Psalm 14:1.
OR, will you be counted among the wise and take the message to heart. Will you remember God (Ecclesiastes 12:1), fear Him and keep his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13)? A wise person remembers God by noticing his handiwork all around them and acknowledging that work at every opportunity. He or she will thank God continually for the blessings given to them.
To those who heed the message of Ecclesiastes, “eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do” (Ecclesiastes 9:7). Remember Him always.
“Just as the setting sun signals the end of a day, so aging signals the approach of the close of one’s life” Wm. Barrick.
Verses 1, 2, 6 include the word “before,” referencing a series of events leading up to ones impending death. We should view verses 1-7 as one complete sentence (one complete thought) a description of aging as death approaches.
In conversations regarding death it is natural to consider one’s Creator. This has been the case throughout Ecclesiastes. God has made everything appropriate in its time (3:11); Consider the work of God (7:13-14); God made man upright (7:29); The activity of God who makes all things (11:5).
v1 Remember – reflect, embrace, acknowledge – shape your perspective. Creator – a remainder that we are created beings (John 1:1-3; Genesis 1:1-2:3)
Before dark days come – times of misery, trouble. These stand in contrast to the days of our youth.
V2 Gathering storm – approaching of death
V3 Watchmen – male servants whose job it was to protect the household. Strongmen – free men or neighboring household. Grinders – female servants whose job it was to grind grain. Those peering out window – free women trying to avoid public eye in times of grieving
V4 Description of a strickened household or village. Doors (plural) – would be a reference to a city gate. (Houses of that day only had one door)
V5 Afraid of heights, danger in the streets – fears of the aging or elderly. Almond blossom – reminds one of human hair that has turned white
Death (12:6, 7)
V6,7 Golden bowl – thought to be a lamp of oil
Silver cord – a means of hanging the lamp
Cutting the cord would shatter lamp (signifies death)
Pitcher – holds life-giving water (the water of life can no longer be drawn)
Wheel – could this be a pulley system used to lower the pitcher into a well
Spirit returns to God – hints of a continued existence after death.
Chuck Swindoll offers the following insight on verses 1-7.
Most commentators are of the opinion that the epilogue was written by someone other than Solomon. Jewish tradition holds the epilogue was written by one of King Hezekiah’s men. Wm Barrick stresses that Solomon could have indeed written the epilogue also.
v8 A refrain – a reoccurring theme of Ecclesiastes, Vanity, All is vanity (a vapor)
V9 pondered – weighed points for careful evaluation
Searched out – thoroughness, diligence
Set in order – ordered his thoughts in a skillful manner
V11 One Shepherd – God
V13,14 The emphasis is on God and commandments; the secondary emphasis is on fear and obey. “A knowledge of God leads to obedience not vice versa” (Eaton)
The whole duty – our essence – the essence of mankind to fear God and obey him.
Ecclesiastes asks the question, “What advantage [or profit] does man have in all his work he does under the sun?” David Estes suggests this answer; “the advantage resides not in human achievement apart from God, but rather in human connection with God.”
How does one remember our Creator?
Solomon began Ecclesiastes declaring all is vanity under the sun. In chapter 11, we look “beyond his gloomy vistas to see God.” (McComiskey) In spite of life’s uncertainties and the certainty of death, we can enjoy life this side of eternity. Derrick Kidner offers a concise conclusion to the book, “Be bold! Be joyful! Be godly!”
The following are notes from William Barrick’s commentary of Ecclesiastes:
What a person doesn’t know (11:1-6)
V1 Cast – send, let loose
The numbers 7 or 8 are representative of an infinite number
This passage is similar in meaning to the parable of the talents (Matt 25)
The man who doesn’t invest is the one condemned in the parable
V2 This proverb suggests being charitable in either an agricultural or maritime pursuit. Investment, risk, and faith are involved – it is a call to act
The future – is hidden, uncertain
V3 Man doesn’t know when rain comes or when a tree will fall, however, these are covered in God’s plan.
V4 If one waits for perfect conditions (to sow or to reap) they run the risk of crop loss or failure
V5 Man can’t see patterns of the wind or growth of bones in an unborn child but God controls both. He governs things that people are not in control of.
V6 Seems to convey the idea that man must work continuously (a full days work) in order to see the harvest. We must be busy (active, in motion) for God to steer us and bring success
Derek Tidball offers this takeaway
Galatians 6:9 “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”
Rejoice in the light (11:7,8)
V7 Rejoice – enjoy life don’t just endure it.
V8 Remember the dark times (they are many): suffering, old age, dying
Trials serve to make the joy we do encounter sweeter
Vanity – is defined as a breath, vapor
Psalm 118:24 “This is the day that the Lord has made let us be glad and rejoice in it”
Again rejoice (11:9,10)
V9 Embrace youth while you are young, all too soon adulthood comes.
4 times previously in this chapter we are encouraged to be busy in the context of “we do not know.” In verse 9 we are told “yet know” God will judge us. Priority must be given to doing the will of God, not following our own desires (in other words, don’t make your desires a priority)
v10 Remove the pain, grief and anger from your heart, otherwise we will miss the pleasant things of life. Deal with issues of pain, grief and anger but don’t allow them to rule your life. Childhood and the prime of life is fleeting
Chapter 11 sets the stage for the closing section of Ecclesiastes, a theme of old age and end-of life experiences. Solomon transitions from “seeing the sun” (residing in God’s will) to a reminder that life “under the sun” eventually brings death.
Chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes brings into the conversation the “D” word no one wants to talk about. Sociologist Ernest Becker said, “of all things that move man, one of the principle ones is his terror of death.”
In this chapter Warren Wiersbe summarizes the words of Solomon in this manner: Death is unavoidable (9:1-10), and Life is unpredictable (9:11-18).
Death is unavoidable:
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment… Hebrews 9:27 ESV
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will life, even after dying.” John 11:25 NLT
Life is unpredictable
God controls time and chance (circumstances beyond human control)
“Chance” – In this verse it means an occasion or event (not a gambling term) There is no room for luck or chance in the Christian mind only the providence of God.
Wm. Barrick points out ironies found this section of scripture, which highlights the unpredictability of life.
We are given the example of a wise man living in a city under siege (v16-18)
We cannot control the effects of sin; who it will affect or how it will manifest itself. Old Testament examples of one sinner, bringing calamity: Adam (Genesis 3), Achen (Joshua 7), David (2 Samuel 24).
Death is unavoidable, and life unpredictable, but take heart: Jesus said,
“I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.” Revelation 1:17-18
In the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes Solomon pondered, was life worth living in light of the certainty of death? He concluded yes life is worth living in spite of death being unavoidable (9:1-10) and life being unpredictable (9:11-18). This chapter highlights the need to reject folly (chapter 10) and embrace the wisdom of God. The word folly occurs nine times in this chapter. The opposite of folly is wisdom.
V1 Folly is a problem generator. Dead flies are to perfume as folly is to a good reputation. Dead flies spoil the oil
V2,3 Folly is produced by the inclination of the heart (the center of our being, our emotions). The foolish person yields to the evil within it.
The reference to right and left here is not intended to characterize ones political persuasion. lol. Instead, right is a road favored, left a path of error. The fool speaks loudly and is arrogant.
The foolish ruler
The example is given of a proud ruler who is easily agitated and takes out his anger on those who serve him. The king’s servants shouldn’t exacerbate the situation by losing their temper or becoming angry. A calm response prevents words or actions that will be regretted later.
Does this section refer to those who attempt to do their work and end up suffering because they acted foolishly by taking dangerous shortcuts and bypassing safe guards? An implied lesson is to work smarter, not harder and do the job right the first time.
“If nothing else, this chapter teaches to pay proper attention to the so-called “little things” in life both personally and nationally. Everything a person does matters. The character of a government leader matters. Even a little word can have far reaching consequences.” William Barrick
Ecclesiastes chapter 8. As Solomon continues to process his thoughts on the benefits of wisdom, he comes up against the problem of evil. The existence of evil in our world is not generally one that godless people (unbelievers) concern themselves with. Those who don’t know God may not like evil, but it is what it is. The problem of evil lies with people of faith. If God is good and loving, why is evil allowed to fester in our world, and why is there so much suffering?
Warren Wiersbe explores the problem of evil in three areas: Authority (8:1-9); Inequity (8:10-14); Mystery (8:15-17)
Rulers have oppressed good citizens since the time of Nimrod (Genesis 10). Ancient rulers weren’t elected democratically. They held the power of life and death over their subjects. Rulers were sovereign and each ruler believed that he or she made no wrong decrees.
But what if a ruler asks an officer to do something evil? Should he:
The righteous get what wicked deserve, wicked what the righteous deserve. The example we are given is of a deceased man who routinely visited the temple. He had not lived a godly life but praise was heaped upon him. The truly godly people of the city were ignored or forgotten.
Mankind continues to sin because it can be gotten away with. God is viewed as being asleep at the helm. However, God is long-suffering and doesn’t judge sinners immediately (2 Peter 3:1-12).
There will be a judgment of the wicked, rewards for righteous
“The person who has to know everything, or who thinks he knows everything is destined for disappointment in this world.” Wiersbe
Will Durant, a historian, concluded, “Our knowledge is a receding mirage in an expanding desert of ignorance.”
If anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know 1 Corinthians 8:2
Solomon admonishes us for the 4th time to enjoy life and the fruits of our labor.
Solomon does not reject wisdom; instead, he finds it necessary and useful to get the most out of life.