Tag Archives: Solomon

The Search for the Meaning of Life

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.

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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.

watches-1204696_960_720These 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

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Death and Folly

Encountering 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).

old-2081500_960_720Death is unavoidable:

  • Hebrews 9:27 makes it clear death is by appointment only. (God schedules the date and only He can change the appointment).

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment… Hebrews 9:27 ESV

  • A paradox: the reality of death is linked to the urgency of living. The more real death becomes the more urgent our desire to live becomes.
  • The sinner and the saint may share a common physical destiny but they don’t share a common eternal destiny. (Wiersbe)
  • Death is the final enemy we face, but thanks to the cross of Jesus Christ, death has been defeated. (Rom 6:23; John 11:25-26; 1 Thess 4:13-18; 1 Cor 15:51-58)

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will life, even after dying.” John 11:25 NLT

  • We can’t escape death (v3)
  • We can endure beyond the thought (v4-6)
  • We can enjoy life in meantime (v7-10)

yahtzee-1132533_960_720Life 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.

  • Swiftness doesn’t always win the race
  • The fiercest warriors don’t always win the battle
  • Wise men might not always obtain food
  • The discerning might not acquire wealth
  • The skilled might not find favor

We are given the example of a wise man living in a city under siege (v16-18)

  1. Wisdom proved superior to might
  2. People do not always respect wisdom
  3. Powerful people can make it difficult to listen to wisdom
  4. Superior wisdom can be destroyed by a foolish act of a sinner

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

 

Encountering folly

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.

jester-2072475_960_720V1       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.

Foolish workers

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.

Foolish talkers

  • Are destructive – the fool says inappropriate things at wrong time. We need to follow the example of Jesus.
  • Are unreasonable – the fool makes no sense when he speaks
  • Are uncontrolled – the fool is unable to stop talking
  • Are boastful – mankind does not know what the future holds. The fool boasts carelessly about what the future holds.

Foolish officers

  • Offer foolish indulgence – real leaders use authority for positive change, fools indulge themselves.
  • Offer incompetence – enjoy the privileges of office without taking care of the their responsibilities
  • Offer indifference – don’t care
  • Offer Indiscretion – be careful what you say about your boss. “a little bird told me”

“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: Futility and Folly

Have you been so concerned with a problem that you have felt the tension in your arms, legs or chest? Have you been so stressed out that you lost sleep over it? Solomon is telling us he has seen the futility of life under the sun. In this section (Ecclesiastes 1:17-2:26) his futility gives way to frustration. He is leaving “no stone unturned” in his search for the meaning of life.

William D. Barrick refers to the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes as Solomon’s honest confession. He can’t solve life’s most important issues without God. It is highly unusual for a king of this era to admit to “failure, frustration and folly.” But God uses failure, frustration and folly to draw wandering prodigals back to Himself.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

In chapter one, verse thirteen a new prospective is identified, “under heaven;” the abode of God, the all-supreme Creator. However, Solomon’s search under heaven does not include the eternal, only the temporal.   His search includes:

Wisdom – The more we know, the less it seems we know.

Wm. Barrick – “What is crooked cannot be straightened” (a proverb). In essence, mankind cannot change all that is done under heaven. C’est la vie (that’s life).  “With wisdom comes much grief” (another proverb). In essence the more wisdom obtained the greater the grief. Solomon keeps reaching the same conclusion that man cannot save himself.

Josh McDowell – If education were the key to life, “universities would be the most moral, ethical and spiritual centers of any nation.”

W. Wiersbe – “The Christian won’t be able to explain everything that happens in life but life is not built on explanations, it’s built on promises.”

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Pleasure – Solomon denies himself no pleasure. He enjoys it. Today we talk ourselves into believing that pleasure is something we have earned, or deserve; like the advertising jingle, “Work hard, play hard.”

Why does pleasure lead to disappointment (under the sun)? We seek the ultimate meaning out of that which is temporary and perishable.

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Work – alone is not the key to happiness. The more we work the more unbalanced the rest of life becomes. For many, work is an attempt to keep them busy from facing how empty their lives really are (under the sun)

Work is not evil. God put Adam in the Garden and gave him work to do. We are wired to work. Unfortunately, for some accomplishments in their work give them the feeling that they are captains of their souls, masters of their destiny.

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Wealth – wealth cannot be taken with us when we die. Where is the advantage of wealth? “The more we have the more we want what we don’t have.” (Dr. D. Jeremiah).

“Money is the universal passport to everywhere except heaven, and the universal provider of everything except happiness.” Wall Street Journal

More about work – Solomon struggles with the realization that labor doesn’t produce anything that will endure for eternity. Futility of labor is equivalent to a hamster on an exercise wheel.   Additionally, there is a realization that death levels the playing field. It comes for everyone; both the lazy and hard-working, the wealthy and poor, the renowned and anonymous. Work done under the sun is not lasting in the light of eternity.

Why did Solomon use the word “hate” referencing his toil? He couldn’t keep the fruits of his labor (his toil ultimately is handed to others). Secondly, he couldn’t protect its fruits (those who receive it won’t have the same appreciation as the person who produced it). Finally, wealth can’t be enjoyed as it should (a lifetime of toil leaves relatively little time to enjoy it).

Solomon’s Conclusions:

Remember Solomon is attempting to find the meaning of life under the sun (striving apart from God). He mentions the sinner, which means one who falls short or misses the mark. This person ultimately gathers resources only hand down to someone else when they die.  Life apart from God (without reconciling with God) leaves the sinner no means of accessing the eternity of heaven.  For them “all is vanity.”

Everything we have is a gift from God.   The believer in God whose prospective is above the sun (under heaven) can find enjoyment under the sun.  In the words of Jesus, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Ecclesiastes: Change your perspective

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The author of Ecclesiastes is believed to be King Solomon of Israel, the wisest and wealthiest man that ever lived. We can learn quite a bit about him by reading passages found in 1 Kings, Proverbs, Psalms, and Song of Solomon and elsewhere. The biblical text tells us that Solomon was King David’s son (Israel’s most beloved king).

1 Kings 3:3 states that Solomon loved God and walked in his statues just as his father David had done. God was pleased with Solomon appeared to him in a dream. It was in that dream Solomon asked for wisdom, which God gave to him.

During his reign, everything Solomon touched seemed to turn to gold. These were the glory days of Israel, times of success and excess. But King Solomon, the wisest of men, turned away from God as he aged. 1 Kings 11:4 says when Solomon was old his heart served the foreign gods known to his many of his wives. Ecclesiastes is said to be written in Solomon’s twilight years.

There are a number of possibilities as to how the book came to be titled Ecclesiastes. My favorite possibility stems from the Greek word ekklesia, which means an assembly. The person addressing the assembly in Ecclesiastes is simply called “the Preacher”, which is a title given to an official person who speaks before an assembly.

Ecclesiastes can be divided into four sections. William Barrick in his commentary on Ecclesiastes suggests these sections:

  • What Solomon did or experienced (chapters 1-2)
  • Solomon’s observations (chapters 3-5)
  • Solomon’s application (chapters 6-8)
  • Solomon’s conclusion of the matter (chapters 9-12)

Chapter 1

The opening words of Ecclesiastes are certainly troubling, “Vanity, vanity. All is vanity.” These words come from a King who has seen it all, done it all and possessed it all. The word “vanity” has a wide variety of meanings in scripture, these range from emptiness, futility, a vapor that vanishes quickly leaving nothing behind, and more. All is vanity.

What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Ecclesiastes 1:3 NIV

We need to remind ourselves we are looking into the life of a man who is facing the certainty of death and reflecting back over his life. The Hebrew word for man is adam. Adam was the first man, formed from the earth and since that time when each man dies he returns to the earth. Gain (profit), or yitron, means that which is left over, surplus. Toil, or amal, in this case suggests laboring to the point of exhaustion while experiencing little or no fulfillment in your work (grief, weariness and frustration are implied).

The remaining words, “under the sun,” offer a critical perspective or vantage point. Solomon is looking at life from a human perspective (under the sun). As Ecclesiastes unfolds, the reader sees the futility of life from this vantage point in light of the fact that death is a certainty. G. Campbell Morgan said, “It is only as a man takes account of that which is over the sun as well as that which is under the sun that things under the sun are seen in their true light.”

From his life experience, Solomon concludes: (a) that nothing has changed (b) nothing is new (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Satisfied.)

Generations come and go but the earth remains forever. Eccl 1:4

(a) Solomon sees man as a transient being set against the backdrop of creation (which continues on indefinitely). We make an appearance, have a brief pilgrimage, and then we die. The certainty of death makes our efforts appear futile.

The monotony of nature’s reoccurring cycles signals the intelligent design of our universe. Our Creator did not intend us to experience life like a hamster on an exercise wheel. We are pilgrims, not prisoners of monotony.

All things are wearisome. Eyes have never enough to see, ears never enough to hear.    Eccl 1:8

(b) When we are wearied by life, we desperately want something new or different to offer as a distraction or to deliver us from monotony. So, our eyes and ears never have their fill. Solomon points out that there really isn’t anything new (under the sun). We may think things are new because we have a bad memory (v11). Methods and technology may change but principles never do. If we seek eternal bliss in something that’s temporary or perishable, invariably we are disappointed.

If we seek true happiness, a change in perspective is needed. We need to start viewing life from above the sun or eternal perspective. Paul tells we are new creations when we accept Christ as our savior: “the old is gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17.