Summary: A sermon on Amos 8:11-14 on how people run to things of this world instead of to the Bible to find meaning to their lives (Outline and material adapted from the book Existentialism: The Philosophy of Despair and the Quest for Hope, from chapter 3, The De
A. What would happen if a “miracle” had occurred where the hand that had written the Word had sponged out of our Bibles every syllable they contained, and thus reclaimed the most precious gift that Heaven had bestowed to mankind. Without the Word we would lapse into despair. The whole world would be plunged into the blackest darkness.
Now there have been times in the history of the world when there was a literal famine for the Word of God. King Josiah found Deuteronomy and made a lot of changes. Lisu people now have a new Bible and they want to get it into many families hands. However, this is not quite what Amos is talking about.
Amos is saying that the Word is out there but few are reading, studying, listening to it. Curious times, these. There is a glut of the word of God. We have every translation of the Bible you can imagine – the NIV, the NASB, the KJV, the RSV, ESB, the preacher’s bible, the worshippers bible, the spirit-filled believers bible, the left handed bald gypsy fiddler’s bible, with versions for the nearsighted and the farsighted. (The last was made up).
At the same time there is a famine of the Word. 19% read it every day; 26% few times week.
I was at talk this past week that discussed connections between chemicals in brain and faith in Jesus Christ. Interesting! However, one thought stuck with me. The speaker said that mankind generally is pessimistic. This pessimism leads to despair. Think about how pessimistic we would be without Jesus Christ?
We see a rise in atheists in our day. More alarming is the rise in agnostics. What is an agnostic? An agnostic is a person who believes that there is a God but we cannot trust the Bible to tell us about him because He is unknowable.
But if we adopt this idea or much of this world’s ideas about life and God, where will this lead us? Like was said before it leads to pessimism and pessimism leads to despair. Despair is a total loss of hope. This stems from an absence of purpose or as Ecclesiastes would say, “Meaninglessness.” There is no reason why man exists. He just does.
Thesis: Since people do not turn to the Bible for meaning and purpose, where do they turn?
Science gives meaning to life
The pursuit of knowledge through science gives life meaning. Now, it is good to learn about our world through science. However, science is powerless to resolve understanding of human existence. Even if a scientist could give a complete, mechanistic explanation of human life, if he could construct explanations for all human activity in terms of electrons, protons, and so on, would this give us a better understanding of our existence, why we are here?
Ecclesiastes says pretty much the same thing (1:13, 17-18): “I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men!” “Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”
Why? The scientist eats, drinks, lives his/her life, learns a few things about our universe, but ultimately dies, just as other people do. When facing death, the scientist must question the meaning of all activities, including the meaning of science itself.
Listen to Ecclesiastes 3:19-20: “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.”
Thrills, pleasures give meaning to life
Another word we could use here is adventure. However, the feeling of adventure arises from the way I feel about the events that I have experienced. Many times events bring adventure because of the people I am with and the emotions they bring.
Adventures, thrills, and moods alone cannot provide a meaningful world. The search for adventure is merely another attempt to project the illusion of meaning on something external. If there is no significance to human existence, there can be none attached to human adventures or pleasures.
Ecclesiastes 2:1-3, 10-11: “I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly--my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worth while for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.” “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labour. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”