Summary: Ecclesiastes 2
Ecclesiastes begins with a resounding five-fold repetition of the word “vanity” in one verse, a literary abnormality even in repetition-heavy Jewish literature:
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity (Eccl 1:2). Instead of profit (1:3), permanence (1:9) and progress, there is pain, pessimism and powerlessness, as I experienced when my wife passed away on May 22, 2016, two weeks before this message.
In chapter one we looked at how he constructed his argument by presenting man, the person, study him biologically, historically and philosophically, and contrasted him with mother nature, father time, and philosopher kings (Plato). From man the person we study man and his potential. What are his advantages, advances and adversities? What makes him great, gifted and good? We ask three questions: Who are you – your being? What have you done? Your behaving? What is your future? – your becoming
You Need a Humble Attitude, not a Haughty Spirit (Your Greatness)
1 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives. 4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. 10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.
A King was going to his palace after his rounds in the city when he met a beggar. He asked the beggar, “What would you like?” The beggar laughed and said, “You are asking me as though you can fulfill my desire!”
The king was offended. He said, “Of course I can fulfil your desire. What is it? Just tell me.” And the beggar said, “Think twice before you promise anything.”
“I will fulfill anything you ask. I am a powerful king, what can you possibly desire that I can not give to you?” The beggar said, “It is a very simple desire. You see this begging bowl? Can you fill it with something?”
The king said, “Of course!” He called his vizier and told him, “Fill this man's begging bowl with money.” The vizier went and got some money and poured it into the bowl, and it disappeared. And he poured more and more, and the moment he would pour it, it would disappear. And the begging bowl remained always empty.