Summary: Several people this week have mentioned how much they enjoyed hearing the Old Testament read out loud. Let’s face it some books don’t get much attention today. One of those is Ecclesiastes, which was written by Solomon. It’s really a journal of Solom
Our God of the Second Chance
Several people this week have mentioned how much they enjoyed hearing the Old Testament read out loud. Let’s face it some books don’t get much attention today. One of those is Ecclesiastes, which was written by Solomon. It’s really a journal of Solomon’s search for what really matters in life.
Solomon was an amazing man. His reputation is known not just in the Bible -- even secular historians are impressed with his unusual wisdom. He was a man who had all the money, all the power, all the time, and all the energy to make his dreams come true. He could literally have and do anything he wanted.
But, he was also restless. He wanted to figure out what life was all about. So he launched out on a no-holds barred, existential safari that cost him millions of dollars and many years of his life. He was on a search for ultimate meaning and satisfaction.
I want to give you the Readers Digest version of his diary this morning. I should tell you ahead of time that the journey he took, while mind-boggling, left him deflated, depressed and disillusioned. The best word to describe how he felt is empty. In fact, his motto appears right at the beginning of the book in Chapter 1, verse 2: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” Says the Teacher, Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!”
In this type of literature, when the same word is repeated even once, it’s for the purpose of emphasis. It’s like our exclamation point. It’s as if he was saying, “Super empty. No substance. There’s nothing to it. Everything is blah!”
I want you to notice that the word for “Teacher” in this verse is the Hebrew word Qoheleth, which literally means, “the one who gathers, assembles, or collects things.” We can translate this word into English and call him “the Searcher.”
His diary has a lot to say to us today. Whether or not we are willing to admit it, deep within most of us there is a restless, adventuresome itch. We may want to experience all of life, but can’t seem to get hold of all that we want. Perhaps 1999 was a bit of a disappointment for you. Maybe it just wasn’t all you were hoping it was going to be. Maybe you did things you’d just as soon forget. Before we close the books on last year, it’s imperative that we hit the “Pause” button and take an inventory of our lives. I want to suggest that there’s a lot we can learn from the journey that Solomon the Searcher took.
Let me clarify something. When Solomon wanted to experiment with the different things that life had to offer, there was nothing to hold him back. As king, no one could question him. As one of the richest individuals in the world, money was not a problem. He was convinced that he could find something that would ultimately satisfy him -- if he just looked hard enough.
In verse 3, the Searcher asks a question, “What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?” The word, “gain” literally means, “that which is left over.” He had sucked the delight, joy, and pleasure out of everything. And now he wanted to know what would be left over, what would he have to show for himself when it was all said and done?
The first thing he tried was pleasure. He decided that life was just one big party. He surrounded himself with people like Jim Carrey and Robin Williams. After all, if he could just laugh all the time, he would be happy, right? Listen to his admission in 2:2: I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?”
His next stop was the world of alcohol. He experimented with the finest wines and liquor available from all over the world. But, when the buzz wore off, and the hangover went away, he was still empty.
His next layover was a massive building project. He designed and constructed several cities and homes. His own home took 13 years to build and became one of the 7 Wonders of the World!
He then purchased hundreds of servants and possessed flocks and herds that were larger than anyone had ever owned. He then moved into collecting precious gems and silver and gold. He even brought in the best musicians and soloists in the world to entertain him.
Wait, there’s even more. Next, Solomon turned to the pleasures of intimate relationships. In fact, we know that he had 700 wives and 300 mistresses. They were available to him any time of the day or night. Yet his boredom could not be described.
Listen to these honest words from his journal in 2:10: “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.”