Summary: This is the final in a study of the book of Ecclesiastes

Life Liberty and the Pursuit

Ecclesiastes 12

Do you remember the Cadillac slogan from a few years ago?

Life , Liberty and the Pursuit

Ecclesiastes is about the Pursuit

And Solomon had his share of pursuits

We are wrapping up our study of this book

We are skipping chapters 10 and 11, since they are really just a collection of random proverbs

There are some good ones in there like

Ecclesiastes 10:8-9 If you dig a pit, you might fall in; if you break down a wall, a snake might bite you. [9] You could even get hurt by chiseling a stone or chopping a log.

So I encourage you to read those two chapters this next week

But throughout Ecclesiastes we learn that Solomon had his share of pursuits

So as we examine our own pursuits I ask you this…

“Are you a hedgehog or a fox?”

In his famous essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox”, Isaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes

Based on the ancient Greek parable

The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing

The fox is a cunning creature, able to devise a myriad of complex strategies for sneak attacks upon the Hedgehog

Day in and day out the fox circles around the hedgehog’s den. Waiting for the perfect moment to pounce

Fast sleek, beautiful, fleet of foot, and crafty the fox looks like a sure winner

The hedgehog , on the other hand, is a dowdier creature

Looking like a mix up between a porcupine and a small armadillo

He waddles along going about his simple day searching for food and taking care of his home

The fox waits in cunning silence at the juncture of the trail

The hedgehog, minding his own business wanders right into the path of the fox

“Aha I’ve got you now” thinks the fox

He leaps out bounding across the ground lighting fast

The little hedgehog, sensing danger looks up and thinks

“great here we go again. Will he ever learn?”

Rolling up into a perfect little ball the hedgehog becomes a sphere of sharp spikes pointing outward in all directions

The fox, bounding towards its prey, sees the defense and calls of the attack

Each day, some version of this battle takes place

And despite the greater cunning of the fox the hedgehog always wins

So why did Isaiah Berlin divide the world into hedgehogs and foxes?

Foxes pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity

The are scattered of diffused moving on many levels

Never integrating their thinking into one overall concept

Hedgehogs on the other hand simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea

A basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything

It doesn’t matter how complex the world

A hedgehog reduces all challenges and dilemmas to simple, almost simplistic hedgehog ideas

So which are you? A hedgehog or a fox?

As we look at the last chapter in Ecclesiastes

It does very well to sum up the entire book that we have been studying

As we go through life we have a multitude of choices before us each day concerning how we will spend our lives

Life is a journey, a trip down the freeway of life

And our one purpose in life is to glorify God

But as we travel we are confronted with a multitude of choices, or exits

Vying for our time and attention

Life Liberty and the Pursuit

If we are not careful we will take a wrong exit

And end up somewhere we never intended to be.

I. Solomon - a fox

Solomon is a classic example of the fox

He was a gifted man with many talents and interests

As we studied before in chapter 1:13 he tells us that he had a desire to understand the complexities of our world

I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven

In his search for satisfaction chapter 2 tells us that he tried all sorts of pleasures and entertainment

And we learned that you can’t take it with you

He tells us of his building campaigns

He built houses, vineyards, gardens , orchards, lakes and irrigation systems

But probably the most telling of all the things Solomon wrote is found in 2:10-11

All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. 11 Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after the wind and there was no profit under the sun.

Here is a man who early on in his journey took his eyes off his purpose and instead took a wrong exit

Solomon enjoyed more than you and I will ever know in this life

And while most of the world is chasing after it with blind devotion

Solomon got to the end of it all and said, “It didn’t satisfy me!

It wasn’t worth the time, it wasn’t worth the effort, it wasn’t worth what it cost me.

It didn’t gain me a thing”

Solomon didn’t waste his life because we didn’t know his purpose

He wasted his life because he took a wrong exit

Got sidetracked and spent his life pursuing all the wrong priorities

So lets look at how Solomon, the preacher wraps this sermon up here in the last chapter

Read verses 1-14

What does all this mean? Let us look at some of the key elements of this chapter

A. Remember

We are told to remember our Creator when?

NOW! Today, not tomorrow, not next week

No , now in your youth

Being young is exciting,

But the excitement of youth can become a barrier to closeness with God

If it makes young people focus on passing pleasures instead of eternal values.

He is saying here to make your strength available to God when it is still yours-during your youthful years

Don’t waste it on evil or meaningless activities that become bad habits and make you callous

Seek God now!

Its also interesting how he uses the word Creator here

He could have said Remember now your Lord; or God; or Master

But he chose to say Creator

Your Creator knows you personally, intimately

The word Creator implies that He owns you

He made you and you answer to Him.

Notice how in verse 3 and following Solomon compares our bodies in old age to a house

The keepers of the house shall tremble - the hands and arms which protect the body , as guards do a palace, shake in old age

The strong men - The legs, like supporting pillars, weaken

The grinders cease - what could the grinders be? Our teeth. The grinders cease because they are few.

Those that look through windows - these are our eyes, they dim with old age

4 The doors shall be shut - this refers to our lips, that don’t have much to say, our speech begins to slow or even slur

The sound of grinders is low - This refers to little eating, when the sound of chewing is low

He shall rise up at the voice of the bird - light sleep, we become unable to sleep soundly

The daughters of music shall be brought low - The ear and voice that once loved music, begins to fail

5 They shall be afraid of that which is high - we are not as agile as we used to be - for fear of falling

Fears shall be in the way - we grow much more careful about how we get around

The almond tree shall flourish - A white blossoming tree among dark trees speaks of hair turning grey.

The grasshopper shall be a burden - the slightest things are burdensome

Desire shall fail - our desires for food, physical activities and others diminish

Two elderly women were out driving in a large car

Both could barely see over the dashboard

As they were cruising along they came to an intersection

The light was red, but they went on through

The woman on the passenger seat thought to herself

I must be losing it

I could have sworn we just went through a red light

After a few more minutes they came to another light that was red again

Again they went right through

The woman in the passenger seat was almost sure that the light had been red but was really concerned that she was losing it. She was getting nervous

At the next intersection, sure enough, the light was red

And they went on through

So she turned to the other woman and said

“Mildred, did you know that we just ran three red lights in a row?

You could have killed us both!”

Mildred turned to her and said

“Oh my! Am I driving?”

Why do we need to remember our Creator in our youth?

Because it gets harder to remember once we get old

Don’t waste your time with other meaningless things

Because one day there will be days of trouble

Time will run out

Redeem your time for the Lord before like it says in verses 6 and 7 the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. 7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Before its to late

Because we are headed to our long home

Our eternal destiny, heaven or hell.

The silver cord, golden bowl, pitcher and wheel symbolize life’s fragility.

How easily death comes to us

How swiftly and unexpectedly we can return to the dust from which we came.

We need to recognize life as a precious resource to be used wisely and not squandered frivolously.

That is pretty much what this entire book is about.

And verse 8 contains that phrase that we have heard countless times in our study

Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity

Or Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the Teacher, Everything is meaningless!

7 and 8 here along with most of this book are telling us

Stripped of God’s Spirit, our bodies return to dust.

Stripped of God’s purpose, our work is in vain

Stripped of God’s love our service is futile

We must put God first over all we do and in all we do

Because without Him we have nothing.

Knowing that life is futile without God motivates the wise person to seek God.

But the thing is we know all this, we know all the answers

We know we need to nurture our relationship with God through Jesus Christ

We know that we need to spend time in prayer and study and reading of His Word.

We know that our families are more important than our hobbies, work and everything else of this world

We know that church should hold a high place in our hearts

That we need to support it, assemble with it, pray for it

Serve in it, fight for it, encourage others to attend it

And be faithful to it

We know all these things to be true

But sometimes we get off track, take the wrong exit in life

We get turned around

How do you respond to the Lord when He says to you that you’ve made your life to be about the wrong things lately

And now its time to make it right

What do you do? And how do you hold the course?

A. Repentance

The answer to that first question is easy

You stop and turn around

What happens when you are driving down the interstate and you miss your exit?

Do you just keep going and maybe you will get somewhere eventually?

No of course you take the next exit and turn around.

This is called repentance

Repentance isn’t feeling guilty or sorry for your sins

I can feel guilty all through a terrible time of sin in my life and never turn around

You can feel guilty when you are drunk and never quit drinking.

You can feel guilty about a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean you are repentant

If you have repented, been genuinely broken over that thing

Then you have stopped dead in your tracks

You see that thing for what it is

And rather than going on to it

You turn from it to walk in a new direction

That’s repentance

And that is one of the problems caused when we get off the wrong exit in life

We are living Life, Liberty and the Pursuit

But sometimes we are pursuing the wrong things in the wrong direction.

Did you hear the story about the elderly lady that had heard on the news about a car driving the wrong way on the interstate

She was so worried that her husband was in danger that she called him on his cell phone to warn him

“Claude you need to be extra careful coming home.

The news just said there is a crazy person driving the wrong way on the interstate”

“Ethel, it’s not just one its all of them”

If you are not pursuing God’s agenda for your life in every area of your life

Then the first step is the step of repentance

Stop and turn around

Now how do we hold the course?

To reestablish your course you have to answer these questions

Why were you created?

What does God have for you?

What is His agenda for your life?

Now is there some magical age that we have to quit asking these questions?

NO of course not!

I don’t care how old or young you are its never to late to start asking the right questions

Solomon did it, he got to a ripe old age reevaluated his life

And he knew he had wasted it

He knew that as his body began to fail and his years were quickly passing

It was time to make some adjustments

If you remember back to our first study in Ecclesiastes where I introduced the book

I stated that this book was mainly focused on young people

But this book is applicable to all who would listen and benefit

And not so much from Solomon’s experiences

But from the principles de drew as a result

So Solomon was a fox following many different pursuits, but not seeing the entire picture

II. Jesus - a hedgehog

Now that may seem a bit irreverent, but follow me on this

Jesus of course understood how amazingly complex our world was and is

But He reduced His life to one simple concept

One simple plan and purpose

To please the Father by doing what He was sent to do.

Satan tried to get Jesus to take a shortcut to the throne

Peter, James and John wanted Jesus to set up His kingdom while he was here on earth

But all during His ministry, while so many others had so many different agendas for His life

Jesus stated over and over “I am going to the cross”

I know there are many that need to be healed

I know there are many hungry

In Matthew 26:11 He said For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.

There are many that are in need of what I can offer them

But I am going to the cross, and there I must die.

Jesus was determined to do what He was sent here to do

It is in fulfilling our purpose that we please the Father

And it was in Jesus’ fulfilling His purpose that we hear God saying in Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

At a nursing home in Florida a resident group was discussing ailments

My arms are so weak I can hardly life this cup of coffee, said one

Yes I know, my cataracts are so bad I can’t even see my coffee, replied another

I can’t turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck, said a third

At which several others nodded weakly

My blood pressure pills make me dizzy another one went on

I guess that’s the price we pay for getting old, winced an old man

It sure beats the alternative

Well its not that bad , said one woman cheerfully

Thank goodness we can all still drive!

Are your priorities out of place today?

Are you just so thankful that you can drive that you don’t see the problems around you

That you have got off track at the wrong exit way back

And now you know it is time to turn around and reorder your life?

As we look at this last chapter as it sums up this entire book

Solomon shows us how we can evaluate our lives and what we can do to maintain the proper course.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

In other words he says Now everything has been heard

So I give my final advice

Honor God and obey His commands

Because this is all people must do

Make a life of obedience and Biblical integrity a high priority in your life

The Bible says in Philippians 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death , even the death of the cross.

Obedience is not always an enjoyable thing

It will now always be easy

But it will always please God

“if you love me, keep my commandments”

Remember this, its not about you - its about God.

We learned that lesson back in chapter 5

Don’t wait another day

Do it now, while some of you are still young

Before you get another day older while you still have something to offer the Lord

Stay the course, don’t take a wrong exit and end up somewhere you never intended to be

And you can’t live in your regrets

You can’t worry about what you have done

You must repent of those things

Turn around and go back the other direction

Then you need to focus on what you will do with Him today, now, in this moment

Now some of you have already experienced what has been described in our text

Your hair has already turned white

Your teeth have been replaced and your eyes have faded

You’re hearing is failing and you couldn’t run a lap to save the life

But you still have a life to give to God

And no matter where you are in your journey

You can still devote yourselves even more than you have.

Most of us fall somewhere in between

Those of us in this category are not as committed to church as much as we should

We are not faithful in our support like we ought to be

If we are a little tired, we lay out

If we have something better to do, we won’t serve

If we have to choose between eating out and tithing

We eat out

We’d rather be liked by our peers than stand for truth

And we’d rather take the easy way out when the going gets tough

This group here, and not just here in this church, but all across the country

Our families are falling apart

Our finances are disgraceful

Our values are questionable

And our futures need to be reconsidered

Why?, because one day we will all give an account

All of us young and old and in between

Live far to short sighted

We are all about Life, Liberty and the Pursuit

But one day we will pass from this life

And are we going to look back like Solomon and say

Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!

Or are you going to say I did what Solomon said

I feared God and kept His commandments

The key word in Ecclesiastes is “Vanity”

The futile emptiness of trying to be happy apart from God

For verse 14 states it very clearly

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Power, popularity, prestige, pleasure

Nothing can fill the God-shaped void in man’s life

But God Himself

Solomon exclaimed through this book

Eat, drink, rejoice, do good, live joyfully

Fear God and keep His commandments

Skepticism and despair melt away when life is viewed as a daily gift from God

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit

What are you pursuing?