Summary: Solomon continues his search for meaning and purpose in life.
A study of the Book of Ecclesiastes
Finding Satisfaction In Life
Sermon # 2
“The Quest for Wisdom”
As stated in the first message I believe that although some modern scholars believe Ecclesiastes was written by someone writing as Solomon. I believe that the author of Ecclesiastes is Solomon. Yet in verse eleven the writer further identifies himself, “I, the Preacher, the son of David, king over Israel.” Even though the author never outright gives his name but uses the title “Koheleth” or the preacher. “This description only fits the life of Solomon, because although Rehoboam and other descendants of David ruled in Jerusalem, none of them ruled over Israel. After Solomon the kingdom was divided between the north and the south, whoever was king in Jerusalem only ruled over the southern kingdom of Judea, not over the northern kingdom of Israel. So this king must be Solomon.” [Philip Graham Ryken. “Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters.” (Wheaton, ILL: Crossway, 2010) p. 36]
First, The Search For Wisdom. (1:13)
“And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burden-some task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.”
• His Quest was Sincere.
One of the misconceptions that I believe that we have (at least I did) was that this marvelous gift of wisdom was somehow magically produced. As if Solomon just “poof” understood everything. I now believe that while he was gifted with a vast “capacity” for the accumulation of wisdom he still had to apply himself to the pursuit of knowledge. And that is exactly what he did – he devoted his life to learning.
• His Quest was Intense. (v. 13)
In verse thirteen Solomon relates, “And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.” To convey the how comprehensive his effort was Solomon says that he set his heart “seek and search out” or “to study and to explore” indicating the serious-ness of his efforts. Koheleth was the original Renais-sance man. He wanted to know as much as he could about everything he could.
• Under Heaven.
His effort was to be all encompassing “all that is done under heaven.” Koheleth says he applied himself to search for wisdom in “All that is done under heaven” which is another way of saying; "under the sun." The Preacher uses this term “under the sun” more than twenty-five times in Ecclesiastes to describe the world we can see the material world – life without an eternal perspective.
“This wisdom is that of those who guide us to a better life in the here and now; how to live a healthier, happier and more prosperous life. This wisdom… has its value and many lives would be better for following it. Yet it excludes a true appreciation of eternity and our responsibilities to the world to come, this wisdom has no true answer to the meaninglessness of life. It only shows us how to live our meaningless lives better.” [David Guzik. David Guzik Commentary On The Bible. Ecclesiastes 1. www.studylight.org/commentaries/guz/view.cgi?bk=20&ch=1 ]
“….this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.”
This is the first time God is mentioned in Eccles-iastes and the name used here (and everywhere else in Ecclesiastes is Elohim not Yahweh, the covenant name God had given Israel. Most likely the reason is that Ecclesiastes was aimed at reaching an audience beyond just Israel. Therefore Elohim (the God of creator- Gen-esis 1:1) is used. The phrase “sons of man” is liter-ally the “sons of Adam” – so the reference is not to the mass of humanity but to nature of man. The task is made all the more difficult because of man’s fallen condition.
All man's work, accomplishment, and searching for wisdom seem to amount to nothing. In fact God has deliberately built a system where life seems meaning-less and empty - without the understanding of a living God to whom we must give an account. It may seem cruel of God to devise such a system, but it is actually evid-ence of His great love and mercy. He built within us the desire and need for that which brings meaning and fulfillment to life. As Augustine wrote, “the Creator made a God-shaped space in each of us, which can only be filled with Him.”
Many people, even those who are rich and well-known, can attest to that void. For example, H.G. Wells said at age 61: “I have no peace. All life is at the end of the tether.” The poet Byron said, “My days are in yellow leaf, the flowers and fruits of life are gone, the worm and the canker, and the grief are mine alone.” Thoreau said, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.” Ernest Hemingway, said this about his life: “I live in a vacuum that is as lonely as a radio… when the batteries are dead, and there is no current to plug into.” Hemingway lived his life in a way that would be the envy of any person who has bought in to the values of this world. But on a Sunday morning in Idaho, he shot himself in the head.