Summary: Solomon dealt with the right questions, but he came up with the wrong answers at first.
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
CENTRAL CHRISTIAN, BROWNSVILLE, TX
A. With the end of the Christmas season I’m sure most of you have seen the headlines reporting that most retail stores did not do as well as they had hoped. We Americans didn’t charge nearly as much as we have in seasons past, & people seemed to be more value-conscious & sales-oriented than ever before.
But there was one area that didn’t experience a decline. In fact, this area exploded with new business right after the first of the year. What area am I talking about? Why, the area of personal fitness & body conditioning.
Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, health clubs, exercise equipment sales - all of these went into high gear because many of us gained unwelcome weight over the holidays. And we’re very conscious of it, maybe even going so far as to make new year’s resolutions to eat less & exercise more.
So we join a health club, or go to the store to see what kind of exercise equipment is available. Or we watch the exercise programs on TV & find ourselves bombarded with sales pitches for the latest miracle working machines.
There are treadmills & stair masters & life cycles & stationary bikes, & on & on goes the list. All of these are designed to help us expend maximum amount of energy for the longest period of time while we’re going nowhere.
APPL. By the way, maybe exercise machines are symbolic of our time. We are a people seeming to go nowhere fast, & expending a lot of energy getting there.
B. We sound just like the people back in King Solomon’s time in the Bible. King Solomon looked at his own life & the life of his people & became very depressed. It seemed to him that they were just going around in circles, doing the same old things over & over again, & never changing. They were running on a treadmill & never getting anywhere.
So listen to the way he begins the Book of Ecclesiastes, vs’s 1-3, "The words of the teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: `Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. `Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What does a man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?"
C. Now we’re a curious people. We ask lots of questions. In fact, we’re told that if you want to make a lot of money, just write a book with a "How To" title. "How To Lose Weight - How To Become Physically Fit - How To Win Friends & Influence People - How To Become Financially Independent."
But the really important & difficult questions of life are not the "How To" questions, but the "Why?" questions. And here is where the Book of Ecclesiastes comes in. In it Solomon asks some very difficult questions. For example, "What does a man gain from all his labor? Does life have any purpose? If so, what is it? Why is life worth living?"
Now those are the right questions. But at first, Solomon came up with the wrong answers. And the reason was because all he really knew was what he saw "under the sun." He could not see beyond this life.
But what he saw in the world around him & in the lives people were living caused him to cry out, "Meaningless! Meaningless!...Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."
PROP. Now why did he feel that way? What brought him to that conclusion?
I. LIFE IS A MEANINGLESS CYCLE
A. First of all, Solomon looked at life itself & declared in vs. 4: "Generations come & generations go, but the earth remains forever."
ILL. Right after Christmas there were a number of TV programs reviewing the past year. Some of them reminded us of famous people who died during the year. Some of them were old & some were young. Some were rich & some were poor. Entertainers, politicians, businessmen, scientists, sports heroes - one year ago they stood on the threshold, looking forward to the new year, not knowing that during that year they would die.
And some who stood with us on the threshold of this year will die during ____. People live & people die, & one generation follows another. Like the Eveready Bunny, life just keeps on going & going & going.
ILL. Do you remember as a child going to the fair & walking down the midway? There were always barkers at their booths, trying to get you to play their games of chance. They often said something like, "Round & round she goes, & where she stops nobody knows." Life is a little bit like that, isn’t it?
B. In vs. 5, Solomon looks at the heavens & says, "The sun rises & the sun sets, & hurries back to where it rises" - over & over again.