Summary: Ecclesiastes ‘represents a brilliant argument for how someone would look at life if God did not play a direct, intervening role in life, and if there were no life after death.’ But because there is a God, and life continues after death, let us fear God!
THE WISDOM TRILOGY #2: PURPOSE – MEANING OF LIFE (BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES)
INTRO TO TOPIC:
• How many of you have read the book of Ecclesiastes before? What is it about?
QUOTE: “The book of Ecclesiastes is puzzling to the novice reader because its skepticism can be overwhelming. Those who are not prepared for such a philosophical book wonder if, as a joke, an atheist sneaked into the printer and stuck his own ramblings into the middle of Holy Scripture.” (R. C. Sproul, What’s in the Bible).
• My goal this morning is to help unravel some of the mystery of this book and encourage you to read through it on your own!
• “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable!” (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV).
1. INTRO TO SOLOMON AND HIS BOOK ECCLESIASTES:
• Ecclesiastes means “The Preacher” or “The Teacher.”
• One of five OT wisdom books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs.
“These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem. “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” What do people get for all their hard work under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-3, NLT).
• v.1: Author: Solomon: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore… He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five.” (1 Kings 4:29,32).
• v.2: Theme: Life has no meaning! (Vanity of vanities in the old KJV).
• v.3: Question: What is the purpose of life?
TESTIMONY: I asked that question the fall after I graduated from high school. It was at an all-nighter drive-in. “There’s got to be more to life than getting drunk, dating girls and partying!”
• Have you ever wrestled with that question? If so, may this message encourage you!
2. SOLOMON SAYS: NOTHING IN THE WORLD SATISFIES:
“4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. 6 The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. 7 Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. 8 Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.” (Ecclesiastes 1:4-8).
• Here he says nothing ever changes, and nothing really satisfies.
• He sounds like quite the pessimist!
STORY: THERE MUST BE A PONY IN HERE SOMEWHERE!
Once there were five-year-old twin boys, one a pessimist and the other an optimist. Wondering how two boys so alike could be so different, their parents took them to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist took the pessimist to a room piled high with new toys, expecting the boy to be thrilled. But instead he burst into tears. Puzzled, the psychiatrist asked, "don't you want to play with these toys?" "Yes," the little boy cried, "but if I did I'd only break them."
Next the psychiatrist took the optimist to a room piled high with horse manure. The boy yelped with delight, clambered to the top of the pile, and joyfully dug out scoop after scoop, tossing the manure into the air with glee. "What on earth are you doing?" the psychiatrist asked. "Well,” said the boy, beaming, “With this much manure, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!"
• The general tone of Ecclesiastes is one of sarcasm or pessimism.
QUOTE: (Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth).
“Most of the book seems to advise in the words of the ‘Teacher’ that life is ultimately meaningless and that one should therefore choose to enjoy one’s life in whatever way possible, since death will obliterate everything anyway.”
3. SOLOMON’S SEARCH FOR THE MEANING OF LIFE:
“I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:13-14).
• Solomon went on a search for wisdom, purpose and meaning in life.
• Sooner or later most people will begin to ask these grand questions.
• His conclusion: All of life’s so-called pleasures are meaningless!
“1 I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. 2 So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” 3 After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world. 4 I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. 7 I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. 8 I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire! 9 So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. 10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).