We said that Solomon studied all about human achievements. What was his conclusion?
Look with me at Ecclesiastes 1:12-15 again, “I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.”
After devoting himself thoroughly to the investigation of his subject, Solomon compiled all of his data and arrived at three conclusions,
-1) People’s drive to achieve is a gift from God, but it is also a heavy, grievous burden. He said in verse 13, “This sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.” In this statement, Solomon was apparently making a reference to God’s judgment upon Adam and mankind after Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden:
“Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;…In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Ge.3:17, 19).
Solomon felt that labor was a punishment inflicted upon the human race by God. But we must always remember that God uses every human activity for good. Therefore, hard work is a gift from God as well.
Remember that though God cursed the ground and condemned man to a lifetime of hard labor, work itself is not a curse; it is a gift from God. God did not create man to be idle, nor did He create him to enjoy only recreation and leisure. God created man to work and be productive. When God created Adam, He placed him in the Garden with specific responsibilities:
“And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it….And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him” (Ge.2:15, 19-20).
God’s Word both commands and commends work. In giving the law, God instructed man to spend six days of the week working:
“Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work” (Ex.20:9).
“Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed” (Ex.23:12).
“Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest” (Ex.34:21).
Also the epistles of the New Testament admonish man concerning work:
“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28).
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Col.3:23-24).
“And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (1 Th.4:11-12).
We said first of all that Solomon concluded that peoples drive to achieve is a gift from God but also a heavy grievous burden.
-2) Solomon concluded that people’s achievements are meaningless and do not fully satisfy—not permanently, and not eternally.
Verse 14 again says, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”
To describe this, he uses the phrase “vexation of spirit” which means “chasing after the wind.” Literally, this means feeding upon air. The term pictures people trying to catch something that cannot be caught, that has no substance and cannot be held in their hand. In their efforts to gain total satisfaction and fulfillment from achievements, people are sorely deceived, pursuing something that cannot be attained.
You see when people rely upon the fruits of their labor and their achievements to be their sole source of fulfillment in life, when they perform their work apart from God and His purpose under the sun, what they are chasing will always be just beyond their reach. True satisfaction in life is found in a relationship with God through Christ, and when that relationship permeates and guides every area of a person’s life, God adds the meaning.
We said first of all that Solomon concluded that peoples drive to achieve is a gift from God but also a heavy grievous burden, and that people’s achievements are meaningless and do not fully satisfy,
-3) Solomon also concluded that people’s efforts can neither correct all that is twisted on earth nor supply all that is lacking.
Look again at verse 15, “That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.”
In other words, no matter how long a person works nor how hard a person tries, it is never enough. Many things cannot be changed. Others are beyond human control. No individual can fix everything that is broken nor right every wrong. No one can meet every need. Solomon even said that the needs of this earth and of the people living on it were beyond number. They could not even be counted!
It’s easy to understand Solomon’s conclusion when his position is considered. He was responsible for the entire nation of Israel. The burden of leadership, especially at the highest level of an organization, is great. Whether a person is the owner or chief executive of a business, the pastor of a church, or the head of a government, the pressures of the top position can be overwhelming. Solomon realized that no matter how hard he worked, he could never solve all the problems of his kingdom. Regardless of how much trade and construction he brought to Israel, he could never meet every person’s need.
-Thought 1. Like Solomon, we too can easily be overwhelmed and discouraged by all that needs to be done. We tend to think that we can never catch up, much less get ahead, and that our work will never be finished. A lesson exists for us in an old joke that asks, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is, “One bite at a time!” Simply said, big jobs are accomplished through numerous small steps.
We may also become discouraged by thinking that we cannot make a difference. It is true that we cannot solve every problem; we cannot help everybody; we cannot meet every need. But we must remember that God has neither called nor commanded us to do so. Nevertheless, every problem we solve, every person we help, and every need we meet does make a difference!
Story: A young boy was walking along the beach one day, picking up starfish that had washed ashore and returning them to the water. As far as he could see, he spotted starfish that would soon perish. A man passing by observed him and said, “Son, there are too many starfish for you to save; you are wasting your time. You’re not making a difference.” The boy picked up another starfish, cast it back into the sea, looked at the man, and said, “It made a difference to him!”
No matter how hard or how long we work, there is always more to be done. No matter how much we achieve or how much we accomplish, it is never enough. All of the success in the world lacks the substance to satisfy our longing, empty souls; it is like filling a hole with air. Indeed, human achievements will always fail to fully satisfy the human heart. Only Jesus has the substance to satisfy the soul.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Mt.5:6).
-Thought 2. At some point after Solomon became king, perhaps as he began to taste the fruits of popularity, power, and pleasures, his life ceased being about serving God and fulfilling His will. Instead, it became about pleasing himself and his own selfish desires. The focus of his life shifted to the things listed in chapters one and two: the accumulation of knowledge, the accumulation of possessions, and indulgence in the carnal pleasures of wine, women, and song.
When anybody, especially a child of God, lives as Solomon lived, the individual will inevitably reach the same conclusion Solomon reached: life is empty and pointless. Solomon’s statements are not true, however, when a person spends his or her life in obedience to God and in following His will. Sadly, they are always true of a person who spends his or her life outside of God’s Word, will, and commandments.
-Thought 3. Beware of defining success by the world’s standards. Success is defined as finding God’s will and doing it. This is what God values, and this is the standard by which God deems a person to be either a success or a failure. God is interested in one thing and one thing only: our obedience to His Word. He has prescribed for each of us a course or a race to run. Following God’s path is to be our chief goal in life. If we stay on course, God will judge us to be a success and reward us at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
“Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (Jn.4:34).
“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Ac.20:24).
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Ti.4:7-8).
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Jos.1:8).
We said first of all that Solomon concluded that peoples drive to achieve is a gift from God but also a heavy grievous burden, that people’s achievements are meaningless and do not fully satisfy, and that people’s efforts can neither correct or supply all that is lacking on earth,
#4) Wisdom fails to fully satisfy the human heart.
Look again with me at Ecclesiastes 1:16-18, “I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.”
After finding nothing that lasted or fully satisfied in a multitude of achievements, Solomon devoted himself to a second area of study and research which was,
-Solomon pursued wisdom.
Solomon’s study of “all that is done under heaven” significantly increased his intellect and understanding. His extraordinary wisdom was a gift from God, but he indicated that his wisdom had grown and increased as he exercised his mind through study and application.
God gave Solomon a wise and understanding heart, and Solomon studied and gained as much knowledge as possible. Simply put, he educated himself. Knowledge is the accumulation and understanding of information. Wisdom is the ability and good sense to discern and apply the knowledge gained. Solomon fully committed himself to learning everything he could, and his intellectual pursuit became his passion in life. As a result, he attained an unparalleled status in several areas,
-Solomon became wiser than any king who had ruled in Jerusalem before him. (v.16) Though he was only the third king of Israel, the future would later prove that he was wiser than the kings who succeeded him as well. He became thoroughly educated in all fields: the arts, sciences, literature, philosophy, languages, religion—in truth, all these and more. Solomon became the smartest man in the world! People came from all over the known world to hear his lectures and to be taught by him.
-Solomon sought to distinguish wisdom from foolishness. (v.17) He did so by trying to understand wisdom as well as “madness and folly.” (v.17) These words are used exclusively in the Old Testament by Solomon in Ecclesiastes. What did he mean by these terms?
-First, many but of course but not all of mankind’s ideas are absolutely absurd. Many of the results of human creativity and thinking are ridiculous and lacking in logic and common sense.
-Second, much of what people invent and produce is lacking in true purpose and value.
-Third, much of what people pursue and spend their time on is foolishness, unworthy of their time and effort. A person does not have to look beyond the course listings of many major universities to agree with Solomon on this point.
-The conclusion of Solomon’s search for wisdom.
Look again with me at Ecclesiastes 1:17-18, “And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.”
Solomon studied much that was worth learning and much that was not, and he learned how to distinguish between the two. But at the end of a lifetime of learning and education, notice carefully what the Teacher had to say:
-Pursuing wisdom was like chasing the wind. (v.17) Being the smartest man in the world did not mean a thing. It provided no true fulfillment in life. Just as with a lifetime of labor, it was like grasping for the wind or feeding upon air. Solomon looked at all of his degrees, all of his education, all of his books, and all of his writings, and they were ultimately meaningless and unsatisfying. Think of this pitiful scene, here was a man who literally had the world bowing at his feet. He had the admiration of the rest of the world’s kings and their subjects. He was esteemed by all of the world’s scholars and their students. They came to him and offered great sums of money and treasure for a moment of his time. The rich, the powerful, and the great—all looked up to him and longed to learn from him. Nonetheless, this great genius and judge was empty inside. Knowledge and wisdom were great things and worthy to be gained, but they did not make Solomon completely whole. They did not bring him true and permanent satisfaction. They did not fill the longing of his soul.
-Solomon’s growth in wisdom and knowledge only increased his grief: he more fully grasped human pain, ignorance, and failure. (v.18) Tears and sleepless nights, no doubt, became more frequent as his wisdom grew. And he seemed to be saying in this verse, “It is not worth it.”
The very first quest of the human race for more knowledge ended in sorrow and pain. Satan promised Eve increased knowledge if she would disobey God’s command and eat of the tree that God had forbidden. (Ge.3:5) After eating, Eve gained knowledge, but it was a knowledge that she and all of her descendants in the human race would have been better off without! The point that the Teacher was trying to get across to his readers is just this: the gaining of knowledge in many ways makes a person’s life harder, not easier; sadder, not happier; emptier, not fuller.
Consider the sorrows that Solomon’s life brought to his learning:
-There was the sorrow of what he learned. Solomon became more aware of all that was unjust and wrong in his kingdom and in the world. The world was not entirely a pleasant place. It was a world cursed and controlled by sin. And sin brought trials, pain, suffering, and death to every family. He was happier when he was unaware of the conditions in which many people lived. He was happier when he could not see the lives that were suffering, the homes that were falling apart, and the hearts that were breaking. An awareness of the pain and suffering of others had a profound effect on Solomon.
-There was the sorrow of what he could not do. Despite all of his knowledge, Solomon could not solve all of the world’s problems. He did not have all the answers. He could not fix everything that was broken; he could not meet every need. All of his knowledge was insufficient to address many of the problems of which he became aware. The inability to do so brought a grief of its own.
-There was the sorrow brought by the responsibilities of knowledge. People turned to him for answers, and at times his answers brought painful results. People expected him to understand and resolve all the problems they brought to him, and this was a burden in itself. Because of his genius and wisdom, he was weighed down by people’s expectations. He arose each morning dreading what might be brought to him that day. With knowledge came responsibility; this too was a heavy burden.
-There was the sorrow of what he did not and could not know. Some things are simply beyond explanation and understanding. A person can never exhaust every subject. In fact, the more a person learns, the more he or she realizes there are many things that no person can ever know or understand. God has not revealed everything to us, and His ways are higher than those of His created beings. (Isa. 55:8-9) Many things are beyond our complete understanding, even among the smartest and wisest of the human race. No person and no group of people can ever achieve God’s level of wisdom and understanding. Human beings will never become omniscient, all-knowing.
-There was the sorrow that knowledge and learning are not enough. Having all the answers is not the answer to man’s deepest need. It was only after all of his time and labor had been invested in learning that Solomon realized this. And though he gained much because of his education, it was not what he had hoped to gain. He did not find what he was looking for. The countless hours spent in the pursuit of knowledge were gone. He could not reclaim the hours to live life over again and to pursue something else. He was now advanced in years and could not go back to relive the wasted years. His time was almost up. His head was full…but his heart was empty.
Thought 1. Though knowledge brings sorrow and grief, we are wise to face up to life’s problems. Knowledge of the problems of life should lead us to Christ. The fact is though that some people will not let themselves feel the sting of serious introspection. They do not want to threaten their sense of well-being. To escape they may bury themselves in work, or become busy with a thousand special interests. They may lose themselves in the madness of the pleasure-seeking crowd, or relentlessly drive toward the attainment of wealth or fame. Or, they may dodge reflective thinking by taking drugs, participating in occult practices, or devoting themselves to a manmade religion.
All of these are ways contemporary people sidestep the painful confrontations with the unpleasant realities of human existence. Though they may escape it temporarily, they will never find true peace with God.
Some people believe happiness is found in knowledge, in higher education and much learning. Some believe that bettering themselves intellectually will make them happier and more fulfilled. Others find an element of vain, prideful joy in feeling smarter than others. Still others feel that education is an end in itself. While these are all true to a certain extent, Solomon ultimately proved that wisdom and knowledge fail to fully satisfy the human heart. They cannot take God’s place. Only He can bring total satisfaction, fulfillment, and meaning to life.
No better proof exists than the unhappy, miserable man revealed here in Ecclesiastes: Solomon was a man who had everything but gained nothing.
-Thought 2. God’s revelation of information to man has been progressive through the ages. In fact, God revealed to Daniel that as the end time approached, knowledge would increase. (Daniel 12:4) We now live in a time when man has greater knowledge than ever before. During the twentieth century, man’s knowledge increased at a rate never before seen. The human race learned, achieved, and advanced technologically more in one hundred years than it had in all the years of previous existence. The knowledge of the human race has grown, but most people have wandered further and further away from God. The most educated and brilliant individuals are often the furthest from God.
Dr. Henry Morris said, “The world is swarming with Ph.D’s and publications in science, philosophy, and almost every field imaginable, but almost entirely without thought of God and His purposes for these fields.” Romans 1:20 tells us that God has revealed Himself through the science of creation, and people’s increased knowledge of these things should direct them to God. Instead, in our advancing world, we see Ro.1:21-22 coming to pass, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
How tragic that people ignore and deny the hand of God in creation—clear evidence that God truly exists. How sad that they interpret creation in such a way that it drives them further away from God, the only One who can bring true meaning and total satisfaction to life.
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Ro.11:33).
-Thought 3. Though Solomon’s quest for wisdom and knowledge did not bring to his life the deep meaning he was searching for, he did well to expand and develop this gift. God has also given each of us abilities and gifts to enable us to be productive in this life, and they are to be used for His service and glory.
We said first of all that Solomon concluded that peoples drive to achieve is a gift from God but also a heavy grievous burden, that people’s achievements are meaningless and do not fully satisfy, that people’s efforts can neither correct or supply all that is lacking on earth, and that wisdom fails to fully satisfy the human heart,
#5) Pleasure fails to fully satisfy the human heart.
Ecclesiastes 2:1-3 says, “I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.”
In chapter two of Ecclesiastes, the light shines more directly on Solomon’s purpose for this great study of his life, the search for satisfaction in the human heart, for fulfillment in the human soul. By this time, Solomon was a king, author, songwriter, lecturer, politician, military strategist, and economist, but also a botanist, horticulturalist, zoologist, and biologist. Generally speaking, the realm of academics is divided into the arts and the sciences, and Solomon was a master of both.
Even so, the greatest study of his intellectual career was the study and pursuit of what could bring total satisfaction to the human heart. This ultimate quest would give mankind the answer to life’s most difficult question, namely what is the secret to true joy and to total and permanent satisfaction in life? The crowning achievement of Solomon’s life would be to find the answer to this question. It was his mission to discover the elusive treasure of happiness. It is the same quest—the same search—that obsesses people throughout the world today.
Solomon had expected the hunt to begin and end with wisdom. After all, wisdom was what he and many others in the world valued most. God offered him whatever he wanted and the newly-crowned king requested wisdom.
When the knowledge of everything under the sun left the hole in Solomon’s heart unfilled, he quickly resumed his search. This next research would require much experimentation, so Solomon declared he would do the testing on himself. He would indulge in every type of pleasure known to man.
William McDonald defines pleasure as “the enjoyable sensations that come from the gratification of personal desires.” The Hebrew word pleasure is often translated as gladness or joy. It must be understood; however, that pleasure is an emotional, sensual joy that is too often the product of satisfying the old sinful nature apart from God. It is not the joy of the soul that is the product of a person’s relationship with God.
When looking at the subject of pleasure, it is important to view it from the right perspective. God, “who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17), is the author and designer of pleasure. In other words, He wants people to enjoy themselves, to take joy in the things He has created and blessed them with. Let’s stop and look at a few things here:
-a. Solomon’s conclusion: Pleasure proved meaningless—not satisfying, lasting, or enduring.
Look again with me at verse one again, “I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.” Sadly, Solomon discovered that pleasure—like wisdom—proved meaningless. The sensations of pleasure did not wholly satisfy, last, or endure for any length of time.
Solomon found that laughter and pleasure could fill a person’s heart, but only temporarily. When a person is in the midst of an enjoyable experience, it is very satisfying. Unfortunately, the thrill drains away as quickly as it arises. It provides nothing that lasts. A person must continue to seek out more sources of enjoyment because pleasure cannot repair the hole in the human soul; it can only patch it temporarily. Solomon experienced temporary satisfaction from all kinds of pleasure, but quickly found that pleasure was not something that could give genuine, lasting fulfillment in life.
-b. Solomon sought pleasure. Look with me again at verses 2-3 and notice where Solomon turned for pleasure. “I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.”
Two things here,
-1) Solomon went in search of entertainment, which in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. But Solomon soon learned some hard lessons about it. When Solomon said it was foolish, he used a word that is quite surprising. That word is halal. Its meaning is determined by whatever it describes. For instance, when used with something that is unworthy, as it is here with pleasure, it means to boast foolishly, or to make a show of. Solomon discovered the truth about pleasure and entertainment, which is that the fleshly fulfillment ends and its enjoyment quickly wears off, leaving behind only the desire for more.
He then asks a rhetorical question, “What does pleasure accomplish or what doeth it?” The answer to that question is, “nothing of permanent value.” It produces no lasting satisfaction, and he realized that he was foolish for devoting himself to it.
-2) Secondly, Solomon also experimented by indulging in wine. The king fell for one of Satan’s oldest, most enslaving tricks; believing pleasure can be enhanced with the help of substances, such as alcohol or drugs. Notice what Solomon hoped wine would do,
-Solomon expected wine to make him feel better, to cheer him up, to help him forget his problems. Remember, with his increased knowledge came increased sorrow. Like others throughout the ages, Solomon hoped to drown his sorrows.
-Solomon tried to actually embrace folly—a foolish, frivolous, lifestyle through drunkenness and sensual indulgence. He did not want to easily give up on the pursuit of pleasure, the possibility that pleasure could bring the fulfillment he craved. Therefore, he sought to enhance pleasure with a substance. Solomon made a surprising statement, he said that while he was embracing wine and indulging in fleshly pleasure, he was being guided by his wisdom. This wisest of men, however, was deceiving himself; he was too self-confident. Scripture warns us in I Corinthians 10:12, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
Solomon was so confident in his power to resist temptation that he did not consider the possibility that his flesh might overpower his mind and will. He ignored his very own warnings in the proverbs and felt justified in his actions because he had a purpose for indulging in what was displeasing and disobedient to God.
He wrote in Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” And he wrote in Proverbs 23:20-21, “Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.” And also Proverbs 31:4-5, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.”
But Solomon wanted to see what was good or worthwhile for people to do. Tragically, millions have fallen into the trap of alcohol or substance abuse because, like Solomon, they wanted to see if wine could enhance the pleasure of their lives. After all, a person’s days on earth are few; therefore, he or she should spend them on whatever adds the most pleasure to them. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. (Luke 12:19)
Obviously, Solomon discovered that wine did not hold the key to satisfaction in life. It did not solve life’s problems; it only numbed the pain, enabling him to forget his problems for a brief moment. Knowledge and wisdom had failed to provide the satisfaction he so desperately sought. Pleasure had also failed to fill the hole in Solomon’s soul. And it won’t for you either.
Still, he would not give up the search. There was far more to explore, so the king determined to move on to the next item on his list.
-Thought 1. Pleasure is a powerful, powerful thing! The number of people who have fallen in pursuit of it is immeasurable. And, tragically, even among ministers this is true: some men of God have sacrificed everything of value on the altar of pleasure. Beware of it, preacher! Beware of it, believer! Pleasure is a poisonous potion; indeed, it is sweet to the taste, but it is deadly in its effect. God’s Word tells us there is pleasure in sin for a season, but in the end it brings forth death:
“Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder” (Pr.23:29-32).
“Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children: But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments. For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me. Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know” (Isa. 47:8-11).
-Thought 2. As we draw closer and closer to the coming of Christ, people’s appetite for entertainment will rage more out of control. The craving for amusement is, for many, the driving force of life; and the amount of money spent on such pursuits is staggering. Sports, movies, music, games, television, and other entertainment industries are among the most profitable in society. Furthermore, the idols of far too many people are the celebrities who have gained their fame in less than reputable ways.
Again, remember that entertainment in and of itself is not a bad thing. God designed us with a need for leisure, recreation, and entertainment; and He designed these to provide us with their enjoyment. As with all things, however, entertainment must be kept in its place and not be allowed to grow out of control.
Entertainment is a powerful, effective drug. It soothes the pains of life in a sin-cursed world. It provides much-needed relief from the toils, stresses, and pressures of life. Then again, like many medications that are so effective, various forms of entertainment can be extremely addictive and must be taken in moderation. There are compelling reasons why and they are,
-God did not design people for a life of entertainment. He designed them for a life of productivity. God expects people to work six days a week and to play and relax one day—not vice versa.
-Entertainment can be addictive. It leads only to the desire for more entertainment. The effect of entertainment diminishes with its overuse. It takes more and more to satisfy a person over time.
-Entertainment produces little, if anything, of eternal value. God designed entertainment to give a break from our daily duties so we can be refreshed and return to our work with renewed vigor. God designed entertainment to enable people to continue laboring for what is eternally significant as well as for what is temporarily necessary. Entertainment may serve as a salve for a person’s soul, but it is not a cure for the soul’s diseases.
-Thought 3. Jesus Christ shows us how to enjoy the pleasures of life. People of Christ’s day were attracted to Him—like iron is attracted to a magnet—for a reason. There was something different about Him, yet there was something ordinary about Him as well. Jesus enjoyed life; He laughed, teased, and injected humor into His teaching. He radiated the abundant life that He came to impart to us all. Every day for thirty-three years, He showed us that it is possible to enjoy life to the fullest without diving into the depths of the sea of sin.
God wants us to enjoy life, but only within the limitations of His Word. And life can be enjoyed within those boundaries. It is not necessary to climb over the fence into the playground of sin in order to have a good time. The fences God builds around the Christian’s backyard are not to confine and keep us from enjoying what is on the outside. Rather, they are to protect us from experiencing the dangers that lie beyond—outside of God’s will. We are truly and only free when we stay within the bounds of God’s commandments.
The great obedient follower of God’s Word who authored the 119th Psalm recognized this in Psalm 119:45 where he said, “And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.” When we disobey God’s Word to experience pleasure and enjoyment, the laughter we find endures only for the night. When morning comes, our laughter turns to tears that flow for many sorrowful days.
We should never experiment with anything that God commands us to avoid. Solomon seemed to rationalize that his indulgence in wine was acceptable because it was for a good reason. Satan is a master at helping us to deceive ourselves. When we do the things God forbids, we are most unwise. The only way to guarantee that we will never become addicted to sinful behavior—whether immorality, substance abuse, alcohol, or any other evil, is never to take the first step. As God’s Word says we should, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thess. 5:22).
We said first of all that Solomon concluded that peoples drive to achieve is a gift from God but also a heavy grievous burden, that people’s achievements are meaningless and do not fully satisfy, that people’s efforts can neither correct or supply all that is lacking on earth, that wisdom fails to fully satisfy the human heart, and pleasure also fails to fully satisfy the human heart.
#6) Earthly pursuits fail to fully satisfy the human heart.
After proving that success, wisdom, and pleasure provided no lasting satisfaction, Solomon proceeded to test a list of earthly pursuits for meaning in life. It is a long, impressive list, and it is difficult for most people to imagine the life of wealth, luxury, and power Solomon lived. Would an empire unparalleled by any in his day bring the fulfillment he so earnestly, desperately sought? Let’s look at a few things here,
-a. The pursuits. (12 mentioned)
Look with me at Ecclesiastes 2:4-10, “I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.”
These verses could well be labeled “Solomon’s resume.” They describe the pursuits and the accomplishments that defined his success. Several things here that he pursued,
-1) Solomon pursued satisfaction and fulfillment through great building projects. One of the strongest words Solomon had available to him was great (meaning enlarged, exceeding, and magnified), though it fell short of adequately describing his building projects. “Solomon’s metropolis must have been the wonder of the world.” People from all walks of life, including royalty, traveled to Jerusalem to see the grandeur of Solomon’s sparkling city. The great structures he erected propelled his city beyond Babylon as the premier destination of the world, all of it testifying to her king’s wealth, genius, imagination, and architectural talents. In the midst of the city was the glorious temple, bought and paid for in advance by his father, David. To refer to these dwellings as houses is a great understatement. No expense was spared. All existing extremes in extravagance were surpassed by the magnificence of Solomon’s mansions.
-2) Solomon also sought satisfaction and fulfillment through great public works programs and services. Grand houses require glorious grounds. Throughout the city, Solomon built public parks and planted gardens and vineyards. No doubt, he surrounded his palaces with vineyards that produced only the finest grapes for the finest wines. Beautifully landscaped parks and gardens flaunted Solomon’s brilliance in horticulture and botany. Perhaps new and exotic varieties of flowers were produced and displayed, with their sweet-smelling fragrances filling the air. The sweetest and juiciest fruit in the region grew on the trees scattered throughout Solomon’s parks. They were savored by both the kings and the commoners who relaxed in the shade of their branches. All of it contributed to the lofty reputation of Solomon, the preacher of “the gospel of selfishness,” who built it all for himself.
Though these public works and services were supposedly built for the enjoyment of the public, Solomon’s true motive was to increase his popularity, influence, and prestige on the larger stage of the world. As the great king looked out upon it all from the balcony of his palatial suite, as he took it all in and basked in the fact that he had built it, as he listened to the praises of the people below…it was not enough. His great building projects, as spectacular as they were, failed to satisfy his heart. His public works and services, enjoyed by the masses, left him empty inside.
-3) Such great structures required great systems to sustain them. New frontiers in technology were pioneered to deliver water to the public parks and gardens. Solomon designed and implemented irrigation systems and techniques that are still used today. Aqueducts and ponds retained water, and canals and ditches carried it to the orchards and gardens. Despite everything, though, the accomplishments that resulted from his engineering expertise like everything else he tried, ultimately failed to fulfill him.
-4) The buildings and grounds of Solomon’s extensive facilities required a staff of thousands to build and maintain. God’s Word tells of the construction crews that the king drafted to build his empire,
I Kings 5:13-16 says, “And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand men. And he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month by courses: a month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home: and Adoniram was over the levy. And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand that bare burdens, and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountains; Beside the chief of Solomon's officers which were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, which ruled over the people that wrought in the work”
-5) Solomon also sought fulfillment by increasing his property holdings, including his farms and ranches. Farming was part of his heritage: his grandfather was a farmer and his father received his start in life as a shepherd. Solomon needed thousands of acres for his farms and ranches because he had a lot of mouths to feed. He had seven hundred wives, three hundred concubines, hundreds of servants…and the list goes on and on.
In 1 Kings 4:22-23, the Scripture reveals how much food was required for Solomon’s kingdom every day, “And Solomon's provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal, Ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, beside harts, and roebucks, and fallow deer, and fatted fowl.”
The Teacher’s shrewd business mind reasoned, “Why buy food from others when I can raise it myself?” For this reason, he built the largest working farm the world had ever seen. But even then, as he rode over his massive estate—perhaps some days in a chariot and others on horseback— he longed for something more.
-6) Solomon sought satisfaction and fulfillment by amassing enormous wealth. Obviously, a great deal of cash was required to sustain such an empire. Probably out of necessity in the early days, Solomon entered what is known today as the world of financial markets. And, soon thereafter, his investments began to produce. The farms, the facilities, and the attractions that filled them, the industry and agriculture required to sustain it—all of it worked together to produce huge profits. In addition to the taxes Solomon collected from his kingdom, the rich rulers and officials of other countries also contributed in order to maintain good relations with him.
Thus far, no amount of projects, holdings, houses, inventions, or power had met the deep need in Solomon’s heart. Therefore, he continued with his experiment, hoping against hope that something or someone would finally show him how to secure the real purpose for living.
-7) Solomon added to the glories of his empire the finest cultural programs in music and the arts.
Matthew Henry describes it well,
“He had everything that was charming and diverting, all sorts of melody and music, vocal and instrumental, men-singers and women-singers, the best voices he could pick up, and all the wind and band-instruments that were then in use. His father had a genius for music, but it should seem he employed it more to serve his devotion than the son, who made it more for his diversion.”
-8) Solomon sought satisfaction where so many seek it—through unrestricted sexual relations. He satisfied his flesh with one thousand of the world’s most beautiful women, 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of them princesses of royal blood. All of these women were at his beck and call. The king obviously had a terrible weakness for women, but any hopes he had of finding true fulfillment or lasting satisfaction with any of them were dashed when he first violated God’s commands regarding marriage to one woman.
-9) Solomon sought satisfaction through fame, honor, and a sense of being great in the eyes of the world. Because of all the above, he was universally acknowledged as the greatest man in world history up until and including his time. Solomon was the name uttered most frequently and famously by the greatest and the least throughout the world. But being known, admired, respected, and revered around the world could not bring lasting satisfaction to the great king’s soul.
Again, note how Solomon was careful to stress that in all of these things he did not betray his wisdom. He was convinced that he had acted wisely in everything he did, that he had never yielded to any of the entrapments of his many successes. He maintained that everything was simply a part of his great experiment to discover the true meaning and purpose of life.
-10) Solomon accumulated countless possessions. He never said “No” to anything he wanted, and he indulged in all that the lust of the eyes could see.
-11) Solomon again confessed to indulging in unrestricted pleasure in verse 10b. He never said “No” to his fleshly desires and lusts.
-12) Solomon’s work was the delight of his heart. He took pride in every one of his achievements and accomplishments. He immersed himself fully in the pride of life, boasting of what he had and did.
Oh, to have been Solomon! No doubt, nearly everybody in Solomon’s day and time yearned to trade places with him. A person could only dream of having all that Solomon possessed. There was nothing more he could buy that he did not already own. No pleasure remained that he had not yielded to or gotten gratification from. No person on earth was greater than he. Surely, such a man must be the happiest person in the world! Tragically, this was not the case.
b. The conclusion: Of All twelve mentioned pursuits.
Look with me at Ecclesiastes 2:11, “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”
Solomon’s conclusion to his experimentation was shocking then and is still hard for many to believe today. It was,
-1) Solomon concluded that all of his pursuits were meaningless. None of the things that he did or possessed or experienced fully satisfied him. Individually, they did not satisfy. Not a single one of them brought true joy, lasting fulfillment, or real meaning to life. Most people would wish for just one or two items on the list of Solomon’s achievements, possessions, or pleasures, but the Teacher wanted his readers to know that not a single one of them furnished anything that was genuinely fulfilling.
He even declared that having all of them was futile. They could not fully satisfy individually, nor could they satisfy collectively. Having it all meant nothing because God was not at the center of Solomon’s life. The wise king said that having, doing, and being the best in the world was meaningless and empty apart from God.
-2) Solomon concluded that all of his pursuits were like chasing the wind. Again, the Teacher used this phrase, literally translated “feeding upon air.” He grasped everything within reach but held nothing. He devoured all that his appetites could crave but was constantly hungry. He drank incessantly from all of life’s waters but never quenched his thirst.
-3) Solomon concluded that all of his pursuits yielded nothing of permanent, eternal value. “There was no profit gained under the sun”—not in this world. The reason was clear, he was not trying to lay up any treasure in heaven; he was devoted only to finding fulfillment on earth. He sacrificed all that was eternally important to indulge in what was only temporarily fulfilling. He experienced everything but gained nothing.
At the end of his life, he had nothing of lasting value to show for all he had owned, done, and been. His testimony was, “The world is passing away and the lust thereof…but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). A person does not need possessions, pleasures, power, or prestige—a person needs God.
-Thought 1. Imagine all the constraints tugging at Solomon’s time on any given day of his life. How could he possibly manage time for all the things mentioned? At the expense of indulging his every whim and of building and managing his empire, Solomon sacrificed his relationship with the Lord.
Through the generations, multitudes of us have fallen into the same trap Solomon did. We focus far more on the things under the sun than above it. Far too often, God is lost in the shuffle as we try to handle and schedule the demands made upon us.
We must learn to live as Jesus admonished us in the book of Matthew. We worry too much about what we will eat, what we will drink, and what we will wear—those things pertaining only to life under the sun. Jesus told us the key to having all these things in Matthew 6:32-33 where He said, “For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Our first priority should be the things of God. When we put Him first, He promises to provide the things that we need. He also promises to give us the desires of our heart. We should be focused on the things of God, not the things of the world.
When He is our top priority, God promises to take care of the rest—and in Him we find the greatest treasure of all: the true meaning, satisfaction, and fulfillment that we all desperately seek.
“And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).
“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (I Tim 6:9).
“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17).
“And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Deut 6:10-12).
We said first of all that Solomon concluded that peoples drive to achieve is a gift from God but also a heavy grievous burden, that people’s achievements are meaningless and do not fully satisfy, that people’s efforts can neither correct or supply all that is lacking on earth, that wisdom fails to fully satisfy the human heart, and pleasure also fails to fully satisfy the human heart, earthly pursuits fail to fully satisfy the human heart, and
#7) A wise, moral lifestyle fails to fully satisfy the human heart.
Read with me Ecclesiastes 2:12-17, “And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done. Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness. The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all. Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool forever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”
At this point in his research, Solomon took a step back, re-evaluated what he had done so far, and considered the possibility that he had taken the wrong approach in his life. Subsequently, he turned in a different direction, prepared to take another approach to finding the true meaning and satisfaction in life.
-a. Solomon had sought both wisdom and excessive indulgence (madness and folly).
No person could seek more passionately than he had. The king’s underlying question had been this, “Does the person who lives a wise, moral life gain anything in the end over the person who lives foolishly and irresponsibly in sin?”
As has been seen, the king had determined to weigh the advantages of a virtuous life over a life of folly. One thing was certain: whoever succeeded him could not be any more dedicated to the cause than he had been; nor could that person add anything to what he had already done.
Perhaps, then, the true meaning of life and the path to full satisfaction were not found in what a person had or achieved but in how a person lived. With this in mind, Solomon now devoted himself to finding out if living wisely, rather than foolishly, was the secret to lasting fulfillment.
-b. Solomon’s conclusions. The king’s findings were conflicting.
-The way of wisdom is better than foolish indulgence. To live wisely and virtuously is definitely better, Solomon surmised, than to indulge in foolishness and frivolity. People can spare themselves many problems and much heartache by simply exercising good common sense and following the moral compass God has placed within them.
The wise person guards his eyes and is able to see this truth. On the other hand, the foolish person is blind to this obvious reality. The difference is as clear as night and day. The wise person sees and walks in the light, living a moral life. The fool is blind and walks in darkness. This person lives in the dark world of sin and shame. He or she is sure to stumble and fall, sure to get hurt and to hurt others.
-The fate of death, however, overtakes the wise as well as the foolish. For the first time in this message, the Teacher mentions a subject obviously weighing heavily on his mind, namely, death. The person who lives virtuously is facing the same fate as the person who lives foolishly. Death is going to happen to both.
At this point in Solomon’s life, he could see that the end was close. It would not be long before death would catch up to him and take him. Hence, he reasoned that in the end there was nothing permanent gained by living morally rather than immorally; both the wise man and the foolish man die. In view or that, death makes the pursuit of wisdom meaningless, not fully satisfying, lasting, or enduring. The factor of death rules out wise, virtuous living as the key to lasting fulfillment and significance. Death means that the wise person, like the fool, will soon be forgotten. Both are going to die and, in time, nobody will remember who they are or how they lived.
-The certainty of death can make a person hate life and make his or her work distressing. Look at the shocking statement that came from the pen of the world’s richest, most powerful, most successful man. He states, “I hated life!”
Everything Solomon had accumulated and accomplished in his life on earth—his possessions, his masterful projects, his indulgences, his fame—was grievous to him. He hated life because it was going to end in death, and death was going to rob him of all he had worked for and lived for. He felt life was betraying him by leading him to death. Solomon could not enjoy the fruits of his labors because death was coming and all that he had accomplished would be forgotten and left behind.
-The fact of death makes life meaningless. Here again are the terms Solomon used so many times, Vanity and vexation of spirit. These occur again and again for emphasis. The Teacher knew that he had to drive home the point that life apart from God is empty, futile, and leaves nothing of lasting or eternal significance. The prospect of impending death made it even truer.
-Thought 1. Every choice and every decision have natural, unalterable consequences. Look carefully at what God’s Word says:
“For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7-8).
We reap what we sow. Solomon was right when he said it is better to live wisely and morally than it is to live foolishly. Though the blood of Christ washes away our sins, the natural consequences of sin remain to be reaped throughout our lives. The book of Mark tells us about a maniac who lived among the tombs and cut himself with stones in chapter five. This man was demon-possessed and could not even be constrained with chains. But this pitiful man was destined for better things. He had the very good fortune of meeting Jesus one day, who released his evil spirits and set him free. The Maniac of Gadara was a changed, forgiven man after he met Jesus, but for the rest of his life he still bore the scars from having lived under Satan’s influence. We must not ignore the wages of sin. Even for believers, sin has consequences. Though Christ paid the price for man’s sin at Calvary, sin’s painful scars must still be borne here on earth.
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom 5:12).
“For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim 4:8).
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
“For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others” (Psalm 49:10).
“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold” (Prov 3:13-14).
We said first of all that Solomon concluded that peoples drive to achieve is a gift from God but also a heavy grievous burden, that people’s achievements are meaningless and do not fully satisfy, that people’s efforts can neither correct or supply all that is lacking on earth, that wisdom fails to fully satisfy the human heart, and pleasure also fails to fully satisfy the human heart, earthly pursuits fail to fully satisfy the human heart, a wise, moral lifestyle fails to fully satisfy the human heart, and
#8) Hard work and wealth fail to fully satisfy the human heart.
Ecclesiastes 2:18-23, “Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity. Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun. For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil. For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun? For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.”
Solomon’s focus next shifted to his work, to the personal effort, time, and energy he had devoted to his kingdom. When reflecting on Solomon’s amazing accomplishments and achievements, one thing is clear, he was not a lazy man. He most likely labored continuously to oversee all that was under his authority, including the building projects. Now, he considered the personal investment it had required of him to accomplish it. The bitterness of it all flowed from his heart to his pen as he wrote, “I hated all the things I had toiled for.” First, he expressed his hatred for life; now, he was declaring his hatred for all the things he had worked for. He viewed his lifetime of labor as miserable and empty. It meant nothing to him and he despised it. Notice the three main reasons for Solomon’s hatred,
-Reason 1: Because a person’s success and wealth must be left to others. Solomon despised the fruits of his labor because it would all be left to others after his death. Everything Solomon had labored for—all of the houses, the land, the farms and ranches, the livestock, the public works, the orchards, the gardens, and even his kingdom—would be left behind for someone else to receive.
Even worse, the person who received it could be a scoundrel or a fool. The author uses the terms wise man and fool to help the reader grasp what a dire fear this was for Solomon, and what a horrible tragedy it would be. A person who was blind to simple common sense and who walked in the darkness of stupidity and folly could very well succeed Solomon.
This foolish successor would control everything Solomon poured his energy and life into and all he had achieved and gained. Solomon painfully realized that if such a fool were to follow him as king, all of his efforts—the good he had done and all the wise decisions he had made—would be for nothing. Such a person would squander and ultimately lose what his predecessor had gained through hard work and smart decisions. It made all that he had labored for meaningless, empty, and vain.
-Reason 2: Because a person’s work and wealth are meaningless and can cause despair: They do not fully satisfy a person’s heart.
The thought of all of this was more than Solomon could bear. It wore heavy on his mind day and night. He could not escape it, and it led him to despair. The word means despondency and hopelessness to the point of taking desperate action to escape it. Could it be that Solomon had contemplated taking his own life because of this? Not likely, for Ecclesiastes bears out that he wanted to do everything he could to avoid death. Nonetheless, desperation over what would become of his kingdom plagued the king incessantly.
-Reason 3: Because a person’s estate—secured by hard work and skill—may be left to the lazy or indulgent.
As Solomon looked beyond his lifetime and imagined the future of his estate, he was even further troubled by the thought that all that he had gained might be possessed by a lazy man who did not earn it. Solomon recognized that those who do not work for something do not value what they have like those who do. This reality affected his attitude toward his accomplishments and achievements.
The very fact that a lazy or indulgent person might receive all he had...
-Made work and wealth meaningless, unsatisfying, a real misfortune.
-Caused him to question why he should strive so anxiously and work so hard.
-Filled him with pain and grief and made him restless at night.
This was how Solomon felt at this point in his life. He lay awake in bed, fuming over a future beyond his control. Perhaps, he already foresaw what his son Rehoboam would do as his successor, for what he feared and despaired over indeed came to pass. In his old age, as he looked out upon his kingdom from his palatial terrace, as he rode through the countryside, as he walked through his gardens, as he examined his financial reports, as he inspected his troops, as he listened to the laughter of the people who lived in his kingdom with neither care nor fear—he could enjoy none of it. He was filled with despair over what would happen to it all after he was gone. It was all wasted, meaningless, and empty.
-Thought 1. As believers, we should be faithful stewards of everything God has entrusted to us. At the same time, we need to be wise in planning for what happens to our estates after we are gone. Still, the most important legacy a believer can leave behind is a spiritual one. Solomon knew that his son would be his successor. Yet, he failed to impart to his son what would make him a wise king. Solomon was so busy building his kingdom that he neglected to invest in his son those things that would guarantee the future success of his kingdom.
Solomon failed to walk with the Lord and, in doing so, he all but guaranteed that his son would not walk with the Lord either. The problems that ultimately led to Israel’s fall to the Assyrians and Babylonians began with Solomon. Perhaps the reason he despaired so much over what would become of his kingdom was just this, the realization of his failure to provide spiritual leadership for Israel’s future. Wise investments, good decisions, hard work—all of these are important; but without a spiritual foundation to sustain them, every man’s kingdom will eventually crumble and fall.
“And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:19-21).
“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim 6:9-10).
“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim 6:17).
We said first of all that Solomon concluded that peoples drive to achieve is a gift from God but also a heavy grievous burden, that people’s achievements are meaningless and do not fully satisfy, that people’s efforts can neither correct or supply all that is lacking on earth, that wisdom, pleasure, earthly pursuits, wisdom, hard work and wealth all fail to fully satisfy the human heart.
#9) The Conclusion: Trust God.
Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 says, “ There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I? For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.”
The Teacher closed out his message after reaching this extraordinary conclusion; Life is empty, meaningless, and unsatisfying apart from God. The only lasting satisfaction in life is found in God. The only thing of enduring value is a person’s relationship with God, and whatever is accomplished in life as the individual walks with God—under God’s guidance and leadership.
Listen to the counsel of the world’s wisest, richest, most accomplished, and most powerful man. Five things he says,
-Live day by day—eat and drink and enjoy what God gives you.
When you trust God, day-to-day life is enjoyable and has meaning. One commentator says that Solomon is not advocating “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” That is the philosophy of fatalism not faith. Rather, he is saying, “Thank God for what you do have, and enjoy it, to the glory of God.” Paul gave his approval to this attitude when he exhorted us to trust “In the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” (I Tim 6:17)
All that we have is from the hand of God. Solomon counseled the reader to be thankful for it, to give God glory for it, and to enjoy it! There is nothing better in life than what God gives—not riches, not power, not pleasure. In truth, nothing this world can offer is better than what God gives. Whether God gives little or much, a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction are found in the Giver, not the gifts.
-Find satisfaction in your work: Know that life and work are gifts from God. Solomon made a significant point, that it is possible to enjoy work and find satisfaction in it. God created people to work, and He created work to help people to find fulfillment. When people know the Lord and work as though they are working for the Lord Himself; they have a sense of fulfillment when the work day is done and when their lives are coming to a close. This capacity for work and the satisfaction in work are gifts from the hand of God. So are the ability and strength to work.
In essence, Solomon is saying there is nothing better than the ordinary things in life: eating, drinking, working, and, though not stated, spending time with family and friends. True happiness and satisfaction are not found in the extraordinary, not in excesses. The vast majority of people spend their lives in pursuit of newer, bigger, better, and more of everything. But these do not bring happiness. God has ordained that satisfaction and happiness are not found in the extraordinary but in the ordinary things of life. Solomon knew this best. He had all of the excesses known to man, yet he hated life.
-Know that God alone can fully satisfy the human heart.
The key to fullness of life—to finding the meaning of life—is found in the Lord. God and God alone can bring deep, abiding and eternal satisfaction to the human heart. Solomon asked an important question for all of us, “Apart from God, who can eat or find enjoyment?”
The answer is simple; nobody can—not enjoyment that lasts, that fully satisfies. Solomon tried it. He had everything imaginable under the sun, and he had everything opportunity under the sun, but he despised his life and was empty inside. The hole in his heart was just like the hole in every person’s heart; it could only be filled by God. God has designed it that way. He made us all incomplete without Him.
-Please (obey) God and know that God meets the needs of His followers.
True wisdom, true knowledge, and true joy are found only in pleasing God, in obeying Him and His commands. Throughout His Word, God has demonstrated this time and again. And Solomon re-emphasized it at the end of Ecclesiastes. He says in 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.”
For those individuals who live for Him and obey Him, God rewards them…
· with wisdom—the ability to discern and make the right choices and decisions
· with knowledge—the greatest knowledge of all is the knowledge of God Himself
· with joy—a true, abiding, inner joy, not happiness that is fleeting and contingent upon circumstances
-Finally, know that the sinner’s pursuit of wealth is meaningless—not fully satisfying, lasting, or enduring.
The individual who lives apart from God will never know true satisfaction or fulfillment. The pleasures and treasures of sin are only for a season. Without God, the sinner lives with only a false sense of peace and satisfaction. Even worse, he or she will spend eternity paying the harshest price for the sins that brought only temporary pleasure. Everything apart from God is pointless and wasted, chasing after the wind, grasping for what cannot be caught.
The very point Solomon was trying to convey is well worded by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 55:1-3, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.”
-Thought 1. Even mature believers can get caught up in the trap of materialism, working and living for the next pay raise, promotion, or purchase. We want to be recognized and rewarded for our efforts and achievements, and nothing is wrong with that. But all the while, we need to keep God’s face before us, asking ourselves if God is truly at the center of our lives.
If we are not sensing deep satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy, perhaps we have taken our eyes off of God and are living for ourselves.
Job 1:21 states it well. He says, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
A key question to ask ourselves is this: “Am I living for that which is eternal, or merely for the things of this world?” We need to ask the Holy Spirit to examine and speak to our hearts, and heed the message from the Teacher in these first two chapters of Ecclesiastes.