csibiblestudy


Ecclesiastes 1: What do I end up with with all I do?
April 10, 2012, 1:47 am
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

Understanding Ecclesiastes: Transforming a worthless life into a purpose fulfilled life.

Today, far too many Christians view God as an app, something that you can add on to our life, but not Someone who is a vital, living Lord, an authority in life with whom one can have a personal relationship.

Ecclesiastes is a collection of a man’s search for what fulfills the longing in his soul.  However, the knowledge is limited to the visible world, “under the sun”. The searcher doesn’t take into consideration revelation that comes from God; revelation that comes from beyond man’s ability to observe and reason.  It is man’s wisdom and as such, at times it records knowledge that is limited, “under the sun”.  It is an inspired book and accurately records what God wants us to know.

Since the book reports what people believe, it is very much up-to-date and relevant for today.  What Solomon discovered in his search, is what is seen in movies and television shows, and heard in the speeches of politicians.  We teach the message to our children and strive for it in our lives.  Ecclesiastes is practical and up-to-date.

Read Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 to find the author, the result of his search, and the purpose of the book.

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king ofJerusalem.  Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities:  all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun.  Ecclesiastes 1:1-3).

The book opens with this introduction:  “The words of the Preacher …”

It seems like a simple introduction, until you look at the background of the word, we have translated into English as “Preacher”.  To most of us, “preacher” is a term we use for our “pastor”.  Actually, they are two different concepts.  A preacher is someone who proclaims or “preaches”.  A preacher is simply one who tells a message.  A pastor is one who is called by God to be the “under-shepherd of a body of believers”.  His primary duties are to feed Christians the word of God, and to help them become mature servants, fulfilling their God-given purpose in life.  Yet the Hebrew word here, Qoheleth, really means the one who gathers, assembles, or collects things, so it goes beyond either of these.  Some translate the word as “debater”, “assembler”, or “teacher”.  It seems that a proper understanding of the word is one who assembles together wisdom that has been gathered and then teaches or proclaims the message to a group.  Solomon was seeking to know whether life lived apart from God could result in us fulfilling our purpose in life.

In the first verse, the writer is identified as (1) the Preacher, (2) the son of David, and (3) the king inJerusalem.  While David had several sons, and any of the descendants of David who ruled as king could be the writer, Solomon is evidently the author.

This book is the results of a search, and verse 2 gives those results: “Vanity of vanities”.  Vanity today has the concept of pride in appearance.  But in this book, it means, (1) “fleeting or temporary”, (2) empty, futility, meaningless, “the blahs”, or (3) unanswerable, or incomprehensible.  .

In his search for what satisfies, he has found that nothing “under the sun” in itself, will satisfy the longing of man’s soul.  No possession, no activity, no pleasure, no amount of wealth, no achievement, or no relationship had the ability to fill the void in an enduring way.  Man will attempt to live life according to a philosophical viewpoint that fulfillment in life comes from giving our lives over to the pursuit of something to bring satisfaction.  But the sad news, according to the writer of this book, is that nothing brings a lasting satisfaction.  Vanity of vanties, or emptiness of emptiness, is a Hebrew way of declaring the  Everyone has seized on one or another of these philosophies, these views of life, and tries to make it satisfy him or her. But according to this Searcher, who has gone through it all, nothing will work. When he says, Vanity of vanities, emptiness of emptiness, that is the Hebrew way of declaring the unparalleled truth, “there is nothing emptier than life”.

In verse 3 we have the question that he continually used in his search: What does man gain by all the effort at which he exerts under the sun? What is the “profit” of it to him? This is an interesting Hebrew word meaning, “that which is left over”. After the immediate pleasure, what is left over?  What remains to satisfy his greatest need, bringing fulfillment to life.

Questions to ponder in your life: 

Has our pursuit of possessions and fulfillment apart from God left us full or pessimistic?

Do we need to redirect our pursuit from a wholly different perspective?

Is there anything that will really minister continually to my need — that summum bonum, that highest good, which, if I find it, I do not need to look any further?

Is there a key to continual pleasure, delight and joy in life?

In answering the question of verse 3, “what advantage or gain do you get from all your activity?”, the Searcher turns to nature.  Verses 4-7 describes the sense of emptiness or lack of sense that nature brings into our life.

Read Ecclesiastes 1:4-7

One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth for ever.  The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.  The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.  All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.

The Searcher’s theme is stated in verse 4: Humanity is temporary, but nature is permanent.  A generation comes and a generation goes—the human race passes on from this life, comes into life, lives its term, and goes on—but the earth remains forever.

He has three proofs for this, the first of which is the circle of the sun. The sun rises in the east; runs across the heavens, apparently; and sets in the west. The next day, it all happens again.  This has been going on as long as time has been measured.

Then he speaks of the circuit of the winds. What is unusual about this information, is that there is no evidence that people in Solomon’s time understood that the wind, the clouds, and the great jet streams of earth run in circles. We know it because of satellites.  Solomon, the wisest man knew it, but the scientists of his day didn’t seem to understand it.

His third proof is the circuit of the evaporative cycle. Where does all the water that endlessly drops out of the sky come from? The answer, of course, is that it comes from the ocean. An invisible evaporative process is at work by which the water that runs into the sea never raises the level of the sea because there is an invisible raising of that water back up into the clouds. These clouds then move east by the circuit of the winds and drop their moisture again, and this goes on forever.

According to the Preacher, there was something wrong in this.  We should be permanent, and nature should be temporary.  Just as we begin to know how to handle life, it is over, and the next generation takes our place.

There is something wrong with this.  The Bible tells us that people were created to be the “crown” on creation and as such to have dominion.  The problem is sin.  That changed things.

Questions to ponder:

What is the value of striving to live longer, if life is meaningless?

In what ways do you see the effects of sin upon your physical body?

Ecclesiastes 1:8-18

8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. 11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 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. 14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. 15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. 16 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. 17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. 18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

Solomon’s proposal is:  All things are restless.

He offers two proofs.  First, human desire is never fulfilled.  The eye is never satisfied and the ear is never satisfied.  We always want more.  Guys will watch ESPN multiple times telling the same news and scores.

The Preacher proposal is that human desire is never satisfied because it is a consequence of the restlessness of life.

Second, we long to see or hear something NEW, but nothing NEW ever exists.  Life simply is a repeat of what happened before.  Life is the old, cleaned up and painted, but still old being played over and over.  There is nothing new under the sun.  Miracles don’t really take place, under the sun.

The cross and resurrection disprove this.  Jesus’ death was unique because God died.  The resurrection was unique because unlike the raising of the death before this, they all died again, but Jesus is alive forever.

Questions to Ponder: Is this all life is about?

Is it merely an empty pursuit of that which never satisfies?

Can no breakthrough be made whereby something can be found that will continually meet the hunger of the human heart, to give an unending sense of delight, satisfaction, and joy?

The Seeker’s Qualifications, Eccl. 1:12-18

12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 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. 14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. 15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. 16 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. 17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. 18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

Before the Preacher gives the details of his search, in Eccl. 2, he tells us why he is qualified to make this search.  His qualifications fall into two divisions, his position and his attentiveness.

  1.  His position
    1. He was a king, the highest authority in the land
    2. He was rich, so he could travel anywhere and check out anything
    3. He was wise, he had more ability to see the way life worked.  He got the big picture.

Take note of verse 13, “the sons of man”.  In Hebrew it is Adam.  So the reference is to the nature of man, not humanity.  This tells us that it is difficult for man to discover right answers because of his fallen nature.  Our understanding is damaged by the fall.

Furthermore, he was able to investigate even the opposites of things. “I have seen everything,” he says. Yet there were certain limitations inherent in that. That is what he quotes in a proverb, “What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be numbered.” It is difficult for man to discover the answers to life, because when he sees something wrong there is yet somehow an inbuilt difficulty that prevents him from correcting it. Have you ever felt, as I have, that when things go wrong in your family, although you long to put them right somehow you cannot get hold of it, you cannot make it right? “That which is crooked cannot be made straight.” One of the great frustrations of life is that no matter how hard you try there are some things you cannot set straight. Also, no matter how much you may discover, there is information you would long to have that you cannot find. “That which is lacking cannot be numbered.” That was this man’s problem.

Then he speaks of his attentiveness in verse 16:

He gave himself to discover, but the more he learned, the more he realized was wrong.

Questions to Ponder:

Did he find an answer?

Did he find that key to life that makes everything yield up its treasure of joy?

Understanding Ecclesiastes: Transforming a worthless life into a purpose fulfilled life.

Questions to ponder in your life: 

Has our pursuit of possessions and fulfillment apart from God left us full or pessimistic?

Do we need to redirect our pursuit from a wholly different perspective?

Is there anything that will really minister continually to my need — that summum bonum, that highest good, which, if I find it, I do not need to look any further?

Is there a key to continual pleasure, delight and joy in life?

What is the value of striving to live longer, if life is meaningless?

In what ways do you see the effects of sin upon your physical body?

Is this all life is about?

Is it merely an empty pursuit of that which never satisfies?

Can no breakthrough be made whereby something can be found that will continually meet the hunger of the human heart, to give an unending sense of delight, satisfaction, and joy?

Did he find an answer?

Did he find that key to life that makes everything yield up its treasure of joy?

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