Have you ever had that ephiphany moment? when suddenly you think, “What am I doing here?” / Or what’s this all about? / Monday morning comes around / New possibilities.
New opportunities / But then Monday morning rolls around again / More new possibilities / More new opportunities / And then after a while you start to realize that this is just a continuous cycle / This week is a repeat of last week / You start to question the meaning of life / Today we come to a book in the Bible where the author does that.
Looking at Ecclesiastes over the next 2 weeks, just to get a feel for it / It forms part of what we know to be the Wisdom literature / like Proverbs / Job / Song of Songs / Because they’re books that offer wisdom.
Who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes?
The words of the teacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem.
It could be written by Solomon, but he doesn’t actually tell us that it is / All we really know is that vs 1 says, “The words of the teacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem. There are some Biblical scholars who say that the author is not Solomon, but we are to imagine him as someone who is like Solomon.
What is this book about? There are a number of ways you can approach this book / You can call it a search for meaning / You can call it a book about the meaninglessness of life / the authors evaluation of the meaning of life / And like most evaluations there are a few things you need to look at / a few assessments
So the first thing I want us to look at is the problem.
You normally evaluate something because you’re looking for problems / to see what potential things you can avoid / eg First Aid Course / just like when you arrive on a scene / Before you start resolving the problem / You’ve got to know what needs assessment / So pretty much the first 11 verses of Ecclesiastes, is the writer stating what the problem is / In fact, you really just need to read verse 2:
Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
That’s a bit of a depressing verse / share that on social media.
Look at verse 3: What do people gain from all their labours at which they toil under the sun?
All the hard work you put in / working 9 to 5 / and then he talks about cycles.
What do people gain from all their labours
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains for ever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
‘Look! This is something new’?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them
He’s talking about the cycle of life / People are born / Those people have kids / Those people have kids / etc.
The sun rises and the sun sets / And then it hurries back to where it rises / The wind blows back and forth / The streams flow back and forth / All these things are wearisome / Your eye is never satisfied / Even with all the things it’s seen.
Your ears have never heard enough / And then look at verse 9: What has been will be again.
What has been done, will be done again.
There is nothing new under the sun
And then just look at verse 11:
No one remembers the former generations.
And even those yet to come
Will not be remembered
By those who follow them.
Eg. Old boys at school who have passed on. I don’t know who they are unless they were my teachers or were at school with me, no matter what they’ve done for the school. /You will be forgotten / Your name may go on a plaque / Your name may be mentioned with high esteem / But you will be forgotten / There’s got to be more to it / It can’t just be about do the best you can / It can’t just be, try and make a difference - Try and leave a legacy / What really is the point of it all?
Here’s the thing that needs to be tested / The meaninglessness of life.
Now that word for meaningless, can be a little ambiguous / NIV uses the word meaningless / But it also means vanity / there’s a selfish aspect to it. / we’re vain with our achievements / with our work / with our wisdom / We do that with our wisdom / It also means vapour / Or puff of smoke / In other words it’s fleeting / It’s here one minute and gone the next / So whatever your translation in front of you says / They all point to the futility of the things we try and achieve / things that we try and find our value in.
So the writer of Ecclesiastes, wants to prove that these things are meaningless / He wants to run some tests.
So you get to chapter 2, and there are 3 tests that he runs.
So firstly he tests pleasure / So he goes to Stellenbosch and buys some of the best wine that money can buy / He embraces folly / He makes it clear that his mind is still guided by wisdom / But he’s being foolish / He builds houses and plants vineyards / In our modern times it would have been properties like you see these movie stars have / He buys slaves / So he just had people at his beckon call 24/7 / He owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem / He got himself some male and female singers / No Youtube / spotfiy / apple music / no problem for this guy / he buys his musicians / So he acquired male and female singers and a harem / The delights of a man’s heart / Pleasure seeking / Is there anything familiar about this passage?
Do you look at this guy, and think / I know it’s wrong to live for pleasure but . . . If only I had access to what he had access to / he could have anything he wanted in terms of pleasure / but it was meaningless.
Then he runs a test on Wisdom / he realizes that the guy who is a fool ends up the same as the guy who is wise / Look at verse 14: The wise have eyes in their heads while the fool walks in darkness, But I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. / And then he says in verse 16: Like the fool, too, the wise too must die. / Even wisdom is meaningless / is vanity / is like a vapour.
The next thing he tests is toil. / What’s the purpose of it all?
Do you notice the term that gets thrown around a number of times in Ecclesiastes? / Chasing after the wind / That’s futile / Have you ever tried chasing after the wind? / It’s a bit of a pointless exercise / It’s almost like a refrain throughout the book / Vanity / meaningless / vapour / puff of smoke.
Chasing after the wind.
Ecclesiastes is a great book because / Someone needs to show us that all these things are meaningless / Someone needs to show us that chasing after these things is wrong / futile / It’s like chasing the wind / All of these things that life seems to offer / All of these things that you’ve been pursuing your whole life / Will leave you empty / Does wisdom have a purpose – Yes it does / Does work and toil have a purpose – of course it does / Does pleasure have a purpose – yes, even pleasure has a purpose / But these things fall under the sun / another recurring phrase / All of these things, that have some form of purpose / in and of themselves, they are futile / So Ecclesiastes is a great book to read / because it points out a problem / It makes us aware of the futility of chasing after the wind.
2 Timothy 3 - All Scripture useful for etc. . . and to make you wise for salvation: referring to Old Testament. Including Ecclesiastes: / How does Ecclesiastes make you wise for Salvation? / It highlights a need / It exposes futility / It shows certain things for being the vanity that it is / It shows the meaninglessness of certain pursuits.
The writer of Ecclesiastes does point us to God / a number of passages where he encourages the readers to look to God / But it becomes a lot clearer when you get to the New Testament / The Gospels / Mark / one of the themes of the book of Mark is Jesus’ lordship over all / Jesus is quite clear of the requirements of being a disciple / In Mark 8 vs 34-36, Jesus says this:
‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[b] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
Look again at verse 36: What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul.
Don’t chase the wind / don’t chase the pleasures that the world has to offer / Don’t go and find your identity in your work, in your toil / Don’t find your identity in wisdom.
It’s vanity / it’s meaningless / it’s a vapour / Chase after Jesus / Take up your cross and follow him / Lose your life for him / That’s where your true identity is.
Home Group Questions:
Read Ecclesiastes 1vs1-11 & chapter 2
- What do you think the writer is trying to say in verses 1-11?
- What 3 tests does he run in chapter 2 to prove the meaninglessness of things ‘under the sun’?
- What conclusion does he draw from each individual test? 2vs11; vs14-16; vs22-23
- How does Mark 8vs34-36 help make sense of a book like Ecclesiastes?
- What has God done for us to make our lives meaningful?
- What needs to change in terms of your perspective to make your life meaningful?